Posts Tagged: Honey bee
The email arrived in my UC Davis inbox at 9:10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 8.
An employee from the UC Davis Plumbing Shop wondered what was happening in front of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the UC Davis campus. "There are dead bees everywhere," he wrote, adding that "There were some grounds workers waiting for the UC Davis bus in front of Mondavi, and they commented that they also saw dead bees everywhere in their grounds-keeping areas."
Did the cold spell have something to do with this? But why would honey bees be outside their colony? Honey bees don't fly until the temperature reaches around 55 degrees.
What was happening?
Super sleuth Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, arrived on the scene. He was appropriately dressed in a trenchcoat, a la Sherlock Holmes (Note that Sherlock Holmes, aka physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was a beekeeper, too, according to Wikipedia).
Mussen, who retired last June after 38 years of service, picked up some of the dead bees and noticed that nearly half had small-to-large pollen loads on their legs. Their wings were not tattered. He quickly deduced that the bees had not worn themselves out foraging.
"However, this early in the season, many of the foraging bees are bees that survived since last fall," Mussen said. "Depending upon their overall health, they were working toward the ends of their lives."
Mondavi house manager Kerrilee Knights showed him dead bees on an upper outdoor patio. So the bees were not only dying at ground level but upper levels, Mussen realized.
He noticed some bees flying up over the roof and some live bees "resting" on various parts of the building.
"There's a colony up there somewhere," Mussen said, pointing toward the roof.
Mussen cupped some of the sluggish bees in his hands, and once warmed, off they flew. The other survivors? They were too cold to fly and they would die overnight as the temperature dropped.
Mystery solved. "Elementary, my dear Watson?" No, not really. It's a scene that non-beekeepers rarely see.
"So, it appears that an older population of bees from a colony nesting around the top of the building were foraging near the ends of their lives," Mussen said. "They could not adequately produce enough body heat to keep foraging and they could not adequately produce enough body heat to fly back to their colony and they were falling to the ground, basically exhausted."
"This is normal and no reason for alarm," Mussen said, "except that people usually are not that close to bee colonies to notice the normal demise of substantial numbers of overwintering bees."
So, it wasn't pesticides, pests, diseases, malnutrition or stress.
Old bees and a cold spell...
This dead honey bee with a load of pollen was among dozens found outside the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee guru Eric Mussen explains bee behavior to Mondavi house manager Kerrilee Knights. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Dead bees, with pollen loads intact. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Today is Thanksgiving.
As we give thanks and reflect on a day set aside to be grateful, we realize that not all is great in the world of haves and have-nots, the generous and the greedy, and troublemakers and peacemakers.
Miscommunications turn into misunderstandings. Agreements turn into disagreements. Harmony turns into hostility. Like an open wound, tensions bulge, crack and fester. Life saddens, disappoints and crushes us.
But today is Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful. All around us, people are giving thanks, sharing memories, shoring up the holiday spirit, and feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Among the many things we are grateful for: we are grateful that we are not a turkey.
Last summer as a praying mantis "prayed" for dinner in our bee garden, we were thankful we were not a bee.
On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've ever watched a Gray Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) nectaring a sedum, and then watched a honey bee (Apis mellifera) land on the same flower, it's a study in sharing.
"I was here first," says the Gray Hairstreak, sipping nectar.
"I was here second," says the honey bee.
So they wind up sharing, the butterfly and the honey bee. It's autumn and there's not much nectar anywhere.
"Stay back," says the butterfly.
"No," says the honey bee. "My colony needs the nectar."
So they crawl slowly on the blossom, meeting head to head, as if to prove that yes, "We can all get along."
The Gray Hairstreak is not so sure. The honey bee abruptly moves closer, and the startled butterfly lifts off to find another blossom.
The butterfly will be first again on a nearby sedum.
Honey bee sharing a sedum blossom with a Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A little closer...the honey bee edges toward the Gray Hairstreak. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Too close for comfort. The Gray Hairstreak takes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Add "California" to it and you have California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
It's a book that's well-planned, well-executed, well-written and well-photographed.
Bees are hungry. What plants will attract them? How can you entice them to your garden and encourage them not only to visit but to live there?
The book, the first of its kind, profiles some of the most common bee genera found in California gardens; their preferred plants, both native and non-native; and how to attract them.
Most folks are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees. But what about the other bees, such as mining, leafcutting, sweat, carpenter, digger, masked, longhorned, mason and polyester bees?
Published by the nonprofit Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, the book is the work of four scientists closely linked to UC Berkeley: urban entomologist Gordon Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley; native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of UC Davis (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley); insect photographer and entomologist Rollin Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley; and botanist/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley.
“This book is about urban California's bees: what they are, how and where they live, their relationships with ornamental flowers, and how to attract them to urban gardens,” they wrote. “It was written in the urgency of knowing that bees are critical to the health of our natural, ornamental and agricultural landscapes and that populations of some, perhaps many are in rapid decline.”
Frankie studies behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural and urban environments of California and Costa Rica. He teaches conservation and environmental issues. He is involved in how people relate to bees and their plants and how to raise human awareness about bee-plant relationships.
Co-author Robbin Thorp, who retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students, continues to conduct research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. He is one of the instructors at the The Bee Course, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The course is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who seek greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
“The book is profusely illustrated with photos and drawings of bees and flowers, especially notable are the magnificent close-up images of bees by co-author Rollin Coville,” Thorp said.
Ertter thoroughly explores the anatomy of a flower. Bees and flowers constitute what the authors delightfully describe as "a love affair."
California's bees differ in size, shape and color, as do the flowers they visit. “The tiniest bees are ant-sized; the largest rival small birds,” the authors wrote. “Some are iridescent green or blue, some are decked out with bright stripes, some are covered with fuzzy-looking hairs.”
“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe. Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”
California Bees and Blooms lists 53 of urban California's best bee attractors identified through the Urban California Native Bee Survey. Among them: aster, bluebeard, catmint, California lilac or Ceanothus, cosmos, California sunflower, red buckwheat, California poppy, blanket flower, oregano, rosemary, lavender, gum plant, and salvia (sage). With each plant, they provide a description; origin and natural habitat, range and use in California; flowering season; resource for bees (such as pollen and nectar), most frequent bee visitors, bee ecology and behavior and gardening tips.
The book offers tips on how readers can “think like a bee.” It devotes one chapter to “Beyond Bee Gardening: Taking Action on Behalf of Native Bees.” In addition, the book provides quotes on bees and/or bee gardens from Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (retired) of UC Davis: Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the UC Davis Arboretum; and Kate Frey of Hopland, a designer of sustainable, insect-friendly gardens throughout California and in some parts of the world.
For more data on the book, the authors, and purchase information, access the publisher's website at https://heydaybooks.com/book/california-bees-and-blooms/.
And for ongoing research on California's bees and blooms, be sure to check out the UC Berkeley website, appropriately named www.helpabee.org..
A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Give me an "A" (for excellence).
Give me a "B" (for bee).
Give me a "C" (for Cosmos).
Watching honey bees collect nectar and pollen on the showy Cosmos (Cosmos bipannatus) is not to be missed.
As if performing a ballet, the enchanting bees enter stage left and are such show-stoppers that you want to erupt with applause at every precise move. Bravo!
Cosmos is a spectacular annual with saucer-shaped floral heads, ranging in color from white and pink to lavender and crimson. It's a relatively late bloomer. In our family bee garden, they began blooming in late summer and are continuing into fall.
In their newly published book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, entomologists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis teamed with photographer Rollin Coville (UC Berkeley-trained entomologist) and botanist Barbara Ertter (UC Berkeley) to offer interesting information on bee species and advice for growing and managing bee friendly plants. It's a "must-have" for every gardener and naturalist or would-be gardeners and naturalists. Did you know there are more than 1600 different species of bees in California alone, and some 4000 throughout the country?
One section goes into depth about plants, including Cosmos. You'll learn its description, origin and natural habitat, range and use in urban California, flowering season, resource for bees (nectar and pollen), most frequent bee visitors, and bee ecology and behavior. It's not surprising that the book, by Heyday, is published in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society.
And what are the most frequent bee visitors? "A wide variety of bee species, especially Melissodes robustior, Melissodes species, and Halictus ligatus. In the Central Valley, it attracts honey bees, Agapostemon texanus, Anthophora urbana, Xeromelecta californica, and Svastra obiqua expurgata."
The authors describe all those species--and more. Some we know generally as longhorned bees, sweat bees, metallic green sweat bees, digger bees, and sunflower bees.
Blooms. Bees. Beautiful.
Honey bee heading for a Cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
All the right moves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The grand entrance. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The reward: nectar and pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)