Posts Tagged: honey bees
Female Valley carpenter bees are solid black--except when they're foraging around passion flowers. Then they're black and yellow--the yellow being the color of the pollen transferred to their thorax.
Mary Patterson, one of the founding Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven gardeners, planted a Passiflora (passion flower vine) along a fenceline of the bee garden several years ago to attract such insects as honey bees, carpenter bees and Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae). This is the Gulf Frit's host plant.
And the Passiflora does indeed attract them.
The Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) were really mixing it up today during a Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Committee meeting.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, thanks to a generous gift from Häagen-Dazs to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open from dawn to dusk.
Check out the passion flowers. You'll find lots of insects passionate about them.
A Valley carpenter bee receives a brush of pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Check out the yellow pollen on this Valley carpenter bee's thorax. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees frequent the passion flowers, too. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's also a story about a beekeeper named Brian Fishback of Wilton who eagerly taught them to love bees.
Fishback, a former volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, and a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, delights in teaching beekeeping classes and providing bee presentations at schools and public events.
One such recipient: Beth Bartkowski's third graders at Galt's Lake Canyon Elementary School.
“My class (Room 12) has been learning about honey bees since October,” she said. “We have turned our classroom into a ‘Beetopia.' We have done many fabulous activities. Thanks to Brian, we have a hive on campus right now! I am hoping to start a beekeeping club at some point with Brian.”
“My students are so invested in bees!” Bartkowski enthused today. “Brian has been in our room for the past two days sharing his wealth of knowledge. I literally fell in love with bees today when we went outside and opened up the hive! I have an autistic student who has been very apprehensive around the hive. But an amazing thing happened today...we spotted a baby bee starting to make its way out. We watched in awe and cheered her on until sje fully emerged. My autistic student literally had her face inches away with bees all around and was cheering!”
That's the kind of response that beekeepers love.
The class is now trying to “bee part of the solution" by seeking grant funds for a pollinator garden, a virtual "outdoor classroom." Bartkowski and her students submitted their plans for a Raley's Research Grant in keeping with the grocery chain's Earth Day celebration (“Healthier Planet, Healthier You”). First prize is $10,000. Now they are seeking votes on the Raley's website to help them make their bee-lievable dream a reality.
As of today, they're in ninth place and about 300 votes behind first place. The contest ends May 16. The 10 nominations with the most votes will be eligible to receive a Raley's Research Grant up to $10,000.
How will the money be used if they should win?
Here's how to cast a vote for their project. Access http://www.raleys.com/cfapps/reach/nomination.cfm?ideaid=3635400 and press the "vote" button. (And for more information, contact Beth Bartkowski at email@example.com)
As for Brian Fishback, seeing the youngsters love the bees flashed him back to 2008. “From the first moment I opened a hive and held a full frame of brood covered with bees, I was in utopia,” he recalled. “Everything came together. In my hand I held the essence of core family values.”
That same year, 2008, he and his wife Darla purchased a ranch in Wilton, renamed it BD Ranch and Apiary, and began pursuing a self-sustaining life.
The couple now has three young daughters. And yes, another generation of bee lovers.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback shows students at Lake Canyon Elementary School, Galt, a frame of bees. (Photo by Beth Bartkowski)
Brian Fishback points to an emerging bee. (Photo by Beth Bartkowski)
Students wrote "love notes" to the bees. (Photo by Beth Bartkowski)
This is the students' interpretation of a hive. (Photo by Beth Bartkowski)
Do you now where the bees are?
On Thursday, May 8 let's all step outside for three minutes and count the honey bees and other pollinators.
It's all part of the "Day of Science and Service" sponsored by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
If you're lucky, you'll find multiple pollinators sharing a single flower. Maybe the foragers will all be honey bees, our prime pollinators!
We took this photo of four honey bees vying for the same spot on a pomegranate blossom. A hot spot.
It reminded us of humans fighting for a single parking space during the holiday season and then racing into a store and battling over a special gift (that will likely wind up at a garage sale in several months).
In this case, the reward was nectar. Sweet nectar.
Honey bees clustering on pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We have this tall plant in our back yard.
How tall is it?
Tall enough to give weather forecasts. (It's never caught “short” by a sudden storm.)
Tall enough to see over the neighbor's fence to find a missing ball.
Tall enough to be "the resident tall plant" in the garden (sort of like "the resident tall person" in the office who's asked to change the clocks when Daylight Savings Time ends or begins).
Tall enough to be called a “tower.”
Tall enough to be prohibited from taking a short course.
Tall enough to have strawberry longcake instead of strawberry shortcake.
Tall enough to dunk if it were an NBA player.
It's THAT tall.
The "tower of jewels," appropriately named, can tower up to 10 feet or so. It doesn't stop short of growing.
When in full bloom, it's covered with red blossoms that resemble a decorated Christmas tree. It's a member of the Boraginaceae family, andeven boasts a scientific name that has "pretty" in it. Sort of. It's Echium wildpretii and is endemic to the island of Tenerife.
What's really amazing is that the tower of jewels turns into a "tower of bees" when it blooms. It attracts honey bees (check out the blue pollen), carpenter bees and bumble bees, as well as hummingbirds, syrphid flies, and a few spiders.
How grand and glorious can it get? "Wildpretii" grand and glorious.
Honey bee packing a load of blue pollen heading for the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Young honey bee seeking another blossom on the tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It won't bloom until summer, but already many eyes are on the California buckeye.
The tree's blossoms are poisonous to honey bees. Bees are attracted to them and forage on them, but the end result of the food provisions to the colony can be deformed larval development.
We've seen bee hives within a quarter of a mile of California buckeyes (Aesculus californica). And we've seen honey bees, native bees and other pollinators foraging on the blossoms.
At the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talked about the poisonous plants. (See PowerPoint presentations.) That led to one workshop participant wondering if the flowers of the California buckeye are poisonous to native bees. (Honey bees are not native; the European colonists brought them to the Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622).
Responded Mussen: "My guess: either the native bees that have been in the areas around California buckeye for a long, long time are not poisoned by the pollen or they have been selected (by death of the other genetic types) to avoid the pollen, that eons of natural selection have adapted them to coexist with California buckeye while using their resources."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shared: "We know California buckeye nectar and/or pollen is toxic to honey bees from years of experience with managed hives. Toxicity to native bees and other flower visitors is not so easily determined and to my knowledge has not been investigated. The fact that populations of native bees and butterflies visit California buckeye flowers and continue to persist in areas where the tree is a dominant part of the plant community tends to confirm what Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen says about them. Some good research projects here. So we still do not know if it is the nectar, pollen, or both that may be toxic to honey bees, much less to native flower visitors."
According to gardeningguides.com, the seeds in their raw state are poisonous to humans, but native Americans learned to get around that and use them for food. They pounded the seeds into flour and then cooked the mixture. "This tree had multiple cultural uses among California Indian tribes," the website says. "Many indigenous groups utilized buckeye seeds for food, often when other plant food sources were scarce. These tribes included the Costanoan, Salinan, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Wappo, Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Chumash, Kawaiisu, Northern Maidu among others. The Pomo ate the seeds even when other important food plants were plentiful. The seeds are poisonous to humans in the raw state. Thus, the nuts were cracked open with a rock, the shells removed, the seeds pounded into flour, and their toxic saponins removed in a lengthy leaching process. The meal was subsequently cooked and eaten. There are many different methods for processing and cooking buckeye seeds for food, depending upon the tribe. The seeds have medicinal properties and were cut into pieces, mixed with water, and made into suppositories for hemorrhoids by the Costanoan and Kawaiisu. The Pomo cut bark from the base of the tree and made a poultice, which was laid on a snakebite. Young buckeye shoots were sometimes used as spindles or twirling sticks in fire-making kits of the Sierra Miwok, Northern Maidu, Wappo, Yahi and other tribes. Many tribes mashed buckeye nuts and poured the contents into quiet pools to stupefy or kill fish."
And, no wildlife will eat buckeye seeds except squirrels, such as the California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi).
Meanwhile, the poisonous blossoms continue to beckon the honey bees--and their colonies keep producing deformed bees.
Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)