The last honey bee of 2012.
Despite the cold weather at Bodega Bay last Friday, we managed to see a few honey bees nectaring a New Zealand tea tree, aka Leptospermum scoparium.
The temperature registered 53 degrees and there they were, foraging among the dainty pink and white blossoms, as if it were spring.
As the year draws to a close, we've been inundated with words like "fiscal cliff," "spoiler alert," "bucket list" and "YOLO." (No, Yolo doesn't mean Yolo County but "You Only Live Once.")
Let's hope those words don't apply to honey bees in 2013 and the years beyond.
When you see the blow fly (below), what do you think?
Well, that depends on who you are and what you do--or maybe your earliest negative/positive insect recollections.
If you hate flies, particularly blow flies, and you despise their larvae (maggots), your response is probably "Yecch!"
If you're an artist, you might think, "Look at that metallic green sheen and those red eyes!"
If you're a photographer: "What kind of camera and macro lens did you use?" (Nikon D700, 60mm)
If you're into flowers, you might say "Ah, a New Zealand tea tree--Leptospermum scoparium. Fly? What fly? Is there a fly there?"
If you're a beekeeper and see only the Leptospermum scoparium: "Manuka honey!"
If you're a medical doctor and treat wounds: "Maggot therapy!"
If you're an entomologist, particularly a forensic entomologist: "Nice!"
And if you've ever visited the UC Davis Department of Entomology displays at Briggs Hall during the annual campuswide Picnic Day, you''re probably thinking "Maggot Art!" and "When's Picnic Day?" (Note: this year's Picnic Day is April 21, and yes, you can create Maggot Art (take a bow, Rebecca O'Flaherty).
However, if you're an entomologist with a keen interest in insect ecology and insect/plant interactions, the blow fly will bring out the "P" word in you: "Pollinator!"
Honey bees, native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and the like are all pollinators. But so are flies, including syprhid flies and yes, blow flies.
In a way, it's "tea for two."
The New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium, aka "manuka," "tea tree," and "Leptospermum," is a favorite of the light brown apple moth AND honey bees.
We captured images of bees on Leptospermum scoparium keatleyi recently in Sausalito. (No, we didn't see any light brown apple moths.)
The keatleyi was discovered by Capt. Edward John "Ted" Keatley (1875-1962), a New Zealand sea captain known as a navigator, horticulturist and humorist (and probably a distant relative).
Information from the Maritime Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, indicates that the skipper commanded 28 of the Northern Steam Ship Company's vessels. He was not only a master of the sea, but of horticulture. Considered an authority on the flora of the Auckland province, he discovered several new plants, one he named Leptospermum scoparium keatleyi.
In June 1961, the Royal Horticulture Society awarded Capt. Keatley the "Award of Merit" for his discovery of the keatleyi, or "royal pink manuka."
Capt. Keatley's home and gardens in Auckland drew many visitors. In one published account, he said: "We used to have many garden parties in earlier days. In fact I remember coming home from my ship one Saturday afternoon and being surprised to find the street lined with cars. When I got to the gate I was a little bit taken aback when an attendant asked for a shilling entrance fee. I thought it was a bit tough for an owner to have to pay to enter his own home."
Now, back to the bees.
Bees that visit Leptospermum scoparium produce a special honey called "manuka honey," prized for its health benefits, including its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Health benefits? Don't know. But we all benefit from the beautiful blossoms.