Posts Tagged: button willow
Great article in the Tuesday, April 28 edition of The New York Times on "Let's Hear It for the Bees."
And did I mention that the photo accompanying the article is one I shot last year on a Yolo County farm tour? The bee is nectaring a button willow (Cephalanthus occidentalis).
In The Times' article, Leon Kreitzman writes about the rhythmic opening and closing of blossoms. "Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments--say 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees' time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes."
That's fascinating stuff. Kreitzman is so right when he calls honey bees "nature's little treasures." He points out that "They are a centimeter or so long, their brains are tiny, and a small set of simple rules can explain the sophisticated social behavior that produces the coordinated activity of a hive. They live by sets of instructions that are familiar to computer programmers as subroutines--do this until the stop code, then into the next subroutine, and so on."
Kreitzman's new book on seasonal rhythms will be published in May. He earlier penned Rhythms of Life with neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford.
If we all paid more attention to the honey bees, we'd appreciate all the work they do and maybe we'd try to protect them more.
Yes, let's hear it for the bees!
Honey bee on button willow
A bee on a ball.
When it flowers, the button-willow (Cephalanthus occidentalis), also known as willow buttonbush, honey ball, and button ball (oh, that’s so close to butter ball!) attracts honey bees and butterflies like you wouldn’t believe.
The ball-like flowers look like pincussions and it's fascinating to watch the honey bees buzz in and out of "the spikes."
UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says it's a favorite of honey bees.
The button-willow is a small tree or bush that grows along stream beds. We spotted this one (below) on restored native pollinator habitat in Yolo County.
Back in 1931, UC Davis entomologist G. H. Vansell listed 175 species of plants as good "nectar yielders" in his still-authoritative UC publication, Nectar and Pollen Plants of California. Vansell wrote that "six of the most important sources of nectar in California are the sages (Salvia), alfalfa, orange, wild buckwheats, starthistle and Christmas berry; of these, the sages, wild buckhweats and Christmas berry are native."
Vansell mentioned that the button-willow, because of its riparian location, "is abundantly supplied with moisture and is easily 'worked' by bees."
It still is.
Heading for the Nectar
A bee on a ball