Posts Tagged: Honey bee
I've always liked the ginkgo tree, despite the fact that honey bees don't like it. It's a non-flowering plant so there's no reward for the bees. In other words, a bee has no reason to visit it. No reason at all.
But one day a bee touched down--and lingered--on our ginkgo tree in our back yard, amid the lavender, catmint, salvia, lantana, blanket flowers, alyssum, foxgloves, gaura and tower of jewels.
Why? I don't know. But more about that later.
The ginkgo, the oldest tree species on earth, is considered “a living fossil.” It existed an estimated 250 to 285 million years ago, at a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before flowering plants and bees made their debut.
The ginkgo tree is tough, stubborn and resilient. It's a survivor.
Renowned botanist Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, wrote extensively about this unique species in his book, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot (2013, Yale University Press). He considers his book "a biography of the oldest tree on earth."
In a May 2013 interview with Environment 360 (e360), a publication of the Yale School of Forest and Environmental Studies, Crane traces the history of the ancient ginkgo back to the dinosaur age, to its cultivation in China 1000 years ago, and finally, to its presence today on city streets throughout the world.
The ginkgo “really puts our own species — let alone our individual existence — into a broader context,” Crane told Environment 360.
An excerpt from the interview:
e360: You've mentioned that ginkgo is something of a biological oddity in that it's a single species with no living relatives. That's somewhat unusual in the plant and animal world, isn't it?
Crane: Yes. When we think about flowering plants, there are about 350,000 living species. And in an evolutionary sense, they're equivalent to that one species of ginkgo. They're all more closely related to each other than they are to anything else. But the ginkgo is solitary and unique, not very obviously related to any living plant. One of the points I wanted to draw out in the book is that in the past there were a variety of ginkgo-like plants, but this is the only one surviving.
Gingko enthusiasts know that there are both male and female trees, and that city planners prefer to plant males on their city streets. Why? Because, as Crane puts it, the females “stink.” Their seeds, he says, "smell like vomit."
But back to the honey bee that landed on the ginkgo tree in our yard.
I had just finished reading former publisher Richard Rico's Sunday column, At Ease, in The Reporter, Vacaville. “About two weeks before our Kathy — Kathy Thomas Rico — passed away, family members paid a visit," he wrote. "One said he wanted to plant something in her honor. Kathy was an ardent Master Gardener. He asked if she had a preference. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Ginkgo tree.'”
So, at her celebration of life in the Buck Estate Gardens, the family handed out gingko seeds.
Kathy Thomas-Rico, who died at age 54 of cancer, was a wife, mother, retired journalist, a friend and part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) family. She was a talented UC Master Gardener who contributed to the UC ANR blog, Under the Solano Sun.
And she loved ginkgo trees, particularly a beautiful specimen at the corner of West Street and Buck Avenue, Vacaville, on the same block as the Buck Mansion and Estate Gardens. When autumn turns its leaves a golden yellow, the tree absolutely glows. Kathy—or “Flash” as her fellow journalists nicknamed her for her propensity to complete projects rapidly--absolutely loved it.
In November of 2011, Kathy blogged about the tree in Under the Solano Sun: “You really ought to see what I think is the best example of fall beauty in all of Solano County. On the corner of Buck Avenue and West Street, in front of what is still called the old Hartley house, is an absolutely stunning Ginkgo biloba tree. I'm not sure of its age, but considering its size and how slow growing these trees are, it must be close to a century old. This tree literally stops traffic when it goes gold, which should be right about now.”
After reading the newspaper column about her memorial service and the ginkgo seeds, I stepped into our back yard to check on our own ginkgo tree, now about three feet tall. Suddenly a honey bee—the favorite insect of UC Master Gardeners--appeared as if on command.
Coincidence? Probably. But I like to think this was the work of an angel--a wife, mother, journalist, friend and a UC Master Gardener whom we all admired.
Kathy Thomas-Rico, Jan. 20, 1969-April 16, 2014
A honey bee lands on a ginkgo tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A beautiful ginkgo specimen at the corner of West Street and Buck Avenue, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you have a patch of salvia (sage) growing in your yard, watch for the nectar robbers.
Carpenter bees are among the insects that engage in nectar robbing. They drill a hole in the corolla of the flower, circumventing the usual plant-pollinator relationship. In other words, they're “cheating” pollination by "stealing" the nectar. Scientists call this "robbing the nectar."
The most prevalent nectar robbers in our yard are the mountain carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. They're better at drilling holes than the Texas oilmen.
If you watch closely, you may see a honey bee following the carpenter bee around. She's taking the easy way out, finding the hole pierced by the carpenter bee and then gathering nectar to take back to her colony.
If a flower could communicate, it would probably say something like "Hey, you're doing an end run to get my nectar. Please don't use the side entrance--I have a front door."
Mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, engaging in nectar robbing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of nectar robbing by mountain carpenter bee on salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee looks for the hole drilled by a carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee engaging in nectar robbing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's almost time to count the pollinators!
The University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) wants you set aside three minutes on Thursday, May 8 and count the pollinators wherever you live--and they live--in California. It's all part of UC ANR's Day of Science and Service celebrating the 100th year of the Cooperative Extension system.
First, count the pollinators (they can be bees, syrphid flies, bats, butterflies and the like.) Then you may choose to photograph them and upload your photos to the UC ANR website.
It should be interesting to glean the final count.
Just a few of the bees you may find:
- Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
- Green metallic sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus)
- European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)
- Long-horned bee (Melissodes communis)
Other activities on May 8 focus on water and food (see the website, Day of Science and Service)
Water: in this record drought, UC has committed to reducing its water consumption by 20 percent how are you conserving?
Food: Where is food grown in your community? Fill out our California food maps.
UC President Janet Napolitano has just issued the following statement:
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our nation's Cooperative Extension system, the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is sponsoring a day of science and service on May 8.
We need your help to make our science projects successful. The more people who participate, the more data we'll have to analyze.
Everyone in California is invited to participate. It's quick and easy. Go to beascientist.ucanr.edu, choose a project, and record your observations about conserving water, growing food or counting the numbers of pollinating bees, birds and butterflies in your neighborhood. You can share your observations on an interactive map and upload photos if you like.
This is a great opportunity to learn about California's natural resources and the role of agriculture in all our communities.
For 100 years UC Cooperative Extension has been turning science into solutions to build healthy communities. From creating new varieties of fruits and vegetables, fighting off invasive pest attacks, and helping school kids learn about healthy eating, UC's work benefits every Californian.
A male longhorned bee, Melissodes communis, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male green metallic sweat bee Agapostemon texanus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum, in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee, Apis mellifera, on a begonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Foxgloves are called "the lurking place of the fairies."
That could be.
Foxgloves are also known by their genus name, Digitalis--meaning fingerlike. The genus is native to western and southwestern Europe, western and central Asia, Australasia and northwestern Africa.
Question: Have you ever pulled off the flowers and gloved them on your fingers? Probably. Not good for the plant, but what fun!
The common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea thrives in a shady spot in our yard. The honey bees and carpenter bees love it, as does a single earwig, which apparently considers it its "hidey hole."
How did it get its name? Legend has it that a botanist Fuchs first named it and the name corrupted or morphed into foxglove, according to Wikipedia. "It happens, moreover, the name foxglove is a very ancient one and exists in a list of plants as old as the time of Edward III."
Reports Wikpedia: "The 'folks of our ancestors were the fairies and nothing is more likely than that the pretty coloured bells of the plant would be designated 'folksgloves,' afterwards, 'foxglove.' In Wales it is declared to be a favourite lurking-place of the fairies, who are said to occasion a snapping sound when children, holding one end of the digitalis bell, suddenly strike the other on the hand to hear the clap of fairy thunder, with which the indignant fairy makes her escape from her injured retreat. In south of Scotland it is called "bloody fingers" more northward, "deadman's bells" whilst in Wales it is known as "fairy-folks-fingers" or "lambs-tongue-leaves."
No matter the origin, the exotic-looking freckled purple foxgloves will long be a favorite--not just by us, but by all the pollinators.
And a few earwigs.
A Valley carpenter bee appears to be "nectar-robbing," drilling a hole through the flower instead of going into the entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee seeks an entrance into the foxglove. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Look here! An earwig has found a "hidey hole." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
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."
A cellar spider eyes a honey bee in the catmint (Nepeta). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
All wrapped up--a cellar spider nabs another cellar spider. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)