Backyard Orchard News
No honey bees. Let them bee.
This week we watched a praying mantis slide beneath a purple coneflower (Echinacea pupurea) at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility of University of California, Davis.
Its body camouflaged, the mantid looked like one of the coneflower petals.
Within minutes, it seized an unsuspecting honey bee.
Death beneath the purple coneflower.
And most folks don’t know what it is.
But Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the Department of Entomology faculty at the University of California, Davis, and bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, a researcher at both UC Davis and Washington State University, field dozens of queries about it.
Especially when the yellow-gold droppings splotch cars, businesses, houses and patios in large quantities. The droppings can streak windshields, block skylights, and stain clothing.
“Those little yellow-gold stains," Cobey said, "are bee feces.”
Or, what beekeepers commonly call “bee poop.”
Sacramento area TV station KCRA, Channel 3, interviewed Mussen on Aug. 24. Cobey has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and other media.
And, yes, sometimes, waste is a terrible thing to mind.
“It can get pretty messy, especially in the spring,” Cobey said. “It’s tough to remove—I soak it or wet it down and then wipe it off.”
However, if it’s found in large quantities in the hive, it can indicate a serious problem. “Nosema, for example, can cause dysentery,” she said. Nosema, identified as a fungus--a micro-sporidian--is a widespread disease of honey bees.
“Bee droppings have a very distinctive smell, an acidic smell,” Cobey said.
Mussen’s interview with KCRA news reporter Dea Diamont and news photographer Brian Fong, airs tonight (Aug. 26) at 6 and deals with a Patterson homeowner asking about the spots on the outside of her home. A clue: a beekeeper reportedly relocated a 40-hive apiary in the vicinity.
Honey bees are usually in the news for their pollination services or the latest research on latest colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood, and stored food.
Curious minds, however, want to know "the scoop on poop."
Well, that's what the beekeepers call it.
Visit to the UC Davis Apiary
Undergraduate degree in genetics? Check.
Master’s degree in fine arts? Check.
Scientist and artist? Check.
Such is the case with scientist-artist Donna Billick, who created the “Miss Bee Haven” six-foot bee sculpture in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis.
Miss Bee Haven?
“I like to play with words,” said Billick, who received both her degrees from UC Davis and then embarked on fusing art with science by teaching classes at UC Davis.
The sculpture, funded by Wells Fargo, graces the half-acre bee friendly garden, located on the Department of Entomology grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
“The bee sculpture is beautiful and provides the perfect focal point for the garden,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology who oversees the garden. “On top of that it accurately represents a worker bee and provides an educational component as well as an aesthetic one.”
Kimsey, who is master-planning the grand opening celebration of the garden, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, said the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven “is sure to become a campus destination.”
The key goals of the haven, Kimsey said, are to provide a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
It’s quite appropriate that the bee sculpture is beneath an almond tree in the garden. California has some 700,000 thousand acres of almonds; each acre requires two bee hives for pollination.
Billick, who worked on the bee from her Davis studio, Billick Rock Art, is the co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Billick founded the program in 2006 with entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A self-described “rock artist,” Billick designed, fabricated and constructed Miss Bee Haven, using rebar, chicken wire, sand, cement, tile, bronze, steel, grout, fiberglass and handmade ceramic pieces. The project took her four months to complete.
“During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick said. For inspiration and detail, she visited the apiary in back of the Laidlaw facility, read about the functions of bees, and held the thoughts close. “It was not about expressing anything other than the beeness. I have a lot of respect for bees.”
A 35-year artist, she studied with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Her work on the UC Davis campus includes the colorful Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility’s ceramic sign that features DNA symbols and almond blossoms.
Scientist? Check. Artist? Check.
Scientist-artist? Most definitely.
But when a native wild bee such as the Svastra obliqua expurgata, also called "the sunflower bee," forages on a Mexican hat flower, it adds a little gaiety to the scene.
Did we just hear the Jarabe Tapatío or Mexican Hat Dance?
The scarlet red petals of the Mexican hat flower (Ratibida columnifera), droop, leaving plenty of room for dancing on the cone.
This little bee (below) was foraging this week in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.
Svastra females have dense brushes of hairs on their hind legs and transport pollen dry in these brushes (scopae), says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Honey bees carry pollen moist on concave hair-fringed pollen baskets (corbiculae).
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