Backyard Orchard News
It may not be the farmer's friend, but it's the beekeeper's friend.
Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum), a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, is considered a weed, but I consider it a flowering plant for bees when I see it along roadsides and parks and lining orchards and vineyards.
As winter leaves us and spring snuggles closer, the bees are all over the wild radish. Typically white or a pale pink with pale pinkish-purplish veins, it's an early bloomer. Often you see mustard and "the rad" growing together.
If a weed is "a plant that is not valued where it is growing," then this most certainly is not a weed.
At least to bees, beekeepers and photographers.
A honey bee heading for wild radish. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in motion. (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)
His bees went MIA due to a mysterious phenomenon we now know as colony collapse disorder (CCD), characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive and leaving behind the queen, nurse bees, brood and food stores. Without the adult workers bringing in nectar, pollen, propolis and water, the hive collapses.
Today, just above everybody knows about the declining honey bee population and the importance of improving bee health and safeguarding their pollination services.
So it was with great relevance that when a UC Davis team asked for photos of "Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEOs" that the images included beekeepers.
Brenda Dawson, communications coordinator for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, formerly the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), spearheaded much of the project, which spotlights, elevates and praises the status of women involved in food production throughout the world.
In the olden days, women in agriculture were considered "farmer's wives" or "farmer's daughters," but rarely farmers.
Farmers they are. They always were. UC Davis illuminated them.
The project featured four images of beekeepers, ranging from women in California and Washington state to Bolivia and Botswana.
They included bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, formerly of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; commercial bee queen breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, a past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association; Queen Turner, former Humphrey Fellow at UC Davis and the head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government (Kathy Keatley Garvey photos), as well as an image of Bolivian beekeepers taken by former Peace Corps volunteer Britta L. Hansen of the Horticulture Innovation Lab.
Dawson lauded the many campus and community organizations that "came together" to sponsor the event and its online gallery and campus display, including several units from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: the Blum Center, Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program, International Programs Office, and Program in International and Community Nutrition. Additional sponsors include the World Food Center, Office of Campus Community Relations, Women's Resources and Research Center, and the off-campus organization Freedom from Hunger.
CBC described the images as "powerful photos" of women feeding the world.
That they are. And they're especially significant because March 8 is International Women's Day.
Queen Turner inspects the beekeeping operation on the rooftop of the San Francisco Chronicle. Turner completed a 10-month stay in the U.S. and returned to Botswana where she is head of the beekeeping section of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Botswana government. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis and now of Washington State University, examines a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee apparently stung a 47-year-old father on his foot and he went into anaphylactic shock. Rushed to the hospital, he died 10 days later when his kidneys and heart failed. The article reported he was 6 feet, five inches tall, and weighed 17 stones, which is 238 pounds. (One stone equals 14 pounds).
His family indicated he was unaware of his allergic reaction to bee stings.
A sad and tragic case, indeed.
We know of people who have suffered severe allergic reactions and were raced to the hospital in time and fortunately survived. One was a Northern California parks employee who did not know he was allergic to bee stings.
How many people in the United States are allergic to honey bee stings? Approximately one or two out of every 1000 people, says Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "The severity of the response, to even a single sting, varies considerably from person to person."
Immediate injections with epinephrine will usually delay the possibility someone unable to breathe. Then a quick trip to a hospital where medical personnel can administrate antihistamines, steroids "and likely more epinephrine" are in order.
"While honey bees away from their hives normally do not pose too much of a sting threat, if the bees are intoxicated by exposure to certain pesticides, they can become an abnormal sting threat at distances quite a ways from the hives. Additionally, individuals who fear a sting, with good reason, sometimes are more apt to try to shoo the bee away. If a bee already is close to stinging, the additional movement of the 'shooer,' or if there is contact with the bee, results in a much greater likelihood of a sting."
Another piece of good advice that Mussen offers: "Individuals who do not appreciate attention by bees should do everything they can to not smell good to a bee. The use of flower-scented or bee products-scented soaps, shampoos, perfumes, or colognes should be avoided. There is no documented scientific study that suggests that honey bees can detect the odor of fear in humans. But if we watch from a distance, the physical reactions of fearful people often tend to be more likely to cause stings than the behavior of the rest of us."
Photographers who capture images of worker bees foraging in flowers are often asked if they've ever been stung. After all, they're just inches away from them. The usual answer: No. The bees are too busy gathering nectar and pollen for their colonies. Stings can and do occur when the worker bees are defending their hives. Or when you accidentally step on one.
Read Mussen's information on bee and wasp stings on the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website.
This honey bee, in the process of defending her hive, is stinging Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis. That's her abdominal tissue being pulled out. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of two stings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Go native" with native bees, that is.
A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge.
In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees.
In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo. It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves.
Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination.
If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)
Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.
You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.
Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)