If you've been ignoring your calendar, you may have not realized that autumn began Sept. 23.
We know it as the season between summer and winter, when days grow shorter, when liquidambar leaves turn red, and when the blanket flower lives up to its name.
The blanket flower, Gaillardia (family Asteraceae) has mastered the colors of fall. It's rimmed in gold and glows maroon.
Wikipedia tells us that the school colors of Texas State University are maroon and gold, "a combination inspired by the colors of the Gaillardia."
If you're lucky, you'll see a last-of-the-season Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, hanging from the blossom, its silver-spangled underwings sparkling.
Nothing says National Pollinator Week more than a honey bee coated in pollen.
Make mine yellow. Yellow pollen.
There's plenty of time to prepare. National Pollinator Week is June 21-27.
You can register your activities--make that "socially distant activities" to the official Pollinator Week events map.
You can request local buildings to light up yellow and orange in support of pollinators.
You can sign and mail proclamations to your governor in support of Pollination Week.
And, you can celebrate the week by taking an image of a pollinator.
We ventured over to the UC Davis Ecological Garden, Student Farm, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, to capture these two images of a honey bee blanketed with pollen as she foraged--appropriately--on a blanket flower, Gaillardia. The plant is a member of the sunflower family, Asteraeae, and native to North and South America.
The Pollinator Partnership, which sponsors National Pollinator Week, points out that about 75 percent of all flowering plant species "need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization."
PP also relates that:
- About 1000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats and small animals.
- Most pollinators (abut 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees.
- Pollinators are often keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem.
Are you ready for National Pollinator Week?
Let's hear it for the honey bees.
Right now they're scrambling to gather nectar and pollen from the blanket flower, Gaillardia. You could say they're blanketing the flower. When resources are scarce in the fall, the blanket flower, in the sunflower family Asteraceae, draws them in. The flower reminds us of Native American Indians' brightly colored and patterned blankets.
Now let's hear it for the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA). They're delivering and gathering knowledge at their annual conference, being held Tuesday, Nov. 15 through Wednesday, Nov. 17 in the Kona Kai Resort and Spa, San Diego. They'll discuss the latest research, trade ideas with fellow beekeepers (note that "beekeepers" are "keepers") and they'll explore some of the innovative products at their trade show, a spokesperson said.
Among the speakers are two UC Davis-affiliated specialists: Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, who will key in on the research underway at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, and Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, who will offer a glimpse of the present, past and future of beekeeping.
Niño's research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, as well as testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites. Keep up with the Niño lab on its Facebook page. And keep up with CSBA on its Facebook page.
Mussen, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service--but maintains an office in Briggs Hall--is guaranteed to add some humor to his talk. How do we know? We saw his PowerPoint before he left Davis for San Diego. Hint: replace "dog" food with "bee" food. And the insect in his last slide doesn't look anything like the bee we know and love.
In a way, the CSBA is like the matched pair of honey bees below. There are four bees. If you think about the purposes of the CSBA, each bee can be matched with one of those purposes:
- to educate the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees
- advance research beneficial to beekeeping practices
- provide a forum for cooperation among beekeepers, and
- to support the economic and political viability of the beekeeping industry.
It's all about "bee-ing" there for the bees.
Some linger quite awhile before they buzz off.
Have you ever thought about this: Do they have taste buds?
A colleague asked that question. In fact, it was his friend's nine-year-old son who asked: "Do bees have taste buds, and if so where?"
"No," says Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service.
That's the short answer. But wait, there's more.
"Honey bees, and other insects do not have taste buds, as such," Mussen said. "They have specialized, enlarged hairs; chaetic and basiconic sensillae; that protrude from the cuticle (exoskeleton). The sensillae have gustatory receptor cells in them that sense the chemicals that are contacted by the tips of the antennae, the mouthparts, or the tarsi (feet) of the front legs. The interpretation of the chemicals takes place in the subesophageal ganglion of the bee, not in the brain. The esophageal ganglion is a very large nerve cell cluster attached beneath the brain."
It's good to see youngsters so interested in insects!
It's early evening and the bees are all over the blanket flower (Gaillardia).
But wait, if you look closely, you'll see a tiny sticklike figure on top of a seed head. It's a predator on top his world, scanning the view, feeling the buzz and looking for dinner.
The praying mantis looks too diminutive to catch a honey bee. Too minuscular. Too puny. Too much of a pint-sized predator. Maybe it should set its sights on a fruit fly or a knat.
We see you, praying mantis! Come on out, with your hands up!
Will my spiked forelegs do?
He leaps off the seed head like a frog jumping off a lily pad, but instead of a kersplash, it's a kerplop.
See ya, next time!