- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you've never seen the "teddy bear bee," keep an eye out for it.
A fuzzy golden bee with green eyes, it's the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta). Last Friday we saw it foraging in the half-acre Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. It decidedly preferred the foothill penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus.
Gold on purple. Purple on gold. It seemed like royalty.
It paid no attention to the photographer. It proceeded to "rob the nectar," that is, drill a hole in the outside of the corolla in its short cut to reach the nectar, thus bypassing the usual method of pollination.
It looked huge. That's because it is. At one inch long, Xylocopa varipuncta is considered the largest bee found in California. The species is also a striking example of sexual biphorism--the female is solid black while the male is blond.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, enjoys showing the teddy bear bee to folks at open houses at the haven and Bohart Museum of Entomology and at other special events.
"It's a male and can't sting you," he assures cautious onlookers "Males have no stingers."
The Valley carpenter bee, so-called because it's common in the Central Valley of California, is one of our native bees. Its range includes an area from western New Mexico to southern California.
Look for it, too, in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located west of the central campus and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The garden is open to the public--free admission and free parking--from dawn to dusk.
You might see it on the penstemon and on the passionflower vine.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
There are more than just honey bees in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven.
Think butterflies, dragonflies, sweat bees, metallic sweat bees, carpenter bees, hover flies, tachinid flies, wasps, praying mantids and what not. Such diversity in insects and plants! And to think that two years ago, this was an open field covered with bindweed.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the grand opening of the honey bee haven, which is a half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
The celebration, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include speakers, garden tours, children's arts and crafts, and scores of other activities.
The question we're asked the most is: How do we get there?
From the Sacramento Area: Take Interstate 80 westbound to Highway 113 north. At the eastern edge of Davis, take Highway 113 northbound (toward Woodland); exit at Hutchison Drive. Turn left to go west (away from the central UC Davis campus), toward the campus airport; turn left onto Hopkins Road and then left on Bee Biology Road.
From the San Francisco Bay Area: Take Interstate 80 eastbound to Highway 113 north. At the eastern edge of Davis, take Highway 113 northbound (toward Woodland); exit at Hutchison Drive. Turn left to go west (away from the central UC Davis campus), toward the campus airport; turn left onto Hopkins Road and then left on Bee Biology Road.
You can also access the campus map; select "Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility" from the pulldown menu. The site is about a mile from the Hutchinson exit.
The second most commonly asked question: Is the garden open year-around? Yes, it is. Come visit. Bring your camera, a pen and a notepad. You'll want to take photos of the beautiful art work (gigantic bee sculpture and beehive columns) permanently displayed in the haven. The plants are labeled so you can decide what you want to plant in your own yard to attract pollinators.
Oh, and there's no charge.
No charge for the bees, butterflies, dragonflies, sweat bees, metallic sweat bees, carpenter bees, hover flies, tachinid flies, wasps and praying mantids, either!
Well, maybe we ought to charge the praying mantids!