If you're thinking about adding more bee friendly plants to your garden but you're concerned about the drought, the UC Davis Arboretum has the answers.
The arboretum will host its public spring clearance plant sale on Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive.
You'll find a large election of Christmas natives and Arboretum All-Stars. (Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and the Davis Botanical Society receive 10 percent off their purchases. And yes, you can join the Friends on May 17.)
One of the plants we like--as do the birds and the bees--is Kniphofia "Christmas Cheer," also known as a red hot poker and torch lily. Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the Arboretum, describes it as "a torch lily on steriods. It gets big and puts out a large display of showy flowers in winter and long into spring."
Yes, it does.
We remember taking a photo of the Christmas Cheer on Christmas Day in the Arboretum's Storer Garden. The bees didn't know about the winter break. Neither did a finch.
Break? What break?
In a recent newsletter, Zagory wrote about some of the plants that will be available for sale.
“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that's high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere. In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty. You'd never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”
The Arboretum kindly provides a list of available plants that you can download from its web page.
The bees--and the birds, butterflies and others engaged in animal/plant interactions--will thank you.
Bee specialists like to point out that the yellowjacket is a carnivore and the honey bee is a vegetarian.
They are, indeed. The yellowjacket is an aggressive predator that seeks protein-rich foods for its colony, while the honey bee--usually quite passive unless it's defending its hive--gathers nectar and pollen.
If you've ever watched a yellowjacket invade a honey bee hive or prey upon other insects--or grab a bite of chicken from your barbecue or scavenge rotting fruit--you know how aggressive it is.
We watched a western yellowjacket, Vespula penyslvanica (as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis), forage on a cluster of red-hot pokers along a road leading to Tomales, a tiny town in Marin County.
This wasn't a "red" red-hot poker, though. It was yellow. Varieties of the Kniphofia genus (the genus was named for 18th century German physician/botanist Johann Hieronymus Kniphof) now appear in such colors as orange, coral, cream and yellow.
Rather fitting that a yellowjacket was on a yellow red-hot poker!
We caught it in flight as it headed toward the tubular flowers and watched it grab a few tasty morsels, an unsuspecting spider or two, to carry back to the nest. (It also sips nectar for flight fuel.) When it emerged, it was dotted with pollen grains, so you could say that sometimes it's a pollinator, too. But not a significant one...
The western yellowjacket, native to the western United States, is a major pest in Hawaii, where it was first discovered in 1977. Erin Wilson, a former postdoctoral scholar in the Louie Yang lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, studies this social, ground-nesting wasp.
Wilson, who launched the vespularesearch.com website, describes it as a "vacuum cleaner" that wreaks ecological havoc among the native species in Hawaii.
“The introduction of non-native organisms is a leading cause of imperilment of native species,” says Wilson, who has studied the western yellowjackets at two sites: the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii and the Haleakala National Park on Maui since 2004.
Scientists have found that the incidence of perennial or overwintering colonies is higher in Hawaii than in its native range.
Compared to annual colonies, these overwintering perennial colonies can collect twice as many prey items and produce 10 times the worker force, Wilson says. Some perennial colonies are huge, their size linked to Hawaii’s mild climate and the ability of the yellowjackets to establish perennial colonies. How huge? One Maui colony yielded 600,000 individuals. Compare that to a typical California colony of less than a few thousand wasps.
Read the PBS piece about this invasive insect in Hawaii and see it "stinging" the camera lens.
Definitely a good dose of Christmas Cheer!
In the plant world, that would be the Kniphofia “Christmas Cheer," also known as "red-hot poker."
On a visit last week to the Storer Garden, UC Davis Arboretum, we encountered a lone honey bee foraging among the Christmas Cheer.
This one probably came from a nearby hive at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility tended by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the facility.
Christmas Cheer is an Arboretum All=Star.
And so is the honey bee: an all-star.
Happy holidays, everyone!
I always thought the red-hot poker was primarily red.
This one in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis, was mostly yellow.
It was Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, five days before Christmas, and a lone honey bee, packed with pollen, was heading for the red-hot poker, variety "Christmas Cheer" (Kniphofia).
Seemed quite appropriate.