- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The yellow-faced bumble bee bursts from a neon pink blossom in the video below.
It's Oct. 19, 2022 and the temperature has soared to an unseasonal 81 degrees. This bumble bee is hungry. She may have emerged from hibernation "to get a bite to eat," as the late Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, used to say about late-in-the-season sightings.
B. vosenenskii, native to the west coast of North America, from Baja California to British Columbia, is an important pollinator, especially important for its buzz pollination of tomatoes, peppers and cranberries. In buzz pollination, the bumble bees grab a blossom and shake it, dislodging the pollen to accomplish pollination.
The ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, is a native of South Africa and known as an invasive weed.
Interesting that on one end of the Doran Regional Park, volunteers with the California Native Plant Society are pulling out the ice plant to make room for native plants, while on the other end, a bumble bee hungrily sips the nectar. "Ice plant chokes out native plants and alters the local soil composition," according to the park website. "Removing ice plant allows native, endangered plants to repopulate the area and wildlife to thrive."
Want to learn more about the bumble bees around us? Read these two books, both co-authored by Thorp in his retirement: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
And, if you see a bumble bee and would like to get involved in citizen science, Bumble Bee Watch seeks your sightings.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you vacationed at Doran Regional Beach, Bodega Bay, on a Wednesday last year (pre-COVID-19 pandemic), chances are you saw scores of dedicated volunteers pulling out the invasive ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, along 201 Doran Beach Road. It's hard work but it's rewarding.
Wednesday was--or is--Ice Plant Removal Day. (See the Sonoma County Regional Parks website.)
C. edulis, a succulent native to South Africa, is unwanted in Bodega Bay's wetlands because it chokes out native, endangered plants and alters the soil composition. When it's removed, native plant species return as do a diversity of wanted wildlife.
Yes, nurseries sell ice plant as a ground cover because it's hardy, easy to grow, and spreads quickly. The neon pink blossoms, in particular, are spectacular. (See photo)
C. edulis, though, is as pervasive as it is pretty. It's the flora equivalent of Public Enemy No. 1.
Nevertheless, you'll see "wanted" insects foraging on the "unwanted" plants along the Doran Beach trails. We've seen honey bee and butterflies foraging on the blossoms--including a pollen-packing bee seeking nectar--a short distance from the ice plant removal site. And once we saw a Great Blue Heron snatch a vole from the ice plant growing along the Jetty Campground, Doran Beach.
Beauty and beasts are where you find them, whether they're flora or fauna or wanted or unwanted. Take a hike. Take a camera. Or, better yet, volunteer for an Invasive Plant Removal Day. The California Native Plant Society will thank you.