Backyard Orchard News
There are "bees" and there are "flies."
And then there are "bee flies."
Bee flies? They're so named because they look somewhat like bees. Order: Diptera. Family: Bombyliidae.
We spotted a single bee fly, as identified by UC Davis forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey, foraging on our sedum yesterday. Like a bee, it's a pollinator; the adult bee fly feeds on nectar and pollen. Entomologists estimate there are some 4500 described species of bee flies throughout the world, varying in size from 4 to 40mm.
In the larval stages, they are parasitoids; the adult bee fly lays her eggs in the nests of wasps, beetles or solitary bees. Then the larvae ungraciously thank their hosts by eating them.
This large bee fly (below) apparently found the nectar to its liking. It lumbered from flower to flower sipping nectar.
The honey bees, hover flies and leafcutter bees all scrambled to avoid a collision.
Sip of Nectar
"A" is for anemone, "B" is for bumble bee and "C" is for coneflower.
A visit to the Oregon state capitol grounds in Salem last Tuesday found scores of yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) working the anemones and purple coneflowers.
While some bumble bee species are endangered or instinct, not the yellow-faced bumble bees. Let's hope they never are.
The anemone, a member of the buttercup family, is Greek for "daughter of the wind." The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a member of the aster family; Echinos is Greek for "hedgehog."
A look at the spiky flowers will tell you why.
Bumble Bee on Anemone
Male Bumble Bee
When the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven's grand opening celebration takes place on Saturday, Sept. 11, visitors can expect to see scores of flowers, including the ever-popular catmint (Nepeta).
Honey bees love the mints. So do bumble bees, carpenter bees, butterflies and assorted other insects.
The event, sponsored by Wells Fargo and co-sponsored by Annie's Homegrown, takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The half-acre bee friendly garden is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
What else is in the garden?
Well, among the plant growth: acacia, almond, apple, artichoke, basil, blackberry, blueberry, broccoli, cape mallow, eggplant, elderberry, hawthorn, honeysuckle, Mexican hat flower, oregano, peppers, persimmon, plum, purple coneflower, redbud, salvia, Santa Barbara daisy, seaside daisy, strawberry, watermelon, wild roses and scores of other plants.
The key goals of the garden, a gift to the UC Davis Department of Entomology, are to provide bees with a year-around food source for the Laidlaw facility bees, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own. It's also a research site.
The grand opening celebration will include speeches (to start at 10:30 a.m.); rotating garden tours; children's activities; and a bee observation hive. Experts on honey bees, native bees, plants and the beautiful art work in the garden will be there to answer your questions.
You'll want to see the fabulous 6-foot-long honey bee, "Miss Bee Haven," sculpted by noted artist Donna Billick and funded by Wells Fargo. You'll marvel at the the colorful ceramic tiles beneath the sculpture and the two bee hive sculptures that grace the entrance, all by the UC Davis Art-Science Fusion Program, directed by Donna Billick and Diane Ullman.
The winning design team, from the Sausalito area, will be represented. The design is the work of landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors installed the garden, which was planted last fall. Häagen-Dazs will serve free ice cream, and Gimbal's Fine Candies will provide free samples of their popular candy.
Joining Wells Fargo as the main sponsor of the grand opening celebration is Annie's Homegrown, maker of Honey Bunny Grahams.
Check out the website for more information. You can download the PDF of the design plan, which includes the concept, plant list and layout.
More information? Contact Chris Akins, coordinator of the grand opening celebration at (530) 752-2120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee and 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
Especially when it nectars from catmint (Nepeta) in the early evening, as the sun drops low in the horizon.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Davis, says the species was introduced in southern Canada in the 1850s. "The great lepidopterist Samuel H. Scudder traced its spread, but was unable to resolve the history on the West Coast," he writes on the website, Art's Butterfly World.
"It was not in San Francisco in the early 1880s, but was abundant by the time of the earthquake (1906)."
Just look at it now. It's everywhere. In fact, every year Shapiro sponsors a contest to see who can find the first cabbage white of the year in the Davis-Sacramento area.
He usually wins.