That's when native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, will address the crowd, sharing his encyclopedia-like knowledge and answering questions.
The two-hour program, "Bee Aware Bee Cause," begins at 1:30. Free and open to the public, the program is sponsored by the Rush Ranch Educational Council, in partnership with Solano Land Trust, owner of Rush Ranch. It will be held "rain or shine," a spokesperson said.
How much do you know about bees? You probably know that the honey bee is not native to this country. European colonists brought it over here in 1622 to the Jamestown colony.
But how about the thousands of other bees?
- How many undomesticated bee species are there in the world?
- How many bee species live in the United States?
- How many bee species live in California?
"Robbin Thorp" and "bees" are synonymous. Internationally recognized for his expertise, he co-authored the UC California book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday) and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
Thorp annually teaches at The Bee Course (American Museum of Natural History), at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The two-week course is offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
Thorp, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, taught entomology at UC Davis from 1964 to 1994. Although emeritus since 1994, he continues his research, writings, bee identification, public outreach and other "bee-involved" activities from his headquarters in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
CNN recently featured him in a piece it titled "The Old Man and the Bee," about his dedicated drive to find the critically imperiled (and feared extinct) Franklin's bumble bee within its five-county range of southern Oregon and northern California. Thorp last saw the bumble bee, Bombus franklini, on Aug. 9, 2006 in a meadow near Mt. Ashland, Ore.
During his talk, Thorp will discuss how to attract bees to your garden and why you should.
It's not just honey bees that are declining, scientists say. So are undomesticated bees, due to pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, habitat destruction/fragmentation, global climate change, drought and other extreme weather events.
The mission of the Rush Ranch Educational Council, a non-profit organization, is to increase awareness, understanding and appreciation for Rush Ranch and the Suisun Marsh by providing free educational programs and events. For more information on the Rush Ranch program, including directions, visit www.solanolandtrust.org or call (707) 422-4491.
When the monarchs return to southern California and central Mexico to overwinter, the residents rejoice.
When the bumble bees emerge from their nests in the spring, we, too, rejoice.
They are like the swallows of Capistrano and the monarchs of Pacific Grove.
So, on Friday, April 29, a native bumble bee, the yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) buzzed into our pollinator garden and headed straight for the verbena.
It skipped the tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii), the California golden poppy, the honeysuckle, the catmint, the lantana, the butterfly bush and other flowers in bloom and singled out the verbena, species native to the Americas and Asia.
In some countries, verbena is considered a healthy alternative to what ails you. However, modern-day researchers claim there's no scientific evidence that it can cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer. It has long been associated with "divine and other supernatural forces," according to Wikipedia.
Says Wikipedia: "In the William Faulkner short story An Odor of Verbena, verbena is used symbolically and described as "the only scent that can be smelled above the scent of horses and courage," similar to the symbolic use of honeysuckle in The Sound and the Fury.
We're not sure what drew the bumble bee last Friday to the verbena (no horses or courage around here!), but it seems we're experiencing a dearth of bumble bees this year.
According to bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardneers and Naturalists, there are six species of bumble bees that occur in Sacramento: Bombus crotchii; B. californicus, B. sonorus, B. melanopygus, B. vandykei, and B. vosnesenskii. "Of these, B. sonorus, used to be quite common but has essentially disappeared from the Sacramento Valley at least in recent years. We are not sure why this one has gone missing. Bombus vosnesenskii, the yellow-aced bumble bee is the most common species of this area, and of the entire state."
"The Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis doesn't quite reach Sacramento County," Thorp says. "Its historic range is primarily in the Coast Ranges from Monterey County north and the Sierra from Tuolumne County north. It penetrates into the Delta region, Contra Costa County (Pittsburgh and Antioch) and comes as close to Sacramento as Colfax and Nevada City in the Sierra region."
If you've ever visited UC Berkeley's Hastings Natural History Reserve in the upper Carmel Valley, Monterey County, and admired the yellow-faced bumble bees and other native bees foraging on vetch and lupine in the meadows, that's a scene you'll never forget.
But did you know that a UC Berkeley-based entomology team provides workshops there on California's native bees?
This year the team of Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Distinguished Emeritus Professor Robbin Thorp of UC Davis, and UC Berkeley-affiliated trio of Sara Leon Guerrero, Jaime Pawelek, and Rollin Coville, will offer a workshop June 1-5 on "California's Native Bees: Ecology and Identification."
You'll learn about many of California's 1600 species of native bees. Extremely diverse, they "are critical for providing ecosystem services not only in wild habitats but also in agricultural and urban settings," the instructors said.
"This course will provide basic information about native bee biology and ecology with a specific focus on identification to the generic level. Course participants will spend time collecting in the field at the UC Hastings Reserve and at a nearby diverse garden in Carmel Valley. They will also spend time in the lab viewing and keying collected specimens. Evening lectures on a variety of related topics will add to the field experiences. This workshop is an extension of the previously offered weekend bee workshop, with more focus on bee identification."
"Bee collections from the Hastings Reserve date back several decades, so knowledge of important bee-flower relationships are well known for this site. Participants will learn about bees' flower preferences, how to collect bees using several different methods, information on how to create a bee-friendly garden, bee photography techniques, and bee identification using generic keys and microscopes."
Participants also will have the opportunity to purchase the book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, authored by Frankie, Thorp, Coville, and Barbara Ertter.
The workshop is in a rural setting, with a picturesque barn--built in 1863 by homesteader John Scott--dominating the landscape. Accommodations are in dormitory-style rooms with twin or bunk-style beds. There's also space outside for camping. Meals are provided from dinner on Wednesday through lunch on Sunday. Workshop fee: $695/$720.
Did you feel the buzz in 2015?
The honey bees, bumble bees, sunflower bees, sweat bees...what a year it was!
It's time to walk down memory lane--or stray from the garden path--and post a few bee images from 2015.
It wasn't all flowers and sunshine. Bees took a beating--from pesticides, pests, predators, diseases, malnutrition, climate change and stress.
Often it was predator vs. prey. So we include an image of a praying mantis feasting on one of our bee-loved honey bees, and freeloader flies (family Milichiidae) dining on a spider's prey.
That's what praying mantids, spiders and freeloader flies do. They. Eat. Bees. If I were in charge of their menu planning and food preparation, however, they'd get five-star dining: stink bugs, aphids, mosquitoes, cotton whitefly, and the Asian longorned beetle.
Give me five! Give us all five!
Happy New Year! And may the buzz be with you.
Add "California" to it and you have California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
It's a book that's well-planned, well-executed, well-written and well-photographed.
Bees are hungry. What plants will attract them? How can you entice them to your garden and encourage them not only to visit but to live there?
The book, the first of its kind, profiles some of the most common bee genera found in California gardens; their preferred plants, both native and non-native; and how to attract them.
Most folks are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees. But what about the other bees, such as mining, leafcutting, sweat, carpenter, digger, masked, longhorned, mason and polyester bees?
Published by the nonprofit Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, the book is the work of four scientists closely linked to UC Berkeley: urban entomologist Gordon Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley; native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of UC Davis (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley); insect photographer and entomologist Rollin Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley; and botanist/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley.
“This book is about urban California's bees: what they are, how and where they live, their relationships with ornamental flowers, and how to attract them to urban gardens,” they wrote. “It was written in the urgency of knowing that bees are critical to the health of our natural, ornamental and agricultural landscapes and that populations of some, perhaps many are in rapid decline.”
Frankie studies behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural and urban environments of California and Costa Rica. He teaches conservation and environmental issues. He is involved in how people relate to bees and their plants and how to raise human awareness about bee-plant relationships.
Co-author Robbin Thorp, who retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students, continues to conduct research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. He is one of the instructors at the The Bee Course, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The course is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who seek greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
“The book is profusely illustrated with photos and drawings of bees and flowers, especially notable are the magnificent close-up images of bees by co-author Rollin Coville,” Thorp said.
Ertter thoroughly explores the anatomy of a flower. Bees and flowers constitute what the authors delightfully describe as "a love affair."
California's bees differ in size, shape and color, as do the flowers they visit. “The tiniest bees are ant-sized; the largest rival small birds,” the authors wrote. “Some are iridescent green or blue, some are decked out with bright stripes, some are covered with fuzzy-looking hairs.”
“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe. Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”
California Bees and Blooms lists 53 of urban California's best bee attractors identified through the Urban California Native Bee Survey. Among them: aster, bluebeard, catmint, California lilac or Ceanothus, cosmos, California sunflower, red buckwheat, California poppy, blanket flower, oregano, rosemary, lavender, gum plant, and salvia (sage). With each plant, they provide a description; origin and natural habitat, range and use in California; flowering season; resource for bees (such as pollen and nectar), most frequent bee visitors, bee ecology and behavior and gardening tips.
The book offers tips on how readers can “think like a bee.” It devotes one chapter to “Beyond Bee Gardening: Taking Action on Behalf of Native Bees.” In addition, the book provides quotes on bees and/or bee gardens from Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (retired) of UC Davis: Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the UC Davis Arboretum; and Kate Frey of Hopland, a designer of sustainable, insect-friendly gardens throughout California and in some parts of the world.
For more data on the book, the authors, and purchase information, access the publisher's website at https://heydaybooks.com/book/california-bees-and-blooms/.
And for ongoing research on California's bees and blooms, be sure to check out the UC Berkeley website, appropriately named www.helpabee.org..