Don't bring a pillow, a night-cap or an attitude—it's Boys' Night Out and we're sleeping outside on the flowers.
That's what the male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, do while the females return to their underground nests at night.
"It's a bee B&B," quipped Lynn Kimsey, director of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology and distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
This native species is among California's 1600 species of undomesticated bees.
Ever seen a Boys' Night Out? It's fascinating. The boys curl into a comma, or doze with their heads down and striped abdomens up.
Over the last two weeks, we've been monitoring the number of males sleeping on a single Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in our Vacaville pollinator garden. On the first night, two. Then three, then four. The slumber party grew to five last night. They sleep on a 10-foot-high blossom (talk about height advantage and a bird's eye view)! Every night, they return to the very same blossom.
A few years ago we saw the males sleeping on our lavender stems and then they moved to Gaura stems, probably due to the proximity of three praying mantids.
Folks ask if they sting. No. Boy bees don't sting. They can't.
The late Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and co-author of California Blooms and Bees: an Identification Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, fielded scores of questions on these slumbering bees. “They (males) lack a stinger which is a modified ovipositor in their wasp ancestors. Boy sleeping aggregations are based on a suitable perch and not related to where females are nesting, but probably no more than 100 yards from the nearest female nest. Females nest in the ground and have rather distinctive round holes about the diameter of a pencil or slightly smaller, sometimes with small piles of dirt around them looking like mini-volcanos. The holes may be widely separated or clustered together depending on the species, but each female digs her own burrow."
Of course, not all slumbering bees in this area are Melissodes agilis, as Thorp pointed out. Some may be other species of the genus Melissodes and some may belong to the closely related Svastra obliqua.
The boy bees start arriving for their nightly sleepover around 5 p.m. or when the light fades. Sometimes they appear to be kicking each other before settling down for the night. Said Thorp: "Each establishes his own spot, so there may be some jostling for position initially."
When it's morning, they rise, warm their flight muscles, sip a little nectar, and begin dive-bombing the honey bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees, butterflies, syrphid flies and assorted other insects on "their" flowers. M. agilis are very territorial. They're trying to save the food source for the females of their own species—so they can mate with them, as Thorp related.
When their day ends, they cluster for another Boys' Night Out. It's "Nighty Night, Sleep Tight." Time to curl up on a cushion of petals beneath a blanket of stars.
"Bee B&B," as Professor Kimsey says.
Yes, hummingbirds are pollinators, too!
A capacity crowd of 250 will attend the fourth International Pollinator Conference, to be hosted by the University of California, Davis, from Wednesday, July 17 through Saturday, July 20 in the ARC Ballroom.
A welcoming reception took place from 6:30 to 8 tonight (Wednesday) in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute, 392 Old Davis Road.
Themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” the conference will cover a wide range of topics in pollinator research: from genomics to ecology and their application to land use and management; to breeding of managed bees; and to monitoring of global pollinator populations.
Co-chairs are pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, directed by Amina Harris, is coordinating the conference. Events manager Elizabeth Luu serves as the conference coordinator.
Keynote speakers are Lynn Dicks, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, England, and Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Pennsylvania State University, (the research center launched the pollinator conferences in 2012).
Dicks will speak at 9 a.m., Thursday, July 18 on "The Importance of People in Pollinator Conservation" while Grozinger will address the crowd at 9 a.m., Friday, July 19 on "Bee Nutritional Ecology: From Genes to Landscapes."
Dicks, an internationally respected scientist, studies bee ecology and conservation. She received the 2017 John Spedan Lewis Medal for contributions to insect conservation. Grozinger studies health and social behavior in bees and is developing comprehensive approaches to improving pollinator health and reduce declines.
Among the speakers is Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who will discuss her hummingbird research.
Wednesday, July 17
- 6:30 to 8 p.m.: Early Registration and welcome reception in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute, 392 Old Davis Road, Davis.
Thursday, July 18
6:45 to 8:30 a.m., breakfast at Segundo Dining Commons
8:45 a.m. Opening remarks and welcome
9 a.m. Keynote Address: "The Importance of People in Pollinator Conservation" by Lynn Dicks, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK
10 a.m. Session 1: Novel Quantitative Methods in Pollinator Ecology & Management
- "The Role of Bee and Non-Bee Pollinators in Australian Open and Protected Cropping Systems (How do we overcome the pollination challenges?)" - Romina Rader, University of New England, Australia
- "Implementing a Honeybee Foraging Model and REDAPOLL Fruit Set Predictions in Washington State's Decision Aid System" - Vince Jones, Washington State University
- "Using DNA metabarcoding techniques to improve plant-pollinator interaction networks" - Victoria Reynolds, University of Queensland, Australia
- "Citizen Science Data for Mapping Bumblebee Populations" - Claudio Gratton, University of Wisconsin
11:15 to 11:30: Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "From Theory to Practice: The Bumble-BEEHAVE Model and its Application to Enhance Pollinator Friendly Land Management" - Matthias Becher, University of Exeter, UK
- "A Laboratory System to Study the Effects of Stressors on Honey Bee Health and Fecundity" - Julia Fine, USDA-ARS Davis, Calif.
- "Using Automated Tracking to Link Individual Behavior to Colony Performance in Bumble Bees" - James Crall, Harvard University
Lunch at Segundo Dining Commons (opens from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.)
1:45 p.m. Session 2: Drivers of Host-Pathogen Interactions
- "DWV as a Driver of Host Bee Decline" - Robert Paxton, Martin-Luther University, Germany
- "Novel Transmission Routes and Intensification as Drivers of Disease Emergence and Virulence in Honey Bee viruses" - Mike Boots, UC Berkeley
- "Viral Transmission in Honey Bees and Native Bees Supported by a Global BQCV Phylogeny" - Elizabeth Murray, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
3 to 3:15: Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "Drivers of Pathogen Distributions in Feral and Managed Honey Bees" - Panuwan Chantawannakul, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
- "Serratia marcescens, a Pathobiont of Honey Bees?" - Kasie Raymann, University of North Carolina Greensboro
- "Foreign Fungi in Native Bees across the Commonwealth of Virginia" - Kathryn LeCroy, University of Virginia
- "Traits as Drivers of Plant-Pollinator-Pathogen Networks" - Quinn McFrederick, UC Riverside and Scott McArt, Cornell University
4:30 p.m.: Poster Session 1 in the ARC Ballroom
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. Opening Reception
Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Building, 392 Old Davis Road, Davis
Honey Tasting led by Amina Harris, director, Honey and Pollination Center
Friday, July 19
6:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., Breakfast at Segundo Dining Commons
9 a.m. Keynote: "Bee Nutritional Ecology: From Genes to Landscapes," by Christina Grozinger, Penn State University
10 a.m. Session Three: Variable Climates and Changing Pollinators
- "Bee Responses to Climate Change: from Micro- to Macroecology" - Jessica Forrest, University of Ottawa, Canada
- "A Climate Vise of Temperature Extremes May Explain Past and Predict Future Bumble Bee Range Shifts" - Michael Dillon, University of Wyoming
- "Climate Change Effects on Megachilidae Bee Species along an Elevation Gradient" - Lindsie McCabe, Northern Arizona University
10:15 to 11:05: Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "Testing the Phenological Mismatch Hypothesis for a Plant-Pollinator Iinteraction" - Charlotte de Keyzer, University of Toronto, Canada
- "Phenological Mismatch between Bees and Flowers Early in the Spring and Late in the Summer" - Gaku Kudo, Hokkaido University, Japan
- "Climate Change Impacts on Brazilian Pollinators" - Tereza (Cris) Giannini, Federal University of Para, Brazil
- "Pollinator Health in a Commercial Blueberry System" - Lief Richardson, University of Vermont
Lunch at Segundo Dining Commons (opens from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.)
Optional Discussion: How do you relate your science to justice, equity and advocacy issue
1:45 Session 4: Causes and Consequences of Pesticide Use: From Use Patterns to Pollination Services
- "A New Framework for Environmental Risk Assessment of Pesticides" - Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, University of Sydney, Australia
- "Potency Paradox: Patterns and Drivers of Insecticide Use in U.S. Agriculture" - Maggie Douglas, Dickinson College
- "Estimating Pollinator Pesticide Exposure" - Maj Rundlof, Lund University, Sweden
Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "A Risk Assessment of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in New York" - Travis Grout, Cornell University
- "Risk of Exposure in Soil and Sublethal Effects of Systemic Insecticides Applied to Crops on Adult Female Ground-Nesting Bees Using the Hoary Squash Bee as a Model Species" - D. Susan Willis Chan, University of Guelph, Canada
- "Delayed Lethality: The Effects of a Widely-Used Fungicide on Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)" - Adrian Fisher II, Arizona State University
- "Sub-lethal Impacts of Pesticides on Bees" - Troy Anderson, University of Nebraska
Poster Session 2 and Networking at the ARC Ballroom
Saturday, July 21
8 a.m. Registration at the ARC Ballroom
6:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.: Breakfast at Segundo Dining Commons
9 a.m.: Session 5: Integrative Approaches to Improving Bee Health Across Landscapes
- "Combining Physiological and Ecological Data for More Effective Bee Protection and Conservation" - Cedric Alaux, INRA, France
- "Keeping Bees in a Warming World: Protein Biomarkers for Heat Stress and Queen Failure Diagnostics" - Alison McAfee, North Carolina State University
- "Factors Influencing Colony Survival in Migratory Beekeeping Based on Honey Bee Resistance Traits" - Michael Simone-Finstrom, USDA-ARS, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- "Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Pollinator Communities across North Carolina Agroecosystem" - Hannah Levenson, North Carolina State University
- "The Effects of Land Cover on Habitat Quality for Nesting Bumble Bees" - Genevieve Pugesek, Tufts University
10 to 10:15 a.m. Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "Improving Bee Health in Canola Pollination" - Shelley Hoover, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- "Mitigating Land Use Decisions that Destroy Bee Forage" - George Hansen, Foothills Honey, Oregon, USA
- "Impact of Landscape-Scale Floral Resources Availability on Pollinator Communities" - Aaron Iverson, Cornell University
- "Why are Crops Mainly Visited by Broadly Polylectic Bee Species?" - Katja Hogendoorn, The University of Adelaide, South Australia
1:40: Session 6: Pollinators in Urban Environments
- Presentation by The Wonderful Company
- Honoring new California Master Beekeeper graduates - Elina Niño, UC Davis
- "Floral Trophic Ecology of a North American Metropolis Revealed by Honey Bee Foraging Assay" -
Doug Sponsler, Penn State University
- "Pollinators and Urban Warming: A Landscape Physiology Approach" - Elsa Youngsteadt, North
Carolina State University
- "Green Infrastructure to Support Urban Wild bees: Communicating Science to Practitioners" - Scott
McIvor, University of Toronto, Canada
- "Urban Pollinator Conservation Opportunities: Integrating Research with Policy and Practice" -
Katherine Baldock, University of Bristol, UK
- "Linking Pollinator Health, Microbiome Composition and Human Provisioning in Anna's Hummingbird
(Calypte anna) - Rachel Vannette, UC Davis
Break (Light refreshments in the foyer)
- "Beekeeping Ordinances: Protecting bees and Neighbors" - Tracy Ellis, San Diego County
Department of Agriculture
- "Beekeeping in the City: Successes and Challenges" - Charlie Blevins, San Francisco Beekeepers'
- "Electric Power Companies Protecting Pollinators" - Jessica Fox, Electric Power Research Institute,
- "The Effect of Land use on a Sexually Selected Characteristic of the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris
rapae) in the United States" - Anne Espeset, University of Nevada, Reno
- "Urban Pollinator Conservation: Bee Campus USA and Bee City USA as a Model for Meaningful
Community Engagement" - Phyllis Stiles, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Portland,Ore.
(There are no plans to video-record the conference, according to Elizabeth Luu (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, the events coordinator for the conference.)
Boys' Night Out!
Have you ever seen a cluster of longhorned male bees sleeping overnight on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)?
Every day around sunset, the longhorned bees, probably Melissodes agilis (tribe Eucerini), call it a day and head for their favorite flower (bedroom), which happens to be Tithonia in our pollinator garden in Vacaville. If you grow flowers for the native bees, and you wake up early in the morning before they do, you may see them, too.
The late native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor at the University of California, Davis, used to call this behavior "Boys' Night Out."
"Most frequently, the boy bee overnight clusters are single-species clusters," said Thorp, co-author of California Bees and Blooms, a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, with UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter. He previously identified some of ours as Melissodes agilis.
In a previous Bug Squad blog, Thorp responded to a reader's inquiry about "stings" from the clustering bees. "Boy bees cannot sting," he pointed out. "They lack a stinger which is a modified ovipositor in their wasp ancestors. Occasionally a girl bee may spend the night out if she is caught by sudden drop in temperature. Usually she will not be part of a group sleep over. So don't attempt to handle unless you are confident you can tell boy bees from girl bees or they are too sleepy to defend themselves."
The reader also asked: "Typically how close to the girls' nest(s) do the boys' slumber? I want to try and make sure I don't touch it when planting at end of summer."
"Boy sleeping aggregations are based on a suitable perch and not related to where females are nesting, but probably no more than 100 yards from the nearest female nest," Thorp answered. "Females nest in the ground and have rather distinctive round holes about the diameter of a pencil or slightly smaller, sometimes with small piles of dirt around them looking like mini-volcanos. The holes may be widely separated or clustered together depending on the species, but each female digs her own burrow."
The reader also wondered: "When watching the boys tonight, about ten of them started waking up and kicking each other. They finally settled down and started to nestle back in for the 'night'--it was only 6 p.m.--but I wasn't sure if my presence was getting them riled or they tend to act like kids sharing a bed?"
Said Thorp: "The boys usually settle in as the light dims in the evening. Cool, and drizzly conditions may modify bed time. Each establishes his own spot, so there may be some jostling for position initially."
Longhorned bees are among the more than 1600 species of undomesticated bees that reside in California. The co-authors of California Bees and Blooms focus on 22 of the most common genera and the flowers they frequent.
So here's this male longhorned bee (Svastra) sipping a little nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
As the late Mr. Rogers (1928-2003), star of the TV show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," so often proclaimed: "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."
And here I "bee," admiring and photographing the bees on the reddish-orange blossoms on July 13 in our little pollinator garden.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Could you be mine?
Would you be mine?
Yes, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but wait--what's that?
Another male longhorned bee, fast as the proverbial speeding bullet, dive-bombs my little buddy. Both are male Svastra--territorial males--as identified by Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. He's the co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (along with UC-affiliated colleagues Gordon Frankie, Rollin E. Coville and Barbara Ertter), a must for everyone who wants to learn about bees and blooms. A noted authority on bees, Thorp annually teaches at The Bee Course, a nine-day intensive workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Ariz. To be held Aug. 20-30, it is offered "for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees." He's served as one of the instructors since 2002.
So, what happened to the male Svastra occupying the blossom?
Nothing. The occupier kept occupying and the dive-bomber quit dive-bombing.
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you
(This image was taken with a Nikon D500, with a 105mm macro lens and a fast shutter speed of 1/3200 of a second. Other settings: f-stop, 7.1, and ISO 1600.)
How would you describe the year 2017?
Survival of the fittest?
In the insect world, it's more like "survival of the flittest."
If you've ever pulled up a chair in a pollinator garden and sat back and observed all the activity, sometimes it's like road rage on the freeway and aisle anger in the supermarket.
- Have you ever seen a male long-horned bee (Melissodes agilis) doing a protective fly-by, trying to save a food source for the female of his species?
- Have you ever seen a male long-horned bee challenging a Western tiger swallowtail seeking nectar from a Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia)?
- Have you ever seen a syrphid fly targeting a honeydew-laden lady beetle, aka ladybug, on a rose?
- Have you ever seen a honey bee and bumble bee racing for the nectar on catmint (Nepeta)?
You may if you plant a pollinator garden. Plant it and they--bees and butterflies and other pollinators--will come.
In Chinese astrology, 2017 was The Year of the Rooster. Coming Jan. 1: The Year of the Dog. But there's no "Year of the Insect."
If entomologists had their way, one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig), would be switched to an insect. Insects matter. Indeed, scientists trace the first known fossil record of insects back some 400 million years ago. The insect? A springtail.
Insects easily outnumber us and all other life forms. The population of the world today is 7 billion, according to a World Population Clock. Insects? "At any given time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive," says the Smithsonian Institute. This amounts to to largest biomass of the terrestrial animals.
Other fascinating points to ponder from the Smithsonian Institute involve undescribed and described species:
"Most authorities agree that there are more insect species that have not been described (named by science) than there are insect species that have been previously named. Conservative estimates suggest that this figure is 2 million, but estimates extend to 30 million. In the last decade, much attention has been given to the entomofauna that exists in the canopies of tropical forests of the world. From studies conducted by Terry Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Entomology in Latin American forest canopies, the number of living species of insects has been estimated to be 30 million."
"In the United States, the number of described species is approximately 91,000. The undescribed species of insects in the United States, however, is estimated at some 73,000." Four insect orders comprise the largest numbers of described species in the U.S.:
- Coleoptera (beetles): 23,700
- Diptera (flies): 19,600
- Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps): 17,500
- Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies): 11,500.
Today (the last Friday before the New Year) is a good time to think about "survival of the fittest" and "survival of the flittest" as we glance back at 2017 and look forward to 2018.
Happy New Year! And may all your gardens be pollinator gardens filled with bees and butterflies. And, a few syrphid flies, lady beetles...and...