Posts Tagged: Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
You've probably seen a blue moon, which happens every two to three years. That's when a second full moon occurs in a single calendar month.
You've also probably seen blueprints, blue books and blue-plate specials. You've sung the blues and you've been blue.
But, have you ever seen a blue honey bee? As blue as...well...a blueberry?
We recently visited the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, when we saw a...drum roll...blue bee! It was foraging on a purple coneflower.
I captured the image with a Nikon D700 camera, equipped with a 105mm macro lens. Settings: shutter speed, 1/160 of a second; 6.3 f-stop; and 800 ISO. No flash. No tripod.
Honey bee guru/Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology looked at the photo and agreed it was a blue bee.
Now Mussen, who has been with the department since 1976 and is a favorite of the national news media, knows bees. He's also captured many images of bees, none blue (although many beekeepers have turned blue, especially during massive colony losses).
So, a blue bee?
"The exoskeletons of insects are waxy and oily," Mussen said. "Given just the right angle to the sun, you can see structural colors that are not the true pigments of the exoskeleton. In fact, there are some very shiny, metallic-looking insects that lose their sheen when they die, never to be seen again."
Just the right angle to the sun.
Once in a blue moon...
A blue honey bee on a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue bee scaling the coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you visit the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, you might just see a cuckoo bee.
The cuckoo bee (see below) is a male Triepeolus concavus, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, who maintains an office in the adjacent Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Thorp has been monitoring the garden not only since it was planted--in the fall of 2009--but BEFORE it was planted, to collect the baseline data. To date, he's detected more than 80 species of bees, "and counting."
The cuckoo bee, nectaring on a blanket flower (Gaillardia), is just one of the species he's found in the garden.
The female cuckoo bee lays her eggs in the ground nests of other bees, including the sunflower bee, Svastra. Cuckoo bees are kleptoparasites, meaning that they steal the food stores provisioned by the host bee. Cuckoos lack pollen-collecting structures (scopa). So when the cuckoo bee eggs hatch, the larva will consume the pollen ball collected by the hosts, and kill and eat the host larvae.
Like human kleptomanias, they've found a way to make it in this world at the expense of others.
Thorp annually teaches at The Bee Course, described as a "workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees," and held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. This year's dates are Aug. 25 to Sept. 4. The workshop attracts people from all over the world, including dozens from the UC system.
A male cuckoo bee, Triepeolus concavus, on a blanket flower (Gaillardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male cuckoo bee sipping nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Flowering artichokes indicate one of two things (1) someone never bothered to harvest them or (2) someone loves bees.
We let our artichokes flower. So does the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Owned and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the haven provides a year-around food source for bees and other pollinators; raises public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and encourages visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
It's delightful to watch the honey bees helicopter in, touch down in the purple forest, and thread their way to the food source.
It's especially delightful to know that National Pollinator Week is next week, June 17-23. Launched six years ago by the U.S. Senate, designated by the U.S. Department of Interior, and initiated and managed by the San Francisco-based Pollinator Partnership, it's an opportunity to address "the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations," according to the Pollinator Partnership website.
It's not only about the bees, but other pollinators, such as birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, ants, wasps and yes, even flies.
Why are pollinators important and why should we care? Go to the Pollinator Week's
"Fast Facts" page.
One such fact: "About 75 percent of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths."
Meanwhile, the flowering artichokes are getting a real workout. Often, you can't see the forest for the bees.
Honey bee heads toward a flowering artichoke. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Touchdown! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You can't see the forest for the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Occasionally we see a honey bee on the violet trumpet vine (Clytostoma calystegiodies) but the hummingbirds seem to like it better.
The delicate purple-veined blossoms burst out in late spring or summer. It's a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.
What is an All-Star? According to the UC Davis Arboretum website: "The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and support native birds and insects. Most All-Star plants can be successfully planted and grown throughout California."
Arboretum officials list some 100 All-Stars on their website, and they periodically hold public plant sales at their teaching nursery on Garrod Drive. The last sale took place May 18.
As for the violet trumpet vine, it's one of the stars in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden is open to the public for self-guided tours from dawn to dusk. Neither the UC Davis Arboretum nor the haven charges admission for self-guided tours.
A honey bee on a violet trumpet blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The next time you're around a lamb's ear--no, not the animal, the plant (Stachys byzantina)--watch for buzzing bees.
Especially the European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum). The females card the fuzz from the soft, silvery-gray leaves for their nests. Both the males and females sip nectar from the blossoms.
The males are quite territorial and bodyslam honey bees and other foraging insects. They're trying to save the sweet nectar for the females and mate with them.
It was windy this morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It didn't seem to bother the patrolling European wool carder bees. But their presence--and the body slams--bothered the honey bees.
The haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is open from dawn to dusk. There is no admission.
European wool carder bee nectaring on Lamb's Ear. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of European wool carder bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees are quite distinguishable from European wool carder bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)