Backyard Orchard News
If you're into composting, chances are you've seen this one.
Common name: black soldier fly (BSF). Scientific name: Hermetia illucens.
Before you say "yecch"--wait! This is considered a beneficial insect because its larvae are quite desirable in compost piles. In fact, your friendly neighborhood compost instructor will probably teach you how to set up BSF bins.
The adult, about three-fourths of an inch long, looks like a dark wasp. A distinguishing feature: white tips on its tarsi (legs).
However, it's not the adult that's on the B (beneficial) list. It's the larval or immature form.
Cindy Wise, compost specialist volunteer coordinator with the Lane County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service, has a thing or two to say about the larvae of these black soldier flies.
“Soldier fly larvae are voracious consumers of nitrogen-dominant decaying materials, such as kitchen food scraps and manures," she says. "They almost exclusively populate compost bins or sheet-mulch compost piles and manure piles."
Good reason to have them around.
Black Soldier Fly
It's time to pop open a bottle of champagne and do a happy dance.
Finally, finally, we saw a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) in our yard.
After a 20-year absence.
Dusted with yellow pollen, it (or rather he) was nectaring the rock purslane--he, along with assorted honey bees and hover flies.
This Bombus brought to mind the May 27th Webinar that bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis presented on "The Plight of the Bumble Bees" at UC Davis.
At the Webinar, he focused on Franklin's bumble bee (range of southern Oregon and northern California) and now feared extinct.
Thorp, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986, is a noted authority on bumble bees. In June he served as a key speaker at a public symposium on "The Plight of the Bumble Bees" at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. His topic: "Western Bumble Bees in Peril."
Bumble bees need our protection.
As Thorp says: "“The loss of a native pollinator could strike a devastating blow to the ecosystem, economy and food supply."
Yellow-faced Bumble Bee
Cover with Pollen
You've probably seen carpenter bees engage in the practice known as "nectar robbing."
Due to their large size, they cannot enter tubelike blossoms such as salvia (sage), so they slit the base of the corolla. They rob the nectar without pollinating the flower.
But have you ever seen a honey bee come along and enter the very spot of a corolla that a carpenter bee has pierced?
We saw a honey bee do just that at the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend.Maybe this UC Davis bee was "smarter" than the average bee?
Carpenter Bee Robbing Nectar
Honey Bee Robbing Nectar
Pollen-packing honey bees dangling from gaura (Gaura linheimeri) are a joy to photograph.
Gaura, native to Louisiana, Texas and Mexico, is a long-stemmed plant with a burst of pinkish-white petals that resemble whirling butterflies.
A member of the Onagraceae family (think primroses, fireweed and fuchsias), it's a perennial that needs little care.
Gaura! Gaura! Gaura!
Honey Bee on Gaura
Don't know if silence is GOLDEN, but Italian honey bees definitely are.
Early morning Saturday, I watched a bee the color of liquid gold nectaring the lavender in our yard.
A golden opportunity to capture her brilliance. She won't live long. Field bees live only four to six weeks in the peak season, so in a few weeks she'll be gone. Others will take her place.
A click of the shutter and a moment preserved in time.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden situated next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
By mid-October it will be finished and ready for golden moments--for the honey bees and the visitors. The haven will be a year-around food source for bees. Plus, it is expected to increase public awareness about the plight of bees AND help visitors glean ideas about what to plant in their own gardens.
Lavender is one of them.
Nectaring on Lavender