Posts Tagged: Honey bee
The "miel de lavande" produced by "apiculteur Marc Agnel" is creamed, as most lavender honeys are, she says. It arrived in San Francisco from France last week via my relatives (who love it).
"Honey from a specific plant doesn't always taste like the plant," Harris is saying, as she turns the wheel of the center's newly published Honey Flavor Wheel, a project benefitting bee health research at UC Davis. "Sometimes there is a bit of a surprise."
"Have the honey at room temperature, or slightly warmer, and covered," she advises. "This keeps all the volatiles inside the jar or cup."
Her observations about the honey and the procedure:
Aroma: The first scent is very floral with a touch of lilac. The next, overwhelming smell is fruit! Something very juicy.
Next: take a taste. Let the honey sit on your tongue and dissolve slowly. Try to assess all the flavors that might be occurring. floral – lilac; fruity – cherry
Primary taste: This honey is simply sweet.
Texture: This is a smooth and creamy honey. Quite unusual.
Finish: Notice how the taste lasts. This honey is delicate – that is, it has a very light and very distinct flavor. It has a short duration with a lasting aroma that is filled with a bit of cherry, lilac and the first taste of lavender!
“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey. And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.
“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series," she recalled. "The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper's Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!”
The front of the colorful wheel lists the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.” If it's fruity, can you determine if it's berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar? There's even an “animal” category” where you may opine that your sample of honey reminds you of a barnyard.
The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel tells you how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said.
(Check out the Sacramento Bee's YouTube video on Amina Harris's demonstration of the Honey Flavor Wheel.)
The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each, with all proceeds supporting bee health research at UC Davis. The product is available online and at several locations: the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road; at the UC Davis Campus Bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore; and online.
Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The jar of lavender honey, "miel de lavande," is from France. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
No, no, no, you got it all wrong!
I said “Please don't eat the pollinators! No butterflies and no bees. Eat the flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids and stink bugs. No butterflies or bees.”
Sadly, the praying mantis in our family bee garden does not listen to me. On Thursday morning, July 31 the praying mantis snagged and devoured a Western tiger swallowtail that made the fatal mistake of landing on his Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)
On Sunday morning, Aug. 2, while perched on the same flower, the praying mantis polished off a honey bee.
I was walking through the garden at the time but never saw the strike. One second he's lying in wait, and the next second, his powerful forelegs are gripping a honey bee.
You don't want to know what happened after that.
Still, I wonder...did the honey bee manage to sting him?
Praying mantis snags a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis getting a better grip. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the end for this honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Just one word--stems.
Bees forage on the lavender in our bee yard, but sometimes you'll see them on the stems.
Male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, sleep together on the stems and it's fascinating to watch them stir in the early morning, wiggle around, and then buzz off--usually to dive-bomb any critter that's foraging on "their" flowers that they're saving for the females of their species.
But every once in a while, an early riser, a honey bee, will pause on a lavender stem to soak in the warmth of the sun. Got to get those flight muscles warmed up! Busy day ahead for Apis mellifera.
A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
As we near the end of celebrating National Pollinator Week, June 16-22, look around and see all the insects foraging on reddish-orange flowers. And occasionally, you might see a reddish-orange insect like the showy Gulf Fritillary butterfly.
Orange, a color commonly associated with autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, is also a color that brightens many of our seasons and draws attention to special occasions, including Pollinator Week.
The reddish-orange Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forage on a blanket flower (Gallardia). Another bee, the leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, and a green bottle fly take a liking to a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia).
Pollinators come in all sizes, shapes, colors and species, from bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, to flies.
Many folks throughout the country observe National Pollinator Week once a year, but some organizations, such as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, protect our pollinators and promote pollinator conservation every day.
On their website:
"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced disease."
Indeed, pollinators pack a punch.
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forages on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly rests on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
I've always liked the ginkgo tree, despite the fact that honey bees don't like it. It's a non-flowering plant so there's no reward for the bees. In other words, a bee has no reason to visit it. No reason at all.
But one day a bee touched down--and lingered--on our ginkgo tree in our back yard, amid the lavender, catmint, salvia, lantana, blanket flowers, alyssum, foxgloves, gaura and tower of jewels.
Why? I don't know. But more about that later.
The ginkgo, the oldest tree species on earth, is considered “a living fossil.” It existed an estimated 250 to 285 million years ago, at a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before flowering plants and bees made their debut.
The ginkgo tree is tough, stubborn and resilient. It's a survivor.
Renowned botanist Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, wrote extensively about this unique species in his book, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot (2013, Yale University Press). He considers his book "a biography of the oldest tree on earth."
In a May 2013 interview with Environment 360 (e360), a publication of the Yale School of Forest and Environmental Studies, Crane traces the history of the ancient ginkgo back to the dinosaur age, to its cultivation in China 1000 years ago, and finally, to its presence today on city streets throughout the world.
The ginkgo “really puts our own species — let alone our individual existence — into a broader context,” Crane told Environment 360.
An excerpt from the interview:
e360: You've mentioned that ginkgo is something of a biological oddity in that it's a single species with no living relatives. That's somewhat unusual in the plant and animal world, isn't it?
Crane: Yes. When we think about flowering plants, there are about 350,000 living species. And in an evolutionary sense, they're equivalent to that one species of ginkgo. They're all more closely related to each other than they are to anything else. But the ginkgo is solitary and unique, not very obviously related to any living plant. One of the points I wanted to draw out in the book is that in the past there were a variety of ginkgo-like plants, but this is the only one surviving.
Gingko enthusiasts know that there are both male and female trees, and that city planners prefer to plant males on their city streets. Why? Because, as Crane puts it, the females “stink.” Their seeds, he says, "smell like vomit."
But back to the honey bee that landed on the ginkgo tree in our yard.
I had just finished reading former publisher Richard Rico's Sunday column, At Ease, in The Reporter, Vacaville. “About two weeks before our Kathy — Kathy Thomas Rico — passed away, family members paid a visit," he wrote. "One said he wanted to plant something in her honor. Kathy was an ardent Master Gardener. He asked if she had a preference. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Ginkgo tree.'”
So, at her celebration of life in the Buck Estate Gardens, the family handed out gingko seeds.
Kathy Thomas-Rico, who died at age 54 of cancer, was a wife, mother, retired journalist, a friend and part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) family. She was a talented UC Master Gardener who contributed to the UC ANR blog, Under the Solano Sun.
And she loved ginkgo trees, particularly a beautiful specimen at the corner of West Street and Buck Avenue, Vacaville, on the same block as the Buck Mansion and Estate Gardens. When autumn turns its leaves a golden yellow, the tree absolutely glows. Kathy—or “Flash” as her fellow journalists nicknamed her for her propensity to complete projects rapidly--absolutely loved it.
In November of 2011, Kathy blogged about the tree in Under the Solano Sun: “You really ought to see what I think is the best example of fall beauty in all of Solano County. On the corner of Buck Avenue and West Street, in front of what is still called the old Hartley house, is an absolutely stunning Ginkgo biloba tree. I'm not sure of its age, but considering its size and how slow growing these trees are, it must be close to a century old. This tree literally stops traffic when it goes gold, which should be right about now.”
After reading the newspaper column about her memorial service and the ginkgo seeds, I stepped into our back yard to check on our own ginkgo tree, now about three feet tall. Suddenly a honey bee—the favorite insect of UC Master Gardeners--appeared as if on command.
Coincidence? Probably. But I like to think this was the work of an angel--a wife, mother, journalist, friend and a UC Master Gardener whom we all admired.
Kathy Thomas-Rico, Jan. 20, 1969-April 16, 2014
A honey bee lands on a ginkgo tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A beautiful ginkgo specimen at the corner of West Street and Buck Avenue, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)