Backyard Orchard News
Talk about pollen power.
When honey bees forage among the bird’s eyes, they're a delight to see. They dive into the yellow-throated lavender flowers and emerge covered with a blue-gray pollen.
Bird’s eyes (Gilia tricolor) is a native California wildflower common in the Central Valley and surrounding mountain ranges and foothills.
If you look behind the Sciences Laboratory Building (near Briggs Hall) on the University of California, Davis campus, you'll see a thriving wildflower patch filled with bird's eyes, tidy tips, rock purslane, salvia and desert bluebells.
You'll see honey bees, hover flies, lady bugs and carpenter bees.
It's a bird's eye view for the bees. Or maybe a bee's eye view.
Covered with Pollen
Bee connected; save the date.
Now it's time for us to celebrate it.
It's a bee friendly garden where you can wander through Orchard Alley, waggle down Waggle Dance Way, hide out at the Honeycomb Hideout, ponder the Pollinator Patch, and snuggle up to the Nectar Nook.
The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
The winning design is the work of a Sausalito team: landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
The team zeroed in on sustainability and visitor experience. A series of trails connect the gardens. Trellises define the entry ways and reinforce the passage to the next space.
Identification labels will help visitors know more about the plants, or what they can plant in their own yards. Some of the plants there are salvia (sage), ceanothus, bush germander, seaside daisy, Santa Barbara daisy and tower of jewels.
Then there are almond, apple and persimmon trees, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, dill, basil, artichokes and eggplant. (Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat.)
Yet to come: the amazing art work created by UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program classes, taught by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick. A two-column hive sculpture will grace the front entrance. Billick is creating a gigantic bee sculpture to be placed on a hexagonal platform beneath an almond tree.
The design is online. The grand opening is in the design stage.
This is sure to bee-come a campus destination.
In the Clover
Everybody loves a bumble bee.
Especially the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
And especially a queen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and first-year entomology graduate student Emily Bzydk collected a few native bees to show visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday.
One of the bumble bees: a regal queen.
When Picnic Day ended, they kindly let me take her home to our tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), a biennial plant that looks somewhat like a red-jeweled Christmas tree. "Tower of jewels" is indeed a fitting name. It towers (nine-feet high) and it sparkles like rubies.
We placed the lethargic queen on a blossom and fed her honey for quick energy. She quickly sipped about an eighth of a teaspoon, buzzed me twice (Hey, I'm your friend!), returned for more honey, and then took flight.
The queen circled the plant twice and was gone.
From the Bohart Museum display to a showy tower of jewels--all in one day.
Queen Bumble Bee
Flight of the Bumble Bee
I just checked the weather. Only a few clouds in the forecast, some sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s this weekend, sunshine again next weekend. It looks just perfect for a family trip out to a farm or two to enjoy a picnic on the green grass under the blossoms. Here's a few suggestions for getting out there:
Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies by
Sonoma County Farm Trails Sunday April 18, 2010
A one-day event offering the public "a behind-the-scenes peek at Sonoma County's finest food and agriculture" For $25 per vehicle or $10 per person, visitors can walk through orchards and fields in bloom, see newly-born animals, sample local honeys and learn the art of beekeeping, and a whole lot more. Reserve Your All-Farm-Pass today, available until sold out. On-line at the site above or 707-837-8896
Mariposa Agri-Nature Trail presents A Weekend in the Country - April 24 & 25, 2010 - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm ** Sunday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm ** (866) 425-3366
A full schedule of events is planned, with farmers, vintners and ranchers at 11 different beautiful foothill locations opening their gates to the public, offering tours, demonstrations, tastes and even catch-&-release fishing for the kids. Tickets are $10 per person or $25 per family, purchased in advance at the Mariposa Visitors Center, participating wineries or at the first location you visit on the day of the event. Check out the schedule of events and a very sweet video at their website
Apple Blossom Festival - April 17 and 18, 2010 presented by the Apple Hill Growers Association, El Dorado County
Experience the incradible beauty of mother nature as thousands of apple trees flaunt their spring bloom. A variety of activities are offered by many of the 55 individual ranches who are members of the assoication. There's an Apple Blossom Cross Country run for the ambitious. (register at www.applehill.com) Other adventures: complimentary wine and dessert pariehs, a train around Cider Lake, horse and pony rides, an opportunity to get inside a real bakeshop kitchen, at-the-orchard cooking classes, quilt show and quilt raffle, wine tasting, and even artists painting "in the open air" Lots to enjoy before there's even an apple in sight! (530) 644-7692
If you cotton to honey, you'll want to head over to Briggs Hall tomorrow (Saturday, April 17) during the 96th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
You can sample cotton honey, as well as five other flavors, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty will be offering samples of these honeys: orange blossom, eucalyptus, raspberry, meadowfoam (a vernal-pool flower that is grown commercially in Oregon for oil), starthistle, and cotton.
You'll get six toothpicks, one for each container of honey. You'll taste the exquisite meadowfoam, the exotic raspberry, and then what some folks say is the "best-of-the-best" honey--starthistle. Bees make this from an invasive, exotic weed that agriculturists hate. Our tiny winged agricultural workers love it.
And then you'll taste cotton. Hint: it's a light-colored variety of honey.
If you have a question about honey bees, including colony collapse disorder, ask away.
At Mussen's booth, you can also taste "Honey Lovers," the fruit chews that Gimbal's Fine Candies makes with real honey. Gimbal's, located in San Francisco, is donating 5 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Honey Lovers to UC Davis honey bee research.
These sweet treats at Briggs Hall are free.
Here's what else the entomologists are planning at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
You'll see racing cockroaches, termite trails, Maggot Art, kissing bugs, fleas, ticks, walnut twig beetles and the like, and you can take home some free ladybugs (lady beetles) from the statewide UC Integrated Pest Management Program.
But it's the honey that makes UC Davis Picnic Day so sweet.
Honey Bee on Lavender