- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
They're there for the pollen.
"California poppies provide only pollen--no nectar," native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, told the Pollinator Gardening Workshop last Saturday on the UC Davis campus. Thorp was one of the featured speakers at the event, sponsored by the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
Thorp, who identifies thousands of bees a year for researchers, enthralled the audience with facts about bees. Although he retired in 1994, he maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and is one of the instructors of The Bee Course.
Some of the information he presented:
- Unlike wasps, which are carnivorous, "bees are vegans." They gather pollen and nectar from plants. (They also collect water and propolis, or plant resin, for their colonies.)
- "Flowers don't have wings; so we need the pollinators to come to them."
- The global population of bees includes some 19,500 named species. Of that number, about 4000 different species of bees occur in North America; 1600 in California, and more than 300 species of bees in Yolo County. (Over the last four years, Thorp has found more than 80 species of bees in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.)
- Seventy percent of bees are solitary, and most nest in the soil.
- Fifteen percent of bees are cuckoo bees; the females lay their eggs in other bees' nest and their offspring eat the provisions
- Only 10 percent of bees are social (honey bees are among them)
Thorp recommends that if you want to attract native bees, provide food (bee plants), water and shelter. "Leave some bare soil, avoid mulch madness, and provide bee condos (drilled blocks of wood that blue orchard bees and leafcutting bees use for their nesting sites.)
"Plant it and they will come," Thorp said. "Provide habitat and they will stay and reproduce."
Thorp is the co-author of a newly published book, "Bumble Bees of North America" (Princeton University Press) and a co-author (with Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and colleagues) of a pending book with the working title, "California Bees and Blooms."
One of the websites Thorp recommends is the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website, http://www.helpabee.org/, which provides information on native bees, gardening for bees, and current projects and partnerships.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The purplish-blue spiked flowers attract honey bees, bumble bees and syrphid flies.
And visitors. And photographers.
The honey bees were buzzing all over the Echium last Sunday, Feb. 16, as were syrphid flies, aka hover flies or flower flies. But a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, preferred to hide beneath the leaf of a passionflower vine (Passiflora). Next time!
The towering Pride of Maderia, which can easily reach a height of six feet or more, is the pride of the Portuguese island of Madeira, where it's endemic. It's an evergreen bush planted as a drought-tolerant ornamental, particularly in coastal communities. It even gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Wikipedia informs us that the genus name is derived from the Greek "echion," and that the root word "echis" means "viper." Think snake. Apparently the shape of the seed resembles that of a viper's head. Another interpretation: there's an age-old belief that another Echium species, Echium vulgare, aka "Viper's Bugloss," is a remedy for the adder's bite.
However, Echium candicans is not so popular in the state of Victoria, Australia, where it is considered "a high weed risk" and its very presence prompts the Department of Primary Industries to send in the troops...er...alerts.
The first blooms of the year in Bodega, though, are cause for celebration.
And speaking of bees and blooms, you'll want to sign up for the "Pollinator Gardening Workshop, Your Sustainable Backyard,"set Saturday, March 15 at UC Davis. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCHU), it will take place at Giedt Hall, UC Davis campus, with a side trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, just west of the campus, on Bee Biology Road.
Registration is underway at on the CCHU website.
CCHU program manager Anne Schellman says that this will be an informative workshop where participants will learn:
- How to identify common bee pollinators
- How to make a landscape pollinator-friendly
- Which plants pollinators prefer
- The latest research about honey bee health and pollinator habitat
- How UC Davis helps honey bees at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden
Honey bee and native pollinator specialists with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be among the speakers. (See previous Bug Squad blog.)