Backyard Orchard News
Oh, the fun-loving, sun-loving cosmos.
A native of Mexico and a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae, this plant brightens many a garden, attracting such pollinators as honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, hover flies and butterflies. Its common name and genus are the same: cosmos!
As the autumn days grow colder, its color seems to grow bolder. The vivid pinks, glorious whites, and cranberry reds are a delight to see. Some of the daisylike petals are striped like candy canes.
Last Sunday was a pollinator-perfect day for the cosmos planted in the Avant Garden, a community garden at the corner of First and D streets in Benicia. Insects couldn't seem to get enough of them.
"Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico," according to a Texas A&M website. "The evenly placed petals led them to christen the flower, 'Cosmos,' the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe."
The website lists "The Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should be Growing Cosmos." They include easy to grow, best annual for hot, dry locations, best annual for poor soils and the like. And, it's a self-seeding annual that can be used for floral arrangements.
The Spanish priests probably thought so, too.
Honey bee visiting a cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee packing pollen, up, up and away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)o
This honey bee is "in the pink"--pink cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you like community gardens, then you'll want to visit the Avant Garden at the corner of First and D streets in Benicia.
The Benicia Community Garden (BCG) signed a lease agreement in the fall of 2010 with Estey Real Estate to establish a downtown community garden. The land is for sale, but until it's sold, it's a community garden.
The mission of Benicia Community Gardens? "To encourage and enable local citizens to establish and care for gardens throughout the city that provide ongoing sources of healthful food, fellowship, beauty and discovery."
According to their website, the Avante garden is called that because "it represents an experiment not only to provide wider opportunity for more people to observe and practice organic urban farming, but also, because BCG will be making private, undeveloped property in the heart of our historic commercial district productively used for growing food."
Residents lease individual plots and grow such foods as tomatoes, peppers, kale and cabbage. Ornamental flowers line the fence. Signs warn guests not to reap the benefits of what other have sown.
We stopped by there last Sunday afternoon and were amazed that despite the colder weather settling in, insects abound. We saw such pollinators as honey bees, a yellow-faced bumble bee, a hover fly, a carpenter bee and a green metallic sweat bee, as well as a pest, the spotted cucumber beetle. Assorted cabbage white butterfles, also pests, fluttered around the cucurbits.
What a treasure! A good place to spend part of a Sunday.
A yellow-faced bumble bee on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A hover fly, aka flower fly or syrphid fly, soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A spotted cucumber beetle and a green metallic sweat bee sharing a cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a male green metallic sweat bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you plant a bottlebrush in your yard, you'll experience a brush with kindness.
This time of year there's not much food for honey bees to eat. Bottlebrush, in the genus Callistemon and family Myrtaceae, fits the bill.
We captured this image Oct. 16 at the Häagen-Dazs Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, west of the central campus. The half-acre garden, planted in the fall of 2009, serves as a year-around food source for the bees at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity, as well as other pollinators, raises public awareness of bees, and provides visitors with ideas of what to plant in their own gardens. Admission to the garden, open from dawn to dusk, is free. If you want a guided tour (a nominal fee is charged), contact Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bee-utiful Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long ceramic mosaic sculpture by Donna Billick of Davis, anchors the garden. The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, directed by Donna Billick and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, has kindly provided a plethora of art, the work of their students in Entomology 1. Think decorated bee boxes at the entrance, a native bee mural on the tool shed, ceramic mosaic planters filled with flowers, and native bee condos for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees.
The bottlebrush fits in well. Native to Australia, this plant resembles--you guessed it--a bottlebrush, the kind of tool you'd use to clean a baby bottle or an insulated bottle. Most flower heads are red, but they can also be yellow, orange, white or green, depending on the 34 species.
The bottlebrush is a long and late bloomer, to be sure. But a welcome one at that.
Honey bee on a bottlebrush at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is Miss Bee Haven, art work by Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976 and an upcoming retiree, will be "roasted" at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference, to be held Nov 19-21 at Lake Tahoe, Nev.
But someone will be going home with a little piece of him.
Mussen is donating an auction item, a mounted photo of "The Sting," also known as "The Bee Sting Felt Around the World."
What's the story behind the story? It was like this: During a lunch hour a couple of years ago, Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility when he said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him. It was one of bee scientist Susan Cobey's Carniolan bees, doing what bees do--defending the hive.
I shot a series of four photos within a second with my Nikon D700, mounted with a 105mm macro lens and a motor drive.
The second photo in the series went on to win best feature photo and the professional skill award in a competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences. The Sacramento Bee picked it up and later selected it one of its top 15 stories of 2012. Huffington Post named it one of the Most Amazing Photos of 2012. More accolades followed: Twister Sifter singled it out as one of the World's Most Perfectly Timed Photos. Along the way, it made "Picture of the Day" on scores of websites. (Bug Squad blogs about this image: The Sting, Perfectly Timed Photos, and The Bee Sting Felt Around the World.)
The copyrighted photo also appears to be one of the most stolen images on the internet. It's gone around the world innumerable times, mostly uncredited or with its copyright ripped off or replaced with someone else's copyright.
Photo aficionados marveled at the "one-of-a-kind" photo of a bee sting in action, with its abdominal tissue trailing. Others said it was Photoshopped. Not! Some said I spent the day torturing bees. Not! I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Some pitied the "poor guy" getting stung and asked how could I be so cruel as not to help him. Not what happened!
Mussen's wife later presented him with a mousepad, a coffee cup and a handmade Christmas ornament of the image. It's quite a conversation piece in Mussen's office on the third floor Briggs Hall. But it won't be for long. Mussen will be vacating his quarters and retiring in June of 2014.
But, back to the California State Beekeepers' Association.
Mussen's colleagues are going to roast him, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin'). They'll joke about his Buddy Holly glasses in the 1970s, his amicable personality, and his inability to keep in contact via cell phone (he doesn't carry one).
But someone, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin') is going home with a piece of him.
Eric Mussen and the famous bee sting photo showing a bee stinging his wrist. This mounted photo will be auctioned off at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Eric Mussen using his mouse pad. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's a coffee cup without a bee sting image on it? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's a question frequently asked of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Fact is, he's an "unbee-lievable" wealth of information. The honey bee guru has served as Extension apiculturist since 1976 and writes a newsletter, from the UC apiaries and Bee Briefs, both posted on his website. When Mussen retires in June of 2014 (yes, the "R" word), he will be sorely missed.
One of the latest questions:
"A few weeks ago, the day before I left on a trip, I noticed decreased activity in my top bar hive. I looked in and saw very few bees, the queen and these dead pupae. There was no bad smell or bodies in or around the hive. When I returned and examined the hive yesterday, all the honey had been robbed (as I expected), there were only two dead bees on the floor and the remaining bee bread. I haven't looked into my three Langstroth hives yet, but the activity level looks normal. Do you have any ideas on what killed the colony, whether I need to take any special precautions regarding my other hives and whether I need to treat the top bar hive in someway before putting another colony in next spring?"
The concerned beekeeper attached a photo in his email.
Mussen responded: "No, I cannot tell you what killed the bees by looking at a photograph. But, there are clues. First, very few things happen in a colony that results in black bees. The most common cause is 'chilled brood.' That means that the brood was not incubated at the proper temperature and finally succumbed to cooler temperatures, turning black during the process. Depending upon when that happened, the pupae would be in various stages of completion to adult bees. The second set of possibilities revolves around infections with viruses. Although it is called "black queen cell virus," that virus can infect and discolor worker bees. A second RNA virus that leads to black bees is 'chronic bee paralysis.' In that case, though, it is adult bees that get 'black and greasy.' Actually, the bees have had their hairs scraped off by their nest mates. When truly bald, the exoskeleton is black and the cuticle is waxy (greasy). So, it sounds like your colony failed to thrive for some reason. The bees could no longer adequately feed or incubate the brood (lack of nurse bees?). Then, things just spiraled down. Robbing was included in the mix when the colony became weakened. Since I have no idea what put the colony out of business, I would start, again, next season using the same combs. Wait until it is warm and a good pollen flow is going on."
Failure to thrive? How many times have we heard that? It applies to bees, too.
This honey bee is doing poorly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)