Life is not always sunny for the sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua, a native longhorned bee.
The gals have trouble foraging when a male longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, targets them.
The male M. agilis are very territorial--and their kamikaze-like maneuvers are spectacular.
The gal Svastras try to ignore them until the dive-bombing results in direct hits.
We saw this female foraging this week on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. We also saw her bolt after the male M. agilis hit his mark. Gotcha!
Male Melissodes agilis: 1
Female Svastra obliqua expurgata: 0.
(For more information on these two species and other bee species in California, see the Heyday publication, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, the work of UC-affiliated scientists , , It's available on the UC ANR website and on other sites. Also access the YouTube video on Svastras by The Bees in Your Backyard.)/span>
"Summertime, and the livin' is easy," belted out Ella Fitzgerald.
She wasn't singing about bees, but she could have been.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry.--George Gershwin.
Not always so easy if you're a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) foraging on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
Here you are, nearly tangled in a thicket of yellow pollen. You're absorbed. Totally. In fact, you're absolutely oblivious to your surroundings.
Suddenly, you feel as if you're being watched. Watched. Targeted. Bombarded.
Fact is, you are.
Off in the distance, another male bee is speeding straight toward you in the proverbial beeline maneuver in a territorial war.
Pull up! Pull up! Ground proximity warning system.
Whew! That was a close one.
As we near the end of celebrating National Pollinator Week, June 16-22, look around and see all the insects foraging on reddish-orange flowers. And occasionally, you might see a reddish-orange insect like the showy Gulf Fritillary butterfly.
Orange, a color commonly associated with autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, is also a color that brightens many of our seasons and draws attention to special occasions, including Pollinator Week.
The reddish-orange Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forage on a blanket flower (Gallardia). Another bee, the leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, and a green bottle fly take a liking to a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia).
Pollinators come in all sizes, shapes, colors and species, from bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, to flies.
Many folks throughout the country observe National Pollinator Week once a year, but some organizations, such as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, protect our pollinators and promote pollinator conservation every day.
On their website:
"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced disease."
Indeed, pollinators pack a punch.
Rachael Long, Yolo County farm advisor and director of the Yolo County Cooperative Extension program, has lined up a group of outstanding speakers at her Pollination Workshop on Friday, Oct. 11.
Open to the public (no registration required), the event will take place from 8:30 to noon in Norton Hall, 70 Cottonwood St., Woodland.
You'll hear how hedgerows enhance biodiversity and provide crop benefits in agricultural landscapes, how insecticides reduce honey bee visitation and pollen germination in hybrid onion seed production, and why multiple stresses are hard on honey bees. Assisting her in coordinating the workshop is Katharina Ullmann, graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Those are just a few of the topics.
8:30 to 8:35
Introductions and Updates
Rachael Long, Farm Advisor/County Director, UCCE Yolo County
8:35 to 8:55
"Hedgerows Enhance Biodiversity and Provide Crop Benefits in Agricultural Landscapes"
8:55 to 9:20
"Sustainable Pollination Strategies for Specialty Crops"
Neal Williams, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
9:20 to 9:40
"Insecticides Reduce Honeybee Visitation and Pollen Germination in Hybrid Onion Seed Production"
Sandra Gillespie, postdoctoral researcher in Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
9:45 to 10:10
"Best Management Practices for Squash and Pumpkin Pollination"
Katharina Ullmann, graduate student in Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
10:10 to 10:20
10:20 to 10:45
"Native Bee Nesting in Agricultural Landscapes: Implications for Sunflower Pollination"
Hillary Sardinas, graduate student, UC Berkeley's Environmental Sciences and Policy Management
10:45 to 11:10
"Restoring Pollinator Communities and Services in California Central Valley"
Claire Kremen, professor, UC Berkeley's Environmental Sciences and Policy Management.
11:10 to 11:35
"Maintaining Honey Bee Hives for Hive Health"
Billy Synk, manager and staff research associate, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis
11:35 to Noon
"Multiple Stresses are Hard on Honey Bees"
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
For more information, contact Rachael Long at (530) 666-8734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that one of the speakers, Sandra Gillespie, will be presenting a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar next Wednesday, Oct. 16 on “Parasites and Pesticides: Indirect Effects on Pollination Service.” It will take place from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. It will be videotaped for later viewing on UCTV.
A brilliant sunflower clinging to the red ring of autumn.
And here comes a common sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis (this is a female, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.)
The sunflower bee is a specialist on sunflowers (Helianthus spp.). Scientists know this as a long-horned ground-nesting bee, a member of Anthophoridae. Both the plant and the bee are native to the United States.
Melissodes agilis is commercially important. And it's common.
But there's nothing "common" about it when "sunflower bee" meets "sunflower."
The beauty is overwhelming.