It's almost the end of the season for the European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum.
A few still hang around the foxgloves, the catmint and the African blue basil in our pollinator garden. They really stand out when they're visiting the hot pink foxgloves (by the way, all parts are poisonous except for the roots), but they're difficult to see when they line up with the African blue basil and the catmint.
Natives of Europe, they were named "carder bees" because the females collect or "card" plant hairs for their nests. The bees, about the size of honey bees, are mostly black and yellow. The females range in body length from 11 to 13 millimeters, while the males are 14 to 17 mm. The males are very territorial as they protect their turf and bodyslam other insects.
These colorful bees were first detected in the United States (New York) in 1963, and first recorded in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007. By 2008, they were well established in the Central Valley, according to Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. We saw our first one in Vacaville in the spring of 2010.
The bee, according to research entomologist Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, was accidentally introduced into New York state. It was not purposefully introduced to pollinate alfalfa, as some reports allege, he said.
Writing in a 2008 edition of the Pan-Pacific Entomologist, Zavortink and fellow entomologist Sandra Shanks, now of Port Townsend, Wash., pointed out that several papers “have documented its spread from neighboring areas in the northeastern United States and southern Canada” and that the species has since crossed the country. It was confirmed in Colorado in 2005, Missouri in 2006, and Maine, Michigan, Maryland and California (Sunnyvale) in 2007, the entomologists wrote. Records show it was first collected in Davis on July 26, 2007.
Its plant preferences include lamb's ear (Stachys byzantine, in the mint family Lamiaceae), a perennial grown for its fuzzy, silvery gray-green foliage. It's also been collected in the figwort/snapdragon family (Scrophulariacae) and the pea and bean family (Fabaceae), according to the Zavortink-Shanks research.
In our yard, they're partial to the foxgloves (shaded) and catmint (full sun). They don't seem to like the lamb's ear (full sun).
They also don't like my camera. The slightest movement, and off they go.
Ready or not, here I come!
"Wait, can you slow down a bit?" I ask. "I can't focus when you move so fast!"
No, sorry! I'm in a hurry!
Anthophora urbana, a solitary, ground-nesting bee, frequents our garden to forage on the catmint (Nepeta) and lavender (Lavandula). This bee is also called an urbane digger bee (see BugGuide.net).
This one encountered a honey bee, partly obscured by the foliage, but neither seemed bothered.
California is home to more than 1600 wild bees, including A. urbana, according to the University of California-authored book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). They "populate and pollinate our gardens, fields, and urban green spaces," the authors say.
That they do. And there's a very good reason why this bee is photographed more often on flowers than in flight.
Sorry, I'm in a hurry!
So here's this Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) clinging to a lavender stem in our pollinator garden.
It is all alone--for a little white.
Then here come honey bees seeking to forage on the lavender, too.
One bee buzzes next to the butterfly's wing. Then it soars up and over.
Too much traffic for this butterfly. It moves to the nearby catmint patch.
The showy butterfly, a brilliant orange-reddish masterpiece with silver-spangled underwings, first appeared in California in the vicinity of San Diego in the 1870s, according to noted butterfly researcher Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. He's been monitoring the butterfly populations of central California since 1972 and maintains this website.
From San Diego, “it spread through Southern California in urban settings and was first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908," says Shapiro. "It became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Shapiro says it “apparently bred in the Sacramento area and possibly in Davis in the 1960s, becoming extinct in the early 1970s, then recolonizing again throughout the area since 2000.”
The Gulf Frit's host plant is the passionflower vine (Passiflora). Plant it and they will come. Plant some lavender and catmint, too, for food sources. You'll be rewarded by the joy of seeing these beautiful masterpieces fluttering into your yard./span>
Just call it a missed opportunity.
Catmint (genus Nepeta) draws scores of insects, from honey bees to leafcutter bees to European wool carder bees.
It also draws spiders.
We usually see a cellar spider (family Pholcidae) trapping prey in its web. It inflicts a fatal bite and then wraps it for later consumption.
This cellar spider, however, crawled along a catmint stem to wait for prey. A honey bee buzzed down and began nectaring one of the lavender blossoms.
It was not aware of the predator. Just as the spider moved toward it, the bee took off.
Later we saw the cellar spider wrapping prey. A closer look revealed it was not a honey bee, a leafcutter bee or a European wool carder bee.
It was another cellar spider. Sexual cannabalism? Maybe. A very hungry cellar spider inept at catching a bee so it nailed a fellow spider instead? Perhaps.
At any rate, that was "what's for dinner."
We captured these photos today of a honey bee nectaring on catmint (genus Nepeta). The bee was moving fast. To blur the wings, we set the shutter speed at 1/640 of a second with an f-stop of 13 and IS0 of 800.
But just how fast can a honey bee fly?
Its wings beat 230 times every second, according to Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at California Institute of Technology who co-authored research, "Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight," published in December 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The honey bees have a rapid wing beat," he told LiveScience in an interview published in January 2006. "In contrast to the fruit fly that has one-eightieth the body size and flaps its wings 200 times each second, the much larger honeybee flaps its wings 230 times every second."
"And this was just for hovering," Altshuler said. "They also have to transfer pollen and nectar and carry large loads, sometimes as much as their body mass, for the rest of the colony."
The Hive and the Honey Bee, the "Bible" of beekeeping, indicates that a bee's flight speed averages about 15 miles per hour and they're capable of flying 20 miles per hour.
If they're not carrying nectar, pollen, water or propolis (plant resin), they'll fly much faster!