Macro insect photographer extraordinaire Allan Jones captured an image of a female black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus on Monday, Jan. 6 on the UC Davis campus.
- The time: 1:45 p.m.
- The place: On white manzanita, just east of the 0ld Redwood Grove past the Old Davis Road/Arboretum Drive entrance, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Arboretum
- The temperature: About 56 degrees
"From the looks of her pollen load, she has been out collecting for some time now, so she must have been collecting earlier when it was colder yet," Jones reported. He saw one yesterday (Jan. 5 in Davis) west of El Macero but the bumble bee flew before he could photograph it. "I figured the black-tail ground nests were warmed up enough so they would be out early."
Jones, who worked closely with global bumble bee authority Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, explained the warming of the nests:
"One summer while shooting bees soon after dawn at a lavender farm in the foothills, the first flight of bees were the bumble bees. Once it warmed up some, the honey bees showed up. So a few years ago I asked Robbin why on chill winter days I was seeing lots of honey bees, but no bumble bees. (Of course I was eager to win our contest.)
"He explained that bumble bees often nest facing north so that in cold mountainous climates, the warm southern sunshine does not warm their nests and lure them into a sudden drop in temperature or a snow squall that would kill them. Instead they wait for the ground and their nest to warm a bit before they venture out. It was Robbin's reasoning that lead me to believe that yesterday's B. melanopygus sighting in South Davis proved that local nests were warm enough that they would be flying with honey bees in the low '50s. A few years ago, the winner went out and got a shot on a day with very low temperatures as well, but she was on campus where buildings produce some tropical microclimates. This year I decided to get out early."
A little bit about the contest: Thorp launched the contest in 2012 with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers: Allan Jones and Gary Zamzow of Yolo County, and yours truly of Solano County. Later UC Davis doctoral student Kim Chacon with the Geography Graduate Group (and on track to receive her doctorate in June 2020), joined the group. Chacon, who studies "habitat connectivity issues for bees at a landscape scale" (see her website on Resilient Bee Landscapes), worked closely with Thorp until his death in June 2019. She is a 2018 alumnus of The Bee Course, co-taught by Thorp.
The rules are simple: the first one who photographs the first bumble bee of the year in Yolo or Solano County wins the title! (No reward, just bragging rights)
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. Native to western North America and found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho, it forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death. In 2014, during his retirement, he co-authored two books, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. He co-taught The Bee Course from 2002 to 2019. This is an intensive nine-day workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. It's geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
The 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, spanning the 5300-acre campus, is a landmark on the UC Davis campus--and traces its beginnings to more than 80 years ago. As the website says, it includes "demonstration gardens and scientific collections as well as the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve – a rare stream and grassland ecosystem managed for teaching, research, wildlife and habitat protection."
Go visit the Arboretum--and be sure to look for the bumble bees!
On the last few days of Year 2019, where do you find a foraging honey bee?
Well, if the temperature soars to 50 or 55, you might see honey bees slip out of their hives and head for a winter flowering plant commonly known as the "red hot poker" or "Christmas cheer" (genus Kniphofia).
As its name implies, the red hot poker is dramatic. It's like the attention-grabbing red bow on a Christmas present, a passionate red heart on a Valentine's Day card, or the glowing red tip on a fireplace poker.
You can see this perennial in the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. It's one of the 100 Arboretum All-Stars. (And look for it at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery plant sales).
Arboreum horticulturists aptly describe it as "dramatic": “Dramatic plant brightens up the winter garden; at the top of its tall flowering stems, brilliant orange buds open to deep-gold tubular flowers; long, narrow leaves form an attractive, medium-large clump over time; attracts hummingbirds.”
And honey bees.
Native to Africa, Kniphofia belongs to the family Asphodelaceae and begins to flower in December. It's named for Johann Hieronymus Kniphof, an 18th-century German physician and botanist. In fact, the genus was first described in 1794, back when George Washington held forth in the White House and John Adams was his vice president.
Hear that buzz? Honey bees are gathering nectar and pollen on the Kniphofia. Can New Year's Eve and New Year's Day be far behind?
Nice knowing you, Year 2019. Welcome, Year 2020.
Happy New Year!
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (named for its major donor), js celebrating its 10 anniversary, while the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is sponsoring its first fall plant sale of the season at its teaching nursery.
The two sites are a short distance from one another: the bee garden is on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus, while the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery is on Garrod Drive, near the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
The open house, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include sales of plants and native bee condos, honey tasting (honey from Sola Bee Honey, Woodland), catch-and-release bee observation and identification, and beekeeping and research displays. Several mini lectures are planned.
Visitors will see an analemmatic sundial--the only one of its kind in the Sacramento area--and they can discuss the sundial with dial master and beekeeper Rick Williams, M.D. to learn how the dial was created and the links between human and bee perception of the sun, according to manager Chris Casey. Visitors also will learn about "our research on bee use of ornamental landscape plants," she said. In addition, visitors can "donate a book on insects, gardening, or nature for our Little Free Library," she announced.
- 10:30 a.m.: Donor and volunteer recognition
- 11 a.m.: Hive opening by beekeeper from the California Master Beekeepers' Association
- 11:30: Mini lecture, "Getting Started with Beekeeping"
- 12: Mini lecture, "Plants for Bees"
- 12:30: Mini lecture, "Using Solitary Bee Houses"
- 1 p.m.: Hive opening by beekeeper from the California Master Beekeepers' Association
UC Davis Arboretum Plant Sale
The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden plant sale is open to members only (but you can join at the gate) from 9 to 11 a.m., and to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The organizers promise that the one-acre nursery will offer "an incredible selection of Arboretum All-Stars, California natives, and thousands of other attractive, low-water plants perfect for making your landscape come alive with environmentally important pollinators."
What plants are available for purchase? You can download the inventory here. Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted. In addition to plants, you can buy native wildflower seeds. They will include small flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii); Elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculate); Fort Miller clarkia (Clarkia williamsonii); Yellow ray goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata); Golden lupine (Lupinus microcarpus var. densiflorus); Sky lupine (Lupinus nanus); Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia); Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum); and Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii). The packets are $3 (cash only).
The packets contain native wildflower seeds recommended by pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and his lab. Their published research indicates that these are among the best annual and perennial plants for supporting pollinators--without enhancing potential pests.
More UC Davis Arboretum plant sales are scheduled Oct. 12 and Nov. 2.
Salivating over salvia?
You can see, salivate--and purchase--salvias and more at the spring premiere plant sale sponsored by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden on Saturday, April 6.
They'll offer everything from "Bee's Bliss" to "Black Lace" to "Blaze" to "Brilliance." Among the many others: "Whirly Blue, "Pozo Blue," "Marine Blue," "Little Kiss," "Midnight," "Pink Cadillac" and "Hot Lips."
The plant sale, open to the public, is set from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the one-acre Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive. It's a great place to buy plants to attract our pollinators: bees, butterflies, birds, beetles and bats. Not to mention syrphid flies, aka hover flies/flower flies!
You can download the plant sale inventory on the website. Favorites include the Arboretum All-Stars and California native plants, as well as herbs, perennials, shade plants, bushes, trees, vines and more.
Can't make it on Saturday, April 6? Plant sales are also scheduled Saturday, April 27 and Saturday, May 11.
Happy spring! Happy salivating! And happy/hungry pollinators!
A black butterfly with iridescent blue hindwings, it's a frequent visitor to our garden, where it nectars on such plants as the butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), and sage (Salvia).
But if you want it as a permanent resident, plant its host plant, the California Dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia californica. You'll see the cycle of life--from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalids to adults.
And that breathtaking "bolt of blue."
The Dutchman's pipe is just one of thousands of plants that will be offered at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's Plant Sale on Saturday, March 9 at its nursery on Garrod Drive, near the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Members can shop from 9 to 11 (you can join at the gate or online) and the public sale is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As they say online: "Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden or the Davis Botanical Society are welcome to shop our first spring plant sale and receive early admittance for the best plant selection, a $10-off member appreciation gift, complimentary refreshments and 10% off their plant sale purchases! In addition, new members receive a $10-off coupon as a thank you for joining. Not a member? Join the Friends online, at the door or call ahead.
Most of the plants are grown onsite, says Taylor Lewis, nursery manager. Native plants, drought-tolerant plants, host plants for butterflies, and plants that attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators are popular, not to mention the much-in-demand Arboretum All Stars, plants that do well in our area, even if you don't have a green thumb.
Want to know what plants are available? The website provides a list in both PDF and Excel. If you peruse the list--and you should before you go--you'll find narrow-leaf milkweed and showy milkweed (host plants for monarchs), and plants with such fascinating names as Bush Tango Kangaroo Paw, Aster Bugtopia, Dazzleberry Stonecrop, Bee's Bliss Purple Sage, Pocahontas Beard Tongue, Red Dragon Monkey Flower, and Baja California Fairy Duster. And lots of lavenders and salvia!
California figures into many of the names, from Calistoga California fuchsia, California Dutchman's pipe, California buckeye, California lilac and California sagebrush.
Is it spring yet?