Posts Tagged: Benicia
The almonds are blooming! The almonds are blooming!
Well, at least one almond tree in the Benicia State Recreation Area is blooming. On a drive to Benicia on Christmas Day, we spotted several blooms on an almond tree. The tree, a foot from the parking lot, was getting a little southern exposure--and soaking in the warmth of the sun bouncing off the asphalt.
California almonds don't usually bloom 'til around Feb. 14--Valentine's Day--but this tree has always been an early bloomer. It was blooming on New Year's Day in 2014.
Unfortunately, the honey bees hadn't found it yet.
But they did find the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, where jade and oxalis have burst into bloom, and they also found the winter vegetables in the Avant Community Park in downtown Benicia. The bees were working the broccoli blossoms, two bees at a time.
Who says broccoli isn't good for you?
An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The painted ladies are on move.
Scores of painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) are now migrating north from their overwintering sites near the U.S. Mexico border.
"Fascinatingly, they arrived in Prescott, Ariz., the same day (as the ones spotted in Benicia)," said butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. "I think they're all from south of the border." The annual migration north varies, but can take place as early as late January and as late as mid-April.
The painted ladies spend the winter in the desert, where in the late winter, they breed on desert annual plants, Shapiro says. The adults emerge in February or March and immediately migrate into the Central Valley and foothills, where they breed. Around May, here in the Central Valley, you'll see the caterpillar offspring munching on borage, thistles, fiddleneck and mallows. Then the adults head toward the Pacific Northwest.
"The painted lady moves northward in a generational wave as the season progresses," Shapiro says on his website. "Frequently it disappears altogether from the lowlands in summer. Beginning in August the movement reverses and butterflies head south toward the desert wintering grounds."
"There is no evidence that this species overwinters successfully anywhere in our area, except for very rare individuals maturing in midwinter from really late autumnal larvae."
The painted lady migration may not be as popular as the monarch (Danaus plexippus) migration, but it's fascinating just the same.
Shapiro, who has monitored the butterfly population of California's Central Valley for 42 years, will be speaking at noon on Monday, March 24 on "Ecological Communities and the March of Time" in the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., San Francisco. For program detail and registration, please see the club website. His talk is open to the public. For a discount, access the website and use the coupon code, "friendsforshapiro," said spokesperson Chisako Ress (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A female butterfly, a painted lady, nectaring on Spanish lavender on March 8 in the Benicia Community Garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Painted lady twists around for a better shot at the nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Several honey bees and at least one lady beetle (ladybug), also discovered the "hot spot" in the garden as the temperatures climbed to 52 degrees.
A bumble bee in Benicia? On Christmas Day? Who would have thought?
This bumble bee species, identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is one of only 250 species worldwide in the genus Bombus. It's native to North America.
Thorp is one of four co-authors of the newly published and long-awaited Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press). The book is billed as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century." It allows us to identify all the 46 bumble bee species found in North America, and also to learn about "evolutionary relationships, geographical distributions and ecological roles."
Lead author is Paul H. Williams, a research entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. In addition to Thorp, other co-authors are Leif L. Richardson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College; and Sheila R. Colla, postdoctoral fellow at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a project leader at Wildlife Preservation Canada.
Meanwhile, back to Benicia. Like North America's bumble bees, the Benicia Capitol has a rich history. Erected in 1852 and located at 115 West G St., it served as California's third seat of government. Legislators convened there from Feb. 4, 1853 (the year the honey bee was introduced to California) to Feb. 25, 1854.
Today, 160 years later, the Benicia State Capitol is the only surviving pre-Sacramento capitol. Let's hope we can still say that about bumble bees 160 years from now--and the years to come.
Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heading for jade blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Black-tailed bumble bee targeting jade. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These freezing temperatures we're experiencing make us yearn for spring.
True, it's still autumn and winter doesn't officially start until Dec. 22, but it's a good time to think of honey bees pollinating the almond blossoms.
California almonds usually bloom around mid-February. We remember, however, that on Jan. 1, 2013 we spotted almonds blooming in the Benicia State Recreation Area. Guess they didn't get the message that it's not spring yet. Bees didn't get the message, either.
Then in early February we cruised over to Matthew Turner Shipyard Park, Benicia, and saw more almond blossoms and a bevy of bees flying.
Let's skip the winter solstice and head right into the vernal equinox!/span>
The freezing temperatures make us yearn for almond pollination season. This photo was taken Feb. 10, 2013 in the Matthew Turner Shipyard Park, Benicia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, the fun-loving, sun-loving cosmos.
A native of Mexico and a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae, this plant brightens many a garden, attracting such pollinators as honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, hover flies and butterflies. Its common name and genus are the same: cosmos!
As the autumn days grow colder, its color seems to grow bolder. The vivid pinks, glorious whites, and cranberry reds are a delight to see. Some of the daisylike petals are striped like candy canes.
Last Sunday was a pollinator-perfect day for the cosmos planted in the Avant Garden, a community garden at the corner of First and D streets in Benicia. Insects couldn't seem to get enough of them.
"Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico," according to a Texas A&M website. "The evenly placed petals led them to christen the flower, 'Cosmos,' the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe."
The website lists "The Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should be Growing Cosmos." They include easy to grow, best annual for hot, dry locations, best annual for poor soils and the like. And, it's a self-seeding annual that can be used for floral arrangements.
The Spanish priests probably thought so, too.
Honey bee visiting a cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee packing pollen, up, up and away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)o
This honey bee is "in the pink"--pink cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)