Backyard Orchard News
When you see a honey bee trapped in a spider web, it's usually dead and about to be consumed.
Not this time.
Today a foraging bee, minding her own "beesiness," was nectaring among the catmint blossoms in our garden when she ran smack dab into a sticky web placed there by a cunning spider.
Tangled in the web and unable to free herself, the honey bee buzzed frantically. It didn't work. She remained trapped, waiting for the spider to return.
Not this time.
Carefully, I lifted the "damsel in distress" from her predatory prison and placed her on a catmint blossom. A sip of nectar for nourishment and off she went.
Sorry, spider. This is a bee friendly garden.
Those yellow-faced bumble bees know how to put on a happy face.
The males and females frequent our bee friendly garden to sip the sweet nectar of lavender, catmint and rock purslane. The females collect both nectar and pollen for their brood.
I think we have a nest of them beneath the catmint.
Plant it, and they will come.
The yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), as its name implies, has a yellow face, a mostly black thorax and abdomen, and a yellow band near the tip of its abdomen.
The ones below are males, according to native pollinator specialist and noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. Although officially "retired" (not!), he continues to do research on bumble bees and other pollinators.
Thorp also monitors the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis for bee species.
It's a treat to see the bumble bees there.
It's a treat to see them anywhere.
You gotta love those bumble bees.
Bumble Bee and Honey Bee
Sip of Nectar
From the Back
Put on a Happy Face
Danger: Poison ahead.
Beekeepers do not like the California Buckeye (Aesculus californica).
Honey bees do, but they shouldn't.
It's poisonous to bees.
The California Buckeye, which grows as either a tree or a shrub 10 to 20 feet tall and can sprawl 30-feet wide, blooms in the spring. its candelabralike clusters of fragrant cream-colored blossoms attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
About a week after honey bees work the blossoms, however, symptoms of buckeye poisoning appear in the hive.
"Many young larvae die, giving the brood pattern an irregular appearance," according to the booklet, Beekeeping in California, written primarily by a team of UC Davis entomologists and published in 1987 by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "The queen's egg-laying rate decreases or stops, or she may lay only drone eggs; after a few weeks, an increasing number of eggs fail to hatch or a majority of young larvae die before they are three days old."
What occurs: "buckeyed bees."
"Some adults emerge with crippled wings or malformed legs and bodies," wrote authors Eric Mussen, Norman Gary, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Robbin Thorp and Lee Watkins of the UC Davis bee biology program and Len Foote, then with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
And, of course, with deformed wings, the bees cannot fly.
Buckeye poisoning can result in seriously weakened colonies or colony death. The authors also point out that "foraging bees feeding on buckeye blossoms may have dark, shiny bodies and paralysislike symptoms."
Solution: move the bees away from the buckeyes.
California Buckeye, according to the Sunset Western Garden Book, is "native to dry slopes and canyons below 4000-foot elevation in Coast Ranges and the Sierra foothills."
It is quite common along Pleasants Valley Road in Vacaville (Solano County), Calif. If you cross the picturesque country bridge, the Edward R. Thurber Bridge, you'll see it.
And honey bees foraging among the blossoms.
Edward R. Thurber Bridge
A hover fly, not a bee.
Passersby admiring the gazania blooming outside the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, might think that all the insects that frequent the golden flowers are bees.
Hover flies, aka syrphids or flower flies, also find the gazania quite attractive.
A member of the Aster family and native to South Africa, the gazania is a drought-tolerant ground cover.
Perfect for bees.
Perfect for hover flies.