Backyard Orchard News
If you stuff your turkey with sage, chances are it's Salvia officinalis.
Not the turkey, the sage.
And if you visit the Storer Garden at the UC Davis Arboretum, you'll see bumble bees stuffing themselves with nectar from the purple flowers of Salvia officinalis, cultivar Berggarten, also known as Berggarten sage.
Scores of Bombus californicus nectared the flowers last weekend, seemingly proving that this is indeed a culinary sage favored by people AND bumble bees.
Salvia officinalis (salvia is Latin for "to heal") shows up in both medicinal and culinary history. In fact, Wikipedia says our ancestors used it to ward off evil and snakebites, to increase women's fertility, "and more."
The "and more" means just that. Think of every ailment known to humankind. Now fast forward to modern times. Some researchers are using it to treat mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease and depression.
On the culinary side, Julia Child favored it as a flavorful herb.
Bombus californicus probably knows something that Julia Child did.
Bumble Bee Tongue
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