Did you feel the buzz in 2015?
The honey bees, bumble bees, sunflower bees, sweat bees...what a year it was!
It's time to walk down memory lane--or stray from the garden path--and post a few bee images from 2015.
It wasn't all flowers and sunshine. Bees took a beating--from pesticides, pests, predators, diseases, malnutrition, climate change and stress.
Often it was predator vs. prey. So we include an image of a praying mantis feasting on one of our bee-loved honey bees, and freeloader flies (family Milichiidae) dining on a spider's prey.
That's what praying mantids, spiders and freeloader flies do. They. Eat. Bees. If I were in charge of their menu planning and food preparation, however, they'd get five-star dining: stink bugs, aphids, mosquitoes, cotton whitefly, and the Asian longorned beetle.
Give me five! Give us all five!
Happy New Year! And may the buzz be with you.
Boys will be boys!
Especially on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). It's a favorite of Melissodes and Svastra sunflower bees.
The males get downright defensive and aggressive when it comes to protecting their turf and seeking the females of their species.
If you watch closely at a territorial action that occurs from dawn to dusk, you'll see what I call "the karate kick:" one male delivering a swift kick to another.
In the photos below, a male Svastra (the larger bee) karate-kicks a smaller male Melissodes.
It happened in a blink of an eye, a fraction of a second, the click of a shutter.
You often see a single solitary bee on a sunflower.
Perhaps it's a sunflower bee (Svastra) or a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
But four on one? Sharing a sunflower?
If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see Svasta, Apis and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus on the sunflower head, plus another sweat bee, Halictus triparitus, "coming in for a landing," says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you're curious about the sunflower bee, "Our Svastra obliqua expurgata is a native bee and exhibits a preference for sunflowers which are also native and other relatives of sunflower," Thorp said. "The genus Svastra has over 20, all occurring in North and South America. All are ground nesting solitary bees. Some other species of Svastra exhibit preferences for pollen from evening-primrose or cactus.'
The garden is open from dawn to dusk, with free admission. You can do self-guided tours. Soon, probably next spring, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will offer guided tours.
Bee friendly garden? Indeed. In fact, Thorp has found 75 different species of bees--and counting--since he began monitoring the plot in October 2009, a year before it was planted.
If you wander through the garden, be sure to bring your camera, especially if you love insects and flowers.
You may find five species of bees sharing a sunflower!
Makes sense that the sunflower bee (Svastra spp.) forages on the genus Cosmos.
Cosmos (also the common name) is a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
Sunflower bee: sunflower family. A specialist bee.
On a recent trip to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, we spotted scores of sunflower bees on cosmos, each bee packing a heavy load of golden pollen.
There was a pollen party going on, pure and simple.
Although the sunflower bee, as a floral visitor, is often mistaken for a honey bee, there's no mistaking that this is a pollinator, too.