Backyard Orchard News
Three little words can help us determine what to plant in a bee friendly garden: "attractive to bees."Escallonia, a fast-growing evergreen shrub often planted as a hedge or screen, is indeed attractive to bees. Bees work the blossoms like there's no tomorrow--and no colony collapse disorder.
Escallonia's delicate pink blossoms remind me of apple blossoms, and indeed, there's a cultivar named just that: Escallonia Apple Blossom (E. xlangleyensis).
A native of South America (probably Chile), the plant is drought-resistant, hardy, fragrant and basically pest-free.
Butterflies and hummingbirds join bees in finding it attractive.
So, perhaps Escallonia should be referred to as "attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and people-looking-for-what-to-plant-in-bee-friendly-gardens."
Bee on Escallonia
Going for the Escallonia
Our Artemisia, a silvery-leafed shrub bordering our bee friendly garden, looks quite orange and black these days.
It's not for lack of water or some exotic disease. It's the ladybug (aka lady beetle) population.
If you look closely, you'll see eggs, larvae and pupae and the adults. And if you look even more closely, you'll see aphids.
The predator and the prey.
Ladybug and a Pupa
Talk about agility.
When you watch a honey bee foraging, it's a lesson in aerial acrobatics.
She glides to her target flower, touching down gracefully and accurately. As she gathers nectar, she's vertical, horizontal, upside down and right side up again.
She's a circus performer, an Olympic gymnast and a ballet dancer, all rolled into one. She specializes in cartwheels, somersaults and pirouettes, coupled with head stands, hand stands and foot stands.
In his research, neuroscientist Mandyam Srinivasan of the Queensland Brain Institute and the School of IT and Electrical Engineering found that bees slow to a hover about half an inch away from their target before they land.
Srinivasan marvels how the bee can detect moving targets, avoid collisions and land smoothly.
All this, the professor says, has practical applications for robotics and unmanned aircraft.
Indeed. We can learn a lot from watching a foraging honey bee.
It's raining bumble bees in our pool.
Yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii).
And honey bees (Apis mellifera), too.
While nectaring lavender, catmint, tower of jewels, sedum and other plants, some of the foragers land in our pool. Talk about no depth perception.
We fish them out and most survive. (A floating piece of styrofoam now provides them with a little protection from the untimely dips.)
For the two below, it was definitely a bad hair day.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
It's not often you see a ladybug and a honey bee sharing the same plant.
The ladybug, a predator in disguise, devours aphids like a kid does M&Ms. The honey bee, all buzziness, works furiously to collect nectar or pollen for her hive.
Sometimes a lavender patch can bring them together.
Such was the case yesterday in our garden. A ladybug staked claim to a lavender spike, while a dozen honey bees glided in for a sweet sip of nectar.