Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Build it and they will come.
Baseball’s “Field of Dreams?”
No, a bee nesting block. Think "bee condo."
It’s an artificial nesting site made of wood and drilled with different-sized holes and depths to accommodate the diversity of native pollinators. Often the bee block is nailed to a fence post. Native bees, such as leafminer bees and blue orchard bees, build their nests inside the holes.
Fact is, North America is home to about 4,000 species of native bees. (The common honey bee is not a native; colonists brought it here from Europe in the 1600s.)
Members of the Xerces Society, an international organization "dedicated to protecting biological diversity through invertebrate conservation," are keen on protecting the habitat of native bees and other native invertebrates. As part of their public outreach program, they publish books, pamphlets and fact sheets. These include Pollinator Conservation Handbook, Farming for Bees, and the fact sheet, Bumble Bees in Decline.
As for the bee condos, thousands are sold each year in the
Vaughan, who escorted a group of us on a recent Yolo County farm tour, said many of our native bee species are much more efficient than honey bees at pollinating some crops.
"For example, only 250 female orchard mason bees (genus Osmia, also called blue orchard bees) are required to effectively pollinate an acre of apples, a task that would require 1.5 to 2 honey bee hives--approximatley 15,000 to 20,000 foragers." (Source: Farming for Bees, a Xerces Society publication.)
Native bees sport such names as miner, carpenter, leafcutter, mason, plasterer or carder, reflecting their nesting behaviors.
See the bee (below) heading toward the bee block? Xerces Society member Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who researches native pollinators, including bumble bees, says this is a female leafcutting bee, "probably the introduced Megachile apicalis, a specialist on Centaurea species, especially yellow starthistle."
The leafcutter bee, as its name implies, cuts leaves to form its nest.
We've all heard of the cuckoo clock.
And most of us have heard of the cuckoo bird (Cuculus canorus), which lays its eggs in the nest of birds of other species.
But the cuckoo bee?
Yes, there is a cuckoo bee. The female lays her eggs in the nests of other solitary nesting bees.
They resemble wasps. You can see these slender-waisted bees hovering low to the ground, sneakily searching for burrows of other solitary nesting bees.
Like an identity thief, they try to avoid detection. They slip into a a burrow and lay their eggs in the host's nest. The hatched larvae then eat the host's food and parasitize (kill and eat) the host's larvae.
Some cuckoo bees are more abrupt and don't smuggle their eggs into a nest. In Insects of the World, Walter Linsenmaier writes how a few species of Sphecodes, invade the nests of mining bees (Halictus), and "with naked force when necessary" slaughter "everything that opposes them."
Then the cuckoo bee flings the opposition out the entrance. Did anybody say "cruel world?"
Cuckoo bees are not nice and they're not ready to make nice. If this is a world of The Givers and The Takers, then they're the takers.
I captured this image of a cuckoo bee last week. Said Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis: "It's a cuckoo bee, probably the genus Triepeolus (maybe Epeolus) and probably a male."
“I’ve got black bumblebees buzzing around our backyard like crazy,” the caller said. “They’re loud. Very loud. They’re dive-bombing and scaring the cat and dog. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
The unwelcome visitors were not bumblebees. They were carpenter bees.
Carpenter bees? No, they don’t know how to read blueprints or frame floors and walls. They nest in weathered wood, like your fence posts, utility poles or firewood. They tunnel into your deck, railing, shingles and shutters.
They are pests. But they’re also pollinators.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, fields many calls about carpenter bees.
This one pictured below is a male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex Smith NB, Thorp says.
“It is stealing nectar from the base of the flower. They also spend a lot of time cruising around chasing everything that enters their territory.”
Contrary to popular opinion, carpenter bees don’t consume wood. If you don’t want them around, paint or varnish your wood. You can also plug their (unoccupied) holes with steel wool or caulk, or screen the holes so they don’t return.
The female and male carpenter bees that nectar the salvia (sage) in our bee friendly garden are about the size of bumblebees. “Robust” comes to mind. Okay, fat. They’re fat.
Their abdomens are bare and a shiny black. If you photograph them, you’ll see your own reflection. It’s like seeing your reflection in a black Lamborghini.
The female carpenter bees are a solid black, while the male carpenter bees are lightly colored around the head.
In comparison, bumblebees have hairy abdomens with at least some yellow markings.
If I were a carpenter and you were a…nah, I’d rather be a bumblebee./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
Male Carpenter Bee