Posts Tagged: tower of jewels
When there's so much pain, grief and sorrow in the world, it's time to shut off the TV, log off the computer, exit the house, and photograph honey bees.
Watching honey bees foraging in the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, is therapy enough. They are sisters, sisters with a job to do, and so little time to do it. Buzzing from one blossom to another, gathering nectar and pollen, they are a symphony of color, grace and sound, unlike the cacophony that savagely screams from the 10 o'clock news.
"The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer day," write Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "But that relentless hum, soporific perhaps, to the idling human, is in reality the produce of a machine-like urge to work--to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks, before the blooms fade."
What they do every day is for the greater good--the good of the colony. They set an example that the human race should follow.
Yet the winter of 2012-2013 may prove to be the worst yet for the declining bee population, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Meanwhile, we all need to bee-lieve that the worst is over.
In more ways than one.
Honey bee foraging on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almost like a painting, this photo of a honey bee contributes to the softer side of life. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
(Editor's note: This event has been postponed until the fall of 2013. Details pending.)
Mark your calenders!
The Honey and Pollination Center at the University of California, Davis, is planning a "Luncheon in the Garden" on Sunday, June 2 from noon to 3 p.m. in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on campus.
It promises to be a delightful afternoon.
Executive director Amina Harris says it will be a "dazzling five-course meal from appetizers to cheese and desserts. Each course features honeys from around the globe."
The luncheon, open to the public, supports and introduces the Honey and Pollination Center. Food and drink will be provided by chefs, apiaries, wineries and meaderies (think wine made from honey), and the farmers of California.
What is the Honey and Pollination Center? Its vision is to establish UC Davis as a global center of excellence and education on bees, honey and pollination.
- Promote the use of high quality honey in the California market, help ensure the sustainability of honey production in California, and showcase the importance of honey and pollination to the well-being of Californians.
- Spearhead efforts to gain support and assemble teams for research, education and outreach programs for various stakeholder groups including: (1) the beekeeping industry, (2) agricultural interests who depend on bee pollination, (3) backyard beekeepers, and (4) the food industry
Its specific goals are five-fold:
- To optimize university resources by coordinating a multidisciplinary team of experts in honeyproduction, pollination and bee health
- To expand research and education efforts addressing the production, nutritional value, health benefits, economics, quality standards and appreciation of honey
- To serve the various agricultural stakeholders that depend on pollination services
- To help the industry develop informative and descriptive labeling guidelines for honey and bee-related products to establish transparency in the marketplace
- To elevate the perceived value of varietal honey to producers and consumers through education, marketing, and truth-in-labeling with the end goal of increasing the consumption of honey
Tickets are $125 per person. Like to attend? Contact events manager Tracy Diesslin at (530) 752-5233 or at email@example.com.
And if you'd like to make a donation, contact Harris at (530) 754-9301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out the newly created Facebook page.
Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
it's a traffic stopper.
The plant, reminiscent of a Christmas tree, attracts not only vehicular and foot traffic, but honey bees, bumble bees and hummingbirds. It's basically a tower of bees when it blooms.
The one in our yard is about eight feet tall. Honey bees, eager for the nectar and pollen, keep creating traffic jams. If you sit and watch them, you'll see them constantly bumping into one another as they forage for food.
No wonder it's a favorite of beekeepers.
The species, a biennial, is native to the Canary Islands. It's endemic to the island of Tenerife.
Last year several towers of jewels bloomed near Storer Hall on the University of California, Davis campus, and a couple of others graced the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, about a mile west of the central campus.
The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery sells these at their plant sales, but they go fast, says Ellen Zagory, the arboretum's director of horticulture. "We don't have any left," she said.
Honey bee foraging in a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gets down to business. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Upside down honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's worth the wait.
The two towers of jewels (Echium wildpretti) are blooming in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
The plant is a biennual and it blooms the second year and that's it. Plant specialists call this a monocarpic (dies after flowering).
There's no better place for the towers of jewels to "bee" than next to the six million or so bees at the Laidlaw facility.
The garden is open from dawn to dusk (no charge) year around. It's located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
If you go, bring your camera!
If you like to take photos of insects that are as small as a grain of rice, then you'll love--absolutely love--stalking a sweat bee.
Sweat bees, members of the worldwide family Halictinae and order Hymenoptera, are so-named because they are attracted to human perspiration or "sweat." They probably lap up perspiration because of the salt content, according to Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw, authors of Bees of the World.
The most important of the many genera, the authors say, are Halictus and Lasioglossum, which are common to both the Old World and New World.
Speaking of common, Halictus is also common in bee friendly gardens and swimming pools. Ever gone for a swim and feel a tiny insect sting you? It may have been a sweat bee. ("Their sting is only rated a 1.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, making it almost painless," according to Wikipedia.)
O'Toole and Raw point out that some sweat bees are only 4mm long, which is why they can be easily overlooked and so difficult to identify.
What's unique are about these ground-nesting bees? The females of all species of sweat bees mate before winter. "This means that, unlike female solitary bees of other families, those of halictids do not have to mate before founding a nest in the spring," they write.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, identified this little pollen-packing sweat bee (below) as a female sweat bee, Halictus tripartitus.
She was nectaring a tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii) in our yard and packing a heavy load of blue pollen she'd gathered from the plant.
The tower of jewels is native to the Canary Islands. So, if you visit the Canary Islands, you can probably see--and photograph--this little sweat bee there, too.