Backyard Orchard News
The honey bees know it before we do.
The tangerines are blooming.
Today dozens of bees buzzed around our tangerine trees, doing their annual job of pollinating the crop.
The tangerine, the common name of the mandarin orange, is native to southeast Asia. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the word, "tangerine," originates from Tangier, a seaport in Morocco on the Strait of Gibralter.
No matter its name or its origin, the bees love it. According to California Bountiful, California's citrus industry is valued at more than $1 billion annually--second after Florida "which produces the most valencia oranges; those are the seeded oranges used mostly for orange juice. California is No. 1 in fresh-market oranges, most notably the navel, but also produces a significant share of the nation's valencias, lemons, grapefruit and tangerines."
Tangerines are a favorite because of their taste, small size, easy-to-peel appeal, and now something else. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario discovered a substance in the tangerine skins that "not only prevents obesity in mice, but also offers protections against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes." (Source: Wikipedia)
Who would have thought?
A honey bee pollinates a tangerine blossom next to fruit lingering on the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Acrobatic honey bee on a tangerine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the end for one blossom and the beginning of another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Frankly, who would want to attend a picnic WITHOUT bugs?
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is gearing up for the 100th annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, set from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 12.
Come one, come all.
Bugs, too. Bugs at Briggs. Bugs at Bohart.
That would be Briggs Hall and the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Lots of fun and educational activities revolving around insects will be offered, according to forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, coordinator of the activities at Briggs Hall, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is home to nearly 8 million insect specimens. It also features a live “petting zoo” where visitors can hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a rose-haired tarantula and walking sticks. The focus on Picnic Day will be "recently discovered and insects that are threatened and extinct," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum.
At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, the popular events will include maggot art (suitable for framing--at least for posting on your refrigerator), termite trails, cockroach races and honey tasting, as well as displays featuring forensic, medical, aquatic, apiculture and forest entomology. Exhibits also will include such topics as fly fishing/fly-tying, insect pests of ornamentals, and pollinators of California. In addition, you'll see bug sampling equipment.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, coordinator of the honey tasting, will share six varieties of honey: Almond, yellow starthistle, leatherwood, cultivated buckwheat, safflower and “wild oak.” Each person will be given six toothpicks to sample the varieties.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will provide a display in front of Briggs Hall. Visitors can learn about managing pests in their homes and garden. In addition, live lady beetles (aka ladybugs) will be distributed to children.
Plans also call for a “Bug Doctor” to answer insect-related questions from the public. That's called "bugging the Bug Doctor."
Briggs Hall beckons with bugs on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey tasting will include almond, yellow starthistle, leatherwood, cultivated buckwheat, safflower and “wild oak." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Maggot art is a popular attraction at Briggs Hall. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Picnic goers can get up close and personal with walking sticks at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was not long after Robbin Thorp's talk on wild bees at the UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop (hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture on March 15 at Giedt Hall), that lo and bee-hold: a mining bee appeared in our backyard.
From the family Andrenidae, it was foraging on the cherry laurels (Prunus caroliniana). Thorp, a native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified the bee from photos as genus Andrena, probably Andrena cerasifolii. "Note the pollen transport hairs on the hind legs," he said.
In his talk, Thorp mentioned that "there are more than 19,500 named bee species in the world, but more likely 20,000 to maybe 30,000." Of that number, North America has about 4500 bee species; California, 1600; and Yolo County, more than 300.
Indeed, Thorp has detected more than 80 bee species alone in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis (Yolo County). Planted in the fall of 2009, it's owned and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Here are a few bees you might want to pursue:
Andrenidae (mining bees)
Halictidae (sweat bees)
Colletidae (polyester and masked bees)
Megachilidae (leafcutting, carder and mason bees)
Apidae (digger, carpenter, cuckoo and honey bees)
We're looking forward to "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists," to be published in the fall of 2014 by Heyday Press. It's the work of Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley; Robbin Thorp of UC Davis; photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area; and Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley. It will contain nearly 30 of the most common bee genera in California.
Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) also published "Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens" in California Agriculture.
Meanwhile, check out the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website for interesting information on native bees.
You, too, can attract them to your yard. As Thorp says: "Plant them and they will come. Provide habitat and they will stay and reproduce."
Female of the genus Andrena (Andrenidae) probably Andrena angustitarsata, as identified by Robbin Thorp. This is a native, solitary, ground nesting bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The California poppy draws lots of visitors: honey bees, bumble bees and assorted other insects.
But a particular visitor we spotted March 15 on a poppy outside the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, Davis, looked puzzling.
A beetle. But what kind of beetle?
"This is a ladybug—Paranaemia vittigera," said senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus. "It's a native of the western United States."
"Family Coccinellidae," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Ah, yes, our little lady beetle, aka ladybug, ladybird beetle. But this one was striped, not spotted. Fact is, ladybugs are not always red with black dots. They come in coats of many colors: yellow, orange, brown and the like--some with dots, no dots, stripes, no stripes, and blotches or no blotches.
"Although rather consistent in body form and habits, there are a great many species, with more than 125 known in California," writes retired UC Berkeley entomology professor Jerry Powell in his book, "California Insects," co-authored by Charles Hogue (now deceased), former senior curator of entomology at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.
Said Kimsey: "We have pretty old specimens from all over northern California including the Central Valley. They are native here. It's interesting, though, how little biological information I could find about them."
One thing's for sure: we're accustomed to seeing spots on our ladybugs, not stripes./span>/span>/span>
A striped ladybug, Paranaemia vittigera, on a poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That is, honey bees heading home to their colony.
Many beekeepers, especially beginning beekeepers, like to watch their worker bees--they call them "my girls"--come home. They're loaded with pollen this time of year. Depending on the floral source, it may be yellow, red, white, blue, red or colors in between.
Below, the girls are heading home to a bee observation hive located inside the conference room of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
They're bringing in food for the colony: pollen and nectar. They also collect water and propolis (plant resin). This is a matriarchal society where females do all the work in the hive. The worker bees--aptly named--serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue specialists," air conditioning and/or heating technicians, guards and undertakers.
The glassed-in bee observation hive is indeed a popular and educational attraction to watch the queen lay eggs (she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day during peak season), the comb construction, honey production, pollen storage and all the other activities. The sisters feed the colony, including the queen and their brothers (drones). A drone's responsibility is solely reproduction, and that takes place in mid-air when a virgin queen takes her maiden flight. After mating, he dies. Done. That's it.
Meanwhile, life continues inside the hive.
Honey bees making a "bee line" for their home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Note the load of yellow pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bee and her retinue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)