Posts Tagged: catmint
Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), so named because they cut leaves and petals to line their nests, are smaller than the honey bees but move faster. These native bees are easily recognizable by the black-white bands on their abdomen.
Catching them in flight requires a lot of patience.
We watched one leafcutter bee dart from catmint flower to catmint flower (Nepeta). It is 2 p.m. One movement of the camera and off it goes. One step toward it and it takes flight. A shadow over it and it vanishes.
This one (below) managed to maneuver around carder bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, assorted butterflies, a curious cat determined to sample the catmint, and a persistent spider that cunningly wove its web right between two stems.
Finally, it overcame all the obstacles for its reward: a long sip of nectar.
Caught in Flight
Sip of Nectar
Then it lands and you realize it's neither.
It's a bee.
The insects buzzing in our catmint last weekend were wool-carder bees, Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus), as identified by several UC Davis entomologists: Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Regarding the carder bee, Zavortink teamed with Sandra Shanks, then of the Bohart Museum, to write a scientific note, "Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus) (Hymnoptera: Megachilidae in California)," published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Pan-Pacific Entomologist.
"The Palaearctic wool-carder bee Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus, 1758) was introduced into New York state, presumably from Europe, before 1963 (Jaycox 1967)," Zavortink and Shanks wrote. However, it wasn't detected in California until much later. In 2007, an image of a carder bee from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County, appeared on the Bug Guide website.
The name, carder bee, comes from its behavior of gathering "down" or "fuzz" from leaves to build its nest.
"Anthidium manicatum builds a linear row of cells, each one being lined and partitioned with cottony down 'carded' from hairy leaves," wrote Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "The term 'carder' refers to the teasing out or carding of woollen or cotton fiber with a comblike tool. The female of A. manicatum has five sharp teeth on each jaw and these are her carding tools."
The males are very territorial, the three UC Davis entomologists agreed.
Indeed they are.
The males, about the size of honey bees, buzzed furiously around the catmint last weekend. When they spotted an "intruder," such as a honey bee, they hit it with such force (body slam!) that the victim dropped to the ground.
We also observed carding of the leaves and mating. An Indy-500 male grabbed a female foraging on a catmint blossom.
"It appears that carder bees don't mate in flight like the honey bees do," commented Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Zavortink-Shanks and O'Toole-Raw reported that carder bees prefer the downy leaves of such plants as lamb's ear (Stachys lanata).
By the looks of the activity last weekend in our bee friendly yard, it appears that carder bees are also quite fond of catmint (Nepeta) and sage (salvia).
Female carder bees
Love on a Catmint
When you see a honey bee trapped in a spider web, it's usually dead and about to be consumed.
Not this time.
Today a foraging bee, minding her own "beesiness," was nectaring among the catmint blossoms in our garden when she ran smack dab into a sticky web placed there by a cunning spider.
Tangled in the web and unable to free herself, the honey bee buzzed frantically. It didn't work. She remained trapped, waiting for the spider to return.
Not this time.
Carefully, I lifted the "damsel in distress" from her predatory prison and placed her on a catmint blossom. A sip of nectar for nourishment and off she went.
Sorry, spider. This is a bee friendly garden.
Our catmint is in mint condition.
So is the cat.
The catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae). It's a perennial with two-lipped blue or blue-violet flowers that blooms from spring through fall. It grows so well that it can become invasive.
Just like the cat.
As soon as the temperature hits 50 degrees, the honey bees are all over it, poking their heads inside the floral caps as if trying on hats.
And the cat, Xena the Warrior Princess, is right there. She likes to sniff, nibble and rub the catmint.
If she were in a catnip (Nepeta cataria) patch--catnip has whitish-pinkish flowers--she would be rolling in it in a crazy euphoric frenzy.
Although feline reactions differ considerably, the two plants belong to the same mint family.
Plant catnip and cats will roll wildly in it. Plant catmint and it's sniff, nibble and rub.
Bee on Catmint
Like an Acrobat
Cat Sniffing Catmint
Honey bees love catmint as much as cats love catnip.
Fact is, catmint and catnip belong to the same family: the mint family or Lamiaceae. The family also includes such aromatic celebrities as peppermint, sage, thyme, lavender, basil and oregano.
So, when the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven opens Oct. 16 on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus, you'll see 13 catmint (Nepeta faassenii) plants sharing the garden with scores of other bee favorites.It's a good choice. Catmint boasts colorful blue-lavender flowers and fragrant gray-green foliage. It's drought-tolerant. It was named Plant of the Year in 2007 by the Perennial Plant Association.
Best of all, bees love it.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is a bee friendly garden. The site is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the UC Davis campus. The haven will provide a year-around food source for bees and "bee" an educational experience for visitors. They can glean information about honey bees and what to plant in their gardens to attract bees.
If you already have catmint in your garden, you're one step ahead of everybody. And one wingbeat away from the bees.
This is one food source that will help our bees stay in "mint" condition.