Posts Tagged: catmint
The skipper wasn't skipping.
In fact, it wasn't doing much of anything.
The fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus), tangled in a spider web, struggled furiously to free itself.
Not going to happen. The sticky substance stuck to her like super glue.
It's a scene you don't often see. This time, however, before the resident spider on the catmint could grab its prey, I released the skipper.
Sorry, spider. Gotta protect the pollinators.
Fiery skipper struggles to free itself in a spider web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Head of fiery skipper shows the tangled sticky strands of a spider web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Released fiery skipper ready to flutter away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you want to attract honey bees in your garden, you can't go wrong by planting catmint (genus Nepeta).
Honey bees like the mints. So do cabbage white butterflies, wool carder bees, carpenter bees and hover flies, among other insects.
Nepeta is easy to grow. It can tolerate drought, neglect and an occasional cat. The soft lavender flowers amid the gray-green foliage add a dreamy mood to the garden. Catmint is also a perfect hiding spot for spiders trying to grab dinner. Gardeners claim it's resistant to deer (that's why we have no deer!) and to rats. Don't know why rats avoid it, but it must have something to do with the cats!
A rather sluggish honey bee paused last weekend, long enough for us to capture a few images. Unlike the plant, she didn't appear to be in mint condition. She stood out, stood up, and slipped to the ground.
Honey bee working the catmint (Nepeta). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee atop catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a honey bee on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven's grand opening celebration takes place on Saturday, Sept. 11, visitors can expect to see scores of flowers, including the ever-popular catmint (Nepeta).
Honey bees love the mints. So do bumble bees, carpenter bees, butterflies and assorted other insects.
The event, sponsored by Wells Fargo and co-sponsored by Annie's Homegrown, takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The half-acre bee friendly garden is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
What else is in the garden?
Well, among the plant growth: acacia, almond, apple, artichoke, basil, blackberry, blueberry, broccoli, cape mallow, eggplant, elderberry, hawthorn, honeysuckle, Mexican hat flower, oregano, peppers, persimmon, plum, purple coneflower, redbud, salvia, Santa Barbara daisy, seaside daisy, strawberry, watermelon, wild roses and scores of other plants.
The key goals of the garden, a gift to the UC Davis Department of Entomology, are to provide bees with a year-around food source for the Laidlaw facility bees, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own. It's also a research site.
The grand opening celebration will include speeches (to start at 10:30 a.m.); rotating garden tours; children's activities; and a bee observation hive. Experts on honey bees, native bees, plants and the beautiful art work in the garden will be there to answer your questions.
You'll want to see the fabulous 6-foot-long honey bee, "Miss Bee Haven," sculpted by noted artist Donna Billick and funded by Wells Fargo. You'll marvel at the the colorful ceramic tiles beneath the sculpture and the two bee hive sculptures that grace the entrance, all by the UC Davis Art-Science Fusion Program, directed by Donna Billick and Diane Ullman.
The winning design team, from the Sausalito area, will be represented. The design is the work of landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors installed the garden, which was planted last fall. Häagen-Dazs will serve free ice cream, and Gimbal's Fine Candies will provide free samples of their popular candy.
Joining Wells Fargo as the main sponsor of the grand opening celebration is Annie's Homegrown, maker of Honey Bunny Grahams.
Check out the website for more information. You can download the PDF of the design plan, which includes the concept, plant list and layout.
More information? Contact Chris Akins, coordinator of the grand opening celebration at (530) 752-2120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee and Catmint
Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), so named because they cut leaves and petals to line their nests, are smaller than the honey bees but move faster. These native bees are easily recognizable by the black-white bands on their abdomen.
Catching them in flight requires a lot of patience.
We watched one leafcutter bee dart from catmint flower to catmint flower (Nepeta). It is 2 p.m. One movement of the camera and off it goes. One step toward it and it takes flight. A shadow over it and it vanishes.
This one (below) managed to maneuver around carder bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, assorted butterflies, a curious cat determined to sample the catmint, and a persistent spider that cunningly wove its web right between two stems.
Finally, it overcame all the obstacles for its reward: a long sip of nectar.
Caught in Flight
Sip of Nectar
Then it lands and you realize it's neither.
It's a bee.
The insects buzzing in our catmint last weekend were wool-carder bees, Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus), as identified by several UC Davis entomologists: Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Regarding the carder bee, Zavortink teamed with Sandra Shanks, then of the Bohart Museum, to write a scientific note, "Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus) (Hymnoptera: Megachilidae in California)," published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Pan-Pacific Entomologist.
"The Palaearctic wool-carder bee Anthidium manicatum (Linnaeus, 1758) was introduced into New York state, presumably from Europe, before 1963 (Jaycox 1967)," Zavortink and Shanks wrote. However, it wasn't detected in California until much later. In 2007, an image of a carder bee from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County, appeared on the Bug Guide website.
The name, carder bee, comes from its behavior of gathering "down" or "fuzz" from leaves to build its nest.
"Anthidium manicatum builds a linear row of cells, each one being lined and partitioned with cottony down 'carded' from hairy leaves," wrote Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "The term 'carder' refers to the teasing out or carding of woollen or cotton fiber with a comblike tool. The female of A. manicatum has five sharp teeth on each jaw and these are her carding tools."
The males are very territorial, the three UC Davis entomologists agreed.
Indeed they are.
The males, about the size of honey bees, buzzed furiously around the catmint last weekend. When they spotted an "intruder," such as a honey bee, they hit it with such force (body slam!) that the victim dropped to the ground.
We also observed carding of the leaves and mating. An Indy-500 male grabbed a female foraging on a catmint blossom.
"It appears that carder bees don't mate in flight like the honey bees do," commented Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Zavortink-Shanks and O'Toole-Raw reported that carder bees prefer the downy leaves of such plants as lamb's ear (Stachys lanata).
By the looks of the activity last weekend in our bee friendly yard, it appears that carder bees are also quite fond of catmint (Nepeta) and sage (salvia).
Female carder bees
Love on a Catmint