Empty Calories

Bee Informed.jpg

By Dan Wyns July 2, 2019

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

Somewhere early on in a “Beekeeping 101” class you’ll learn that honey bees forage for 4 things: nectar, pollen, propolis, and water. The nectar and pollen become honey and bee bread to provide sustenance. Propolis is used as a structural component and also contributes to colony health through immunological activity. Previous blog posts about propolis here and here provide more information. Water is necessary for a variety of purposes including preparation of brood food and evaporative cooling. So in addition to water, bees need 3 substances produced by plants. But do they collect anything else? Of course they do. If you’ve ever seen open syrup feeding, it’s apparent that the bees will forego the flower visitation part of foraging when a sweet liquid is provided. Bees will also readily gather pollen substitute when bulk fed in powder form. While these nectar and pollen surrogates may not be as attractive or nutritious as the genuine articles they are intended to replicate, they can be important in getting colonies through lean times.

Flowers and their surrogates are what the bees should be getting into, but what are they actually getting into? Some beekeepers have a perception that if bees gather it they must need it, but in my time working in and around bees I’ve seen them get into a lot of different things that probably aren’t great for them. One summer we noticed a propolis traps in a yard were yielding a dark brown, almost black propolis with sharp plastic smell instead of the typical red/orange sweet smelling propolis for the area. When we  sat waiting for the construction worker with the Stop/Go sign to allow us through the roadworks where a new topcoat of asphalt was being applied, we noticed bees collecting road tar to use as propolis. This paper detected petroleum derived molecules that matched the chemistry of local asphalt in propolis from urban colonies, confirming that bees will gather sticky stuff other than plant resins. I’ve also seen bees appearing to collect silicon-based caulking product. I’ve often described the physical role of propolis in the colony as bee-glue or caulking, so seeing one bee resort to gathering our version shouldn’t come as a shock if actual resins aren’t available. Bees gather “real” propolis from a variety of botanical sources depending on geography and climate. Some of the most common propolis sources in temperate climates are members of the genus Populus which includes poplars, aspens, and cottonwoods. For more about the role of propolis in the colony and an overview of botanical sources around the world, check out this article.

It’s not just propolis collection where bees make mistakes, sometimes they get it wrong when seeking pollen too. While building woodware in the shop, I’ve seen bees take a lot of interest in the sawdust from both treated and untreated lumber. I’ve never actually seen a forager pack it onto her corbicula, but beekeepers report bees gathering a variety of powdery materials when pollen is scarce. An early study on pollen foraging noted this tendency,  “During periods of pollen scarcity bees are reported to seek substitutes, such as bran, sawdust, and coal dust, which are of no known value for brood rearing.

Just about any sweet liquid is going to get the attention of honey bees, and I’ve seen them investigate many kinds of sodas and juices. This tendency may be a little unnerving to picnickers, but it isn’t really a problem unless there is a more permanent stationary source of sugary liquid that the bees find. One such case happened when some urban bees in NYC found a bit of runoff syrup from a maraschino cherry factory which was only the beginning of the story.


Yes, I'll Have Som Mustard, Please!

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey April 3, 2019

Yes, I'll have some mustard, please.

Yes, both the pollen and the nectar, thank you.

We watched a honey bee buzz into our little mustard patch,  her proboscis (tongue) extended, and pollen weighting her down. If she were at the airport, someone would have volunteered to carry her bags. 

But there she was, determined to bring back both pollen and nectar to her colony. It's nature's equivalent of gold. It's spring and time for the colony build-up.

In peak season, the queen bee lays 1500 to 2000 eggs a day. Everyone has a job to do, and if you're a bee scientist or a beekeeper, you'll see them all:  nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers.

What's thrilling this time of year, though, are the worker bees bringing home the mustard.

Want to learn more about bees? Be sure to stop by Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, on Saturday, April 13 during the campuswide 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.  You'll see a bee observation hive, as well as smokers, hive tools and veils, all part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology displays. You can talk to the bee scientists. And you can sample many different varietals of honey.

Briggs Hall also will feature cockroach races, maggot art, t-shirt sales, face-painting, aquatic insects,  forensic entomology,  Integrated Pest Management Program display, fly-tying and much more. It's free and family friendly.

And over at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, more entomological excitements await. It's the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects (walking sticks), tarantulas and praying mantids.  Stay tuned!

A pollen-laden honey bee heads for more pollen and nectar on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A pollen-laden honey bee heads for more pollen and nectar on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee is a sight to see amid the mustard blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee is a sight to see amid the mustard blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen or nectar? Both please, says the honey bee as she forages on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen or nectar? Both please, says the honey bee as she forages on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Flowers Can Hear Buzzing Bees - And It Makes Their Nectar Sweeter

National Geographic By Michelle Donahue January 15, 2019

The bowl-shaped flowers of evening primrose may be key to their acoustic capabilities. PHOTOGRAPH BY DENNIS FRATES/ ALAMY

The bowl-shaped flowers of evening primrose may be key to their acoustic capabilities. PHOTOGRAPH BY DENNIS FRATES/ ALAMY

“I’d like people to understand that hearing is not only for ears.”

EVEN ON THE quietest days, the world is full of sounds: birds chirping, wind rustling through trees, and insects humming about their business. The ears of both predator and prey are attuned to one another’s presence.

Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound—what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis, published recently on the pre-print server bioRxiv, suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage.

Watch a Garden Come to Life in This Absolutely Breathtaking Time-Lapse

RELATED: TIME-LAPSE VIDEO SHOWS A GARDEN COMING TO LIFE - Journey through a blooming garden of dancing flowers in this incredible four-minute short film. Visual effects artist and filmmaker Jamie Scott spent three years shooting the stunning springtime imagery in this continuous motion time-lapse. The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind.

The sweetest sound

As an evolutionary theoretician, Hadany says her question was prompted by the realization that sounds are a ubiquitous natural resource—one that plants would be wasting if they didn’t take advantage of it as animals do. If plants had a way of hearing and responding to sound, she figured, it could help them survive and pass on their genetic legacy.

Since pollination is key to plant reproduction, her team started by investigating flowers. Evening primrose, which grows wild on the beaches and in parks around Tel Aviv, emerged as a good candidate, since it has a long bloom time and produces measurable quantities of nectar.

A brown and yellow hoverfly rests on a dewdrop-covered evening primrose in the U.K. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAELGRANTWILDLIFE/ ALAMY

A brown and yellow hoverfly rests on a dewdrop-covered evening primrose in the U.K. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAELGRANTWILDLIFE/ ALAMY

To test the primroses in the lab, Hadany’s team exposed plants to five sound treatments: silence, recordings of a honeybee from four inches away, and computer-generated sounds in low, intermediate, and high frequencies. Plants given the silent treatment—placed under vibration-blocking glass jars—had no significant increase in nectar sugar concentration. The same went for plants exposed to high-frequency (158 to 160 kilohertz) and intermediate-frequency (34 to 35 kilohertz) sounds.

But for plants exposed to playbacks of bee sounds (0.2 to 0.5 kilohertz) and similarly low-frequency sounds (0.05 to 1 kilohertz), the final analysis revealed an unmistakable response. Within three minutes of exposure to these recordings, sugar concentration in the plants increased from between 12 and 17 percent to 20 percent.

A sweeter treat for pollinators, their theory goes, may draw in more insects, potentially increasing the chances of successful cross-pollination. Indeed, in field observations, researchers found that pollinators were more than nine times more common around plants another pollinator had visited within the previous six minutes.

“We were quite surprised when we found out that it actually worked,” Hadany says. “But after repeating it in other situations, in different seasons, and with plants grown both indoors and outdoors, we feel very confident in the result.”

Flowers for ears

As the team thought about how sound works, via the transmission and interpretation of vibrations, the role of the flowers became even more intriguing. Though blossoms vary widely in shape and size, a good many are concave or bowl-shaped. This makes them perfect for receiving and amplifying sound waves, much like a satellite dish.

To test the vibrational effects of each sound frequency test group, Hadany and her co-author Marine Veits, then a graduate student in Hadany’s lab, put the evening primrose flowers under a machine called a laser vibrometer, which measures minute movements. The team then compared the flowers’ vibrations with those from each of the sound treatments.

“This specific flower is bowl- shaped, so acoustically speaking, it makes sense that this kind of structure would vibrate and increase the vibration within itself,” Veits says.

And indeed it did, at least for the pollinators’ frequencies. Hadany says it was exciting to see the vibrations of the flower match up with the wavelengths of the bee recording.

“You immediately see that it works,” she says.

To confirm that the flower was the responsible structure, the team also ran tests on flowers that had one or more petals removed. Those flowers failed to resonate with either of the low-frequency sounds.

What else plants can hear

Hadany acknowledges that there are many, many questions remaining about this newfound ability of plants to respond to sound. Are some “ears” better for certain frequencies than others? And why does the evening primrose make its nectar so much sweeter when bees are known to be able to detect changes in sugar concentration as small as 1 to 3 percent?



Also, could this ability confer other advantages beyond nectar production and pollination? Hadany posits that perhaps plants alert one another to the sound of herbivores mowing down their neighbors. Or maybe they can generate sounds that attract the animals involved in dispersing that plant’s seeds.

“We have to take into account that flowers have evolved with pollinators for a very long time,” Hadany says. “They are living entities, and they, too, need to survive in the world. It’s important for them to be able to sense their environment—especially if they cannot go anywhere.”

This single study has cracked open an entirely new field of scientific research, which Hadany calls phytoacoustics.

Veits wants to know more about the underlying mechanisms behind the phenomenon the research team observed. For instance, what molecular or mechanical processes are driving the vibration and nectar response? She also hopes the work will affirm the idea that it doesn’t always take a traditional sense organ to perceive the world.

“Some people may think, How can [plants] hear or smell?” Veits says. “I’d like people to understand that hearing is not only for ears.”

Richard Karban, an expert in interactions between plants and their pests at the University of California Davis, has questions of his own, in particular, about the evolutionary advantages of plants’ responses to sound.

“It may be possible that plants are able to chemically sense their neighbors, and to evaluate whether or not other plants around them are fertilized,” he says. “There’s no evidence that things like that are going on, but [this study] has done the first step.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the percent increase in nectar's sugar concentration.


What Native California Plants Are Best For Attracting Pollinators?

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey December 18, 2018

What Native California Plants Are Best For Attracting Pollinators?

That's a question often asked.

Now for answers.

Ola Lundin, first author

Ola Lundin, first author

Neal Williams, professor and Chancellor’s fellow

Neal Williams, professor and Chancellor’s fellow

Kimiora Ward, project scientist (Photos: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Kimiora Ward, project scientist (Photos: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Three pollination ecologists from the University of California, Davis, have just published their research, “Identifying Native Plants for Coordinated Habitat Management of Arthropod Pollinators, Herbivores and Natural Enemies,” in the Journal of Applied Ecology. It details what plants proved most attractive to honey bees, wild bees and other pollinators, as well as what drew such natural enemies as predators and parasitic wasps.

“I hope this study can inform selection of plants that support pollinators and natural enemies without enhancing potential pests,” said lead researcher and first author Ola Lundin, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.

He and co-authors Williams, professor of entomology and a Chancellor's Fellow at UC Davis; and project specialist Kimiora Ward of the Williams lab conceived the ideas and developed the methodology for the research project.

“Planting wildflowers is a key strategy promoted nationally to support wild and managed bees,” said Williams. “Successful adoption of these plantings in agricultural landscapes will require that they not only support pollinators but that they also avoid supporting too many pests. Plant selection going forward will need to balance multiple goals of pollinators pest management and other functions. This research is a first step on the path to identifying plants that will meet these goals."

The trio established 43 plant species in a garden experiment on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. They selected plant species that were drought-tolerant; native to California (except for buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum, known to attract natural enemies and widely used in conservation biological control); and, as a group, covered a range of flowering periods throughout the season. (Download the plant species here.)

The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) was one of the 43 plants tested. Here a cukoo bee Triepelous Epeolus, forages on a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) was one of the 43 plants tested. Here a cukoo bee Triepelous Epeolus, forages on a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Every week, over a two-year period during the peak bloom of each plant species, they engaged in three different sampling techniques: netting wild bees, observing honey bees, and vacuuming insect herbivores, arthropod predators and parasitic wasps.

“For early season bloom, Great Valley phacelia (Phacelia ciliata) was a real winner in terms of being attractive for both wild bees and honey bees,” Lundin said. “Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) flowers in late spring and was the clearly most attractive plant for honey bees across the dataset. The related Fort Miller Clarkia (C. williamsonii) was also quite attractive for honey bees and had the added benefit that a lot of minute pirate bugs visited the flowers.”

Lundin said that common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)“attracted “attracted the highest numbers of parasitic wasps but also many herbivores, including Lygus bugs.”

“In general a lot of parasitic wasps were found on Asteraceae species (the daisy family) and this was a somewhat surprising result considering that they have narrow corollas, and for parasitic wasps relatively deep corollas that can restrict their direct access to nectar. Under the very dry conditions in late summer, Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) and Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum) both performed well and attracted high numbers of wild bees.”

The team found that across plant species, herbivore, predator and parasitic wasp abundances were “positively correlated,” and “honey bee abundance correlated negatively to herbivore abundance.”

The take-home message is that “if you're a gardener or other type of land manager, what you'd likely prefer would be a mix of some of the most promising plant species taking into account their individual attractiveness for these arthropod groups, plus several more factors including costs for seed when planting larger areas,” Lundin said.

“Plant choice can also depend on how you weigh the importance of each arthropod group and whether you are interested in spring, summer or season-long bloom,” Lundin added. Those are some of the questions that the Williams lab plans to explore in future projects.

Phacelia californica was among the 43 plants tested. Here a bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, and a honey bee, Apils melllifera, share a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Phacelia californica was among the 43 plants tested. Here a bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, and a honey bee, Apils melllifera, share a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

“It was fascinating for me to see how these and other plants flowering in the latter part of the summer not only survived but also seemed to enjoy themselves in the heat without water for months!” Lundin quipped.

Williams praised the “uniquely capable team that came together.”

“Ola is an emerging leader in considering integrated management of pests and pollinators and Kimiora is a known expert in developing regionally-relevant plant materials to support pollinators,” Williams said. “They and some talented UC Davis undergraduates--notably Katherine Borchardt and Anna Britzman--compiled a tremendously useful study.”

The overall aim of the study “was to identify California native plants, and more generally plant traits, suitable for coordinated habitat management of arthropod pollinators, herbivores and natural enemies and promote integrated ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes,” the researchers wrote.

More specifically, they asked:

  1. Which native plants among our candidate set attract the highest abundances of wild bees, honeybees, herbivores, predators, and parasitic wasps,

  2. If the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups across plant speacies are related to the peak flowering week, floral area, or flower type of the focal plant species, and

  3. If the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups are correlated to each other across plant species.

“A first critical step for design and implementation of multifunctional plantings that promote beneficial arthropods while controlling insect pests is to identify suitable plant species to use,” the authors wrote in their abstract. “We aimed to identify California native plants and, more generally, plant traits suitable for the coordinated management of pollinators (wild bees and honey bees), insect herbivores and arthropod natural enemies (predators and parasitic wasps).”

At the time, the Laidlaw grounds included nearly 50 bee colonies: some 20 to 40 honey bee colonies, and eight managed research colonies of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii.

The project drew funding from the USDA Resources Conservation Service, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a Swedish foundation for scientific research, the Carl Tryggers Stiftelse for Vetenskaplig Forskning.

Phacelia campanularia was one of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. Here a honey bee sips nectar from a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Phacelia campanularia was one of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. Here a honey bee sips nectar from a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

These are some of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. This is an illustration from the research paper. (Photos by Ola Lundin)   https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28959

These are some of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. This is an illustration from the research paper. (Photos by Ola Lundin)


Honeybees Finding It Harder To Eat At America's Bee Hot Spot

Phys.org    By Seth Borenstein    July 2, 2018

This June 2015 photo provided by The Ohio State University shows a bee on a flower in Southwest Minnesota. A new federal study finds that honeybees in the Northern Great Plains are having a hard time finding food as conservation land is converted to row crops. (Sarah Scott/The Ohio State University via AP) A new federal study finds bees are having a much harder time finding food in America's last honeybee refuge.

The country's hot spot for commercial beekeeping is the Northern Great Plains of the Dakotas and neighboring areas, where more than 1 million colonies spend their summer feasting on pollen and nectar from wildflowers and other plants.

Clint Otto of the U.S. Geological Survey calculates that from 2006 to 2016, more than half the conservation land within a mile of bee colonies was converted into agriculture, usually row crops like soybeans and corn. Those don't feed bees.

Otto says bees that have a hard time finding food are less likely to survive the winter.

The study is in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 Explore further: Land-use change rapidly reducing critical honey bee habitat in Dakotas

More information: Clint R. V. Otto el al., "Past role and future outlook of the Conservation Reserve Program for supporting honey bees in the Great Plains," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1800057115 

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


AB-2062 State highways: landscaping. (2017-2018)

AB-2062 State highways: landscaping. (2017-2018)





Introduced by Assembly Member Maienschein
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Acosta, Friedman, Gallagher, and Lackey

February 07, 2018

An act to amend Section 92.3 of the Streets and Highways Code, relating to state highways.


AB 2062, as amended, Maienschein. State highways: landscaping.

Existing law provides that the Department of Transportation has full possession and control of all state highways and associated property, and sets forth the powers and duties of the department with respect to the operation, maintenance, and improvement of state highways. Existing law authorizes the department to enter into an agreement to accept funds, materials, equipment, or services from any person for maintenance or roadside enhancement of a section of a state highway. Existing law requires the department to discontinue further water intensive freeway landscaping and to use drought resistant landscaping whenever feasible, taking into consideration specified factors.

This bill would require planting projects undertaken or approved by the department to include, when appropriate, appropriate and consistent with integrated pest management strategies, California native wildflowers and native and climate-appropriate vegetation as an integral and permanent part of the planting design, with priority given to those species of wildflower and native and climate-appropriate vegetation that will help rebuild pollinator populations.


Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no  




 Section 92.3 of the Streets and Highways Code is amended to read:


 (a) The department shall do both of the following:

(1) Discontinue further water intensive freeway landscaping and use drought resistant landscaping whenever feasible, taking into consideration such factors as erosion control and fire retardant needs.

(2) Eliminate any dependency on imported water for landscaping as soon as practicable.

(b) The department shall require the use of recycled water for the irrigation of freeway landscaping when it finds and determines that all of the following conditions exist:

(1) The recycled water is of adequate quality and is available in adequate quantity for the proposed use.

(2) The proposed use of the recycled water is approved by the California regional water quality control board having jurisdiction.

(3) There is a direct benefit to the state highway program for the proposed use of recycled water.

(4) The recycled water is supplied by a local public agency or water public utility able to contract for delivery of water and the installation, maintenance, and repair of facilities to deliver the water.

(5) The installation of the water delivery facilities does not unreasonably increase any hazard to vehicles on the freeway or create unreasonable problems of highway maintenance and repair.

(c) In cooperation with local public agencies and water public utilities, the department shall permit local public agencies and water public utilities to place transmission lines for recycled water in freeway rights-of-way for use by the local public agencies and water public utilities to transmit recycled water to others, when to do so will promote a beneficial use of recycled water and that transmission does not unreasonably interfere with use of the freeway or unreasonably increase any hazard to vehicles on the freeway, subject to paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (b) and the following additional requirements:

(1) The local public agency or water public utility holds the department harmless for any liability caused by a disruption of service to other users of the recycled water and will defend the department in any resulting legal action and pay any damages awarded as a result of that disruption.

(2) The department, in cooperation with the local public agency or water public utility, may temporarily interrupt service in order to add to or modify its facilities without liability, as specified in paragraph (1).

(3) The local public agency or water public utility obtains and furnishes the department an agreement by all other users of recycled water from the transmission system holding the department harmless for any disruption in service.

(4) The local public agency or water public utility has furnished the department a list of other recycled water users and information on any backup system or other source of water available for use in case of a service disruption.

(5) The local public agency is responsible for the initial cost or any relocation cost of the recycled water transmission lines for service to other users in the right-of-way and waives its rights to require the department to pay the relocation costs pursuant to Sections 702 and 704.

(6) The local public agency or water public utility maintains the water transmission system subject to reasonable access for maintenance purposes to be negotiated between the department and the local public agency or water public utility.

(7) The department has first priority with respect to the recycled water supply contracted for by the department.

(8) The local public agency or water public utility installs an automatic control system which will allow the water transmission system to be shut down in case of an emergency. The department shall have access to all parts of the transmission system for purposes of the agreement.

(9) All transmission lines are placed underground and as close as possible to the freeway right-of-way boundary or at other locations authorized by the department.

(10) The plans and specifications for the recycled water transmission facilities have been approved by the department prior to construction.

(d) When appropriate, appropriate and consistent with integrated pest management strategies as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 14717 of the Government Code, planting projects undertaken or approved by the department shall include California native wildflowers and native and climate-appropriate vegetation as an integral and permanent part of the planting design, with priority given to those species of wildflowers and native and climate-appropriate vegetation that will help rebuild pollinator populations.

(e) As used in this section:

(1) “Local public agency” means any local public agency that transmits or supplies recycled water to others.

(2) “Water public utility” means any privately owned water corporation that is subject to the jurisdiction and control of the Public Utilities Commission.



Senator Jim Beall, Chair
2017 - 2018 Regular

Bill No:  AB 2062          Hearing Date:  5/15/18
Author:  Maienschein
Version: 4/30/2018
Urgency: No                  Fiscal:  Yes
Consultant:  Manny Leon

SUBJECT:  State highways: landscaping

DIGEST: This bill requires the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to include California native wildflowers and climate-appropriate vegetation in planting projects, as specified.


Existing law:

1) Provides that Caltrans has full possession and control of all state highways and associated property.

2) Authorizes Caltrans to take any act necessary, convenient, or proper for the construction, improvement, maintenance, or use of all highways within its jurisdiction.

3) Requires Caltrans, where practical or desirable, to replace trees that have been destroyed or removed because of projects undertaken to widen the highway.

4) Requires Caltrans to use drought resistant landscaping along freeways whenever feasible, taking into consideration such factors as erosion control and fire retardant needs.

This bill:

1) Requires Caltrans, when appropriate, to include California native wildflowers and native and climate-appropriate vegetation in planting projects.

2) Provides that a priority shall be given to those species of wildflowers that will help rebuild pollinator populations.


1) Purpose. According to the author, “Honeybees and pollinators alike are vital to the success of California’s agricultural industry and play an important role in our daily lives. One in every three bites of food consumed around the world depends on pollination, in particular bee pollination. We must secure California’s bee population to ensure the future success and well-being of our state. There is no single cause for the decline of our bee populace; however, the increase of foraging opportunities is one solution that will promote pollinator health year-round. California’s highway landscape is the perfect place to increase pollinator friendly vegetation to increase pollinator foraging opportunities.”

2) Existing requirements. Highway landscaping requirements currently exist in both Caltrans’ Highway Design Manual and Maintenance Manual. Specifically, the highway design manual notes in chapter 900, “planting and irrigation design should minimize ongoing intensive maintenance activities” and specifies conserving water by “using regionally appropriate drought tolerate native and non-native plants that will require little or no supplemental water… select and arrange regionally appropriate drought tolerant native and non-native plants to be visually and culturally compatible with local indigenous plant communities and the surrounding landscape.”

3) Pollinators. Pollinators, specifically the honey bee, are essential to the agricultural industry of our state and nation. In the United States, bees pollinate crops valued at more than $15 billion per year including many varieties of fruits, vegetables, and plants such as alfalfa and clover to feed cattle and other grazing animals. The author asserts that California’s bee population has declined in recent years due to multiple factors including lack of foraging opportunity, parasitic infestation, and pesticide use. California must secure its bee population to ensure the future success and well-being of the state. While both the Highway Design Manual and Maintenance Manual do in fact contain similar landscaping requirements as provided in this bill, existing requirements are silent on placing a priority on wildflowers and native plants that would benefit pollinator populations when appropriate. This bill will provide that clarification.

FISCAL EFFECT: Appropriation: No Fiscal Com.: Yes Local: No

Assembly votes:

Floor: 68-0
Approps: 15-0
Trans: 13-0

POSITIONS: (Communicated to the committee before noon on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.)


California State Beekeepers Association

Center for Food Safety

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Pesticide Action Network North America


None received.


 Bill Analysis

(NOTE: Funds raised throughout the year by the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association support the California State Beekeepers Association in bee research and legislation such as AB-2062. Thank you to Anastasia Butler, attorney for the Sustainable Law Group, PC for providing information re AB-2062.)

It's Tough Being a Bee During the Spring-like Rains

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    March 14, 2018

It's tough being a bee--especially when you have work to do and the rain won't let you out of your hive.

But when there's a sun break, it's gangbusters.

To put it in alliteration, we spotted a bevy of boisterous bees networking in the nectarine blossoms in between the springlike rains this week. What a treat!

Nectarines are a favorite fruit of California and beyond.  In fact, according to the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information website, "California leads the nation in production of peach and nectarine (Prunus persica). In 2013, 24,000 acres of California clingstone peaches produced a crop of 368,000 tons of fruit valued at $133,865,000; 22,000 acres of California freestone peaches produced a crop of 280,000 tons valued at $144,418,000. This California crop of 648,000 tons represents 70% of the national peach production. Nectarines on 18,000 acres in the state produced a crop of 150,000 tons with a value of $117,000,000.(USDA 2014),"

Some folks prefer the necatarine over a peach.  A nectarine or "fuzzless" peach tends to have sweeter flesh than the more acidic peach, according to the Fruit and Nut Research and Information website. "The lack of pubescent skin is the result of a recessive gene. Nectarine gained popularity in the 1950's when breeding allowed for firmer flesh and better post-harvest handling and longevity."

The foraging bees don't care whether the blossoms are nectarine or peach.

It's food for the hive. 

A honey bee pollinating a nectarine blossom in Vacaville, CA. Photo: (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)A foraging honey bee takes a liking to a nectarine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)


New Video Series: Planting Flowering Habitat for Bees

Integrated Crop Pollination Project    March 13, 2017

Many specialty crop growers are looking to incorporate pollinator habitat plantings on their farms to support bees, crop pollination, and yields. A new video series produced by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project will guide farmers through the process of establishing new flowering habitat for bees, from selecting and preparing a good site to seeding and maintaining a successful, diverse, weed-free stand of wildflowers.

The first video in the series, “Pollinator Habitat 101,” provides background information on bee habitat requirements and highlights different options for integrating flowering plants on farms, including field border plantings, riparian buffers, filter strips, and flowering cover crops.

The second video in the series, “Five Steps to Success for Establishing Perennial Wildflower Plantings for Pollinators,” goes into more detail on the step-by-step process for establishing a bloom-rich, long-lived perennial wildflower strip or meadow. The video emphasizes the need for careful weed eradication before and after seeding to control highly competitive weed species and allow the native wildflower seeds to germinate and persist.

Future videos in this series will include more detailed overviews of different site preparation and seeding techniques. Visit the Integrated Crop Pollination Project’s Youtube page for playlists of videos about bees, pollination, and pollinator habitat. To learn more about planting wildflowers to support crop pollinators and other strategies to support bees and the pollination they provide, visit http://www.projecticp.org.

This research is supported by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project (Award #2012-51181-20105). These videos were produced on behalf of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project by Emily May and Katharina Ullmann (The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation).



At Mealtime, Honey Bees Prefer Country Blossoms to City Blooms

The Ohio State University     By Misti Crane     March 14, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hungry honey bees appear to favor flowers in agricultural areas over those in neighboring urban areas.

The discovery has implications for urban beekeepers and challenges assumptions that farmland and honey bees are incompatible, said authors of a new study from The Ohio State University.

The team positioned honey bee colonies in an apiary in a central Ohio cemetery smack in the middle of where urban residential development transitions into farmland. They left the colonies to forage for nectar and pollen wherever they preferred.

The bees, studied from late summer to early fall, overwhelmingly went for the agricultural offerings instead of the assorted flowering plants in and around the urban neighborhoods nearby, said lead author Douglas Sponsler, who was a graduate student in entomology at Ohio State when the research was conducted in 2014. The study appears in the Journal of Urban Ecology.

Throughout the study, the honey bees’ haul always favored plants from the agricultural area, and hit a high of 96 percent of the pollen collected at one point.

“Honey bees didn’t seem to care that much what the floral diversity was. What they wanted was large patches of their favorite stuff,” said Sponsler, who now works at Penn State University.

Goldenrod was particularly popular, the researchers found. The bees’ agricultural foraging preference was especially pronounced at the end of the season, as the colonies prepared to overwinter.

While farm fields themselves aren’t attractive to the bees, the countryside features wide swaths of unmowed wild plants (also known as weeds) along roadsides and in field margins, Sponsler said.

Senior author Reed Johnson, an assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State, said the discoveries made in this study help explain the ongoing hardships of urban beekeepers, who are growing in number in Ohio and elsewhere.

“When the bees have a choice, they go to the farmland. We’ve had trouble keeping our urban colonies alive, so this makes a lot of sense to us,” Johnson said.

“There’s this popular perception that urban places are better for bees because of the diversity of plants. This is showing that, at least in Ohio, the agricultural areas are actually superior and that’s despite the pesticide use that’s out there,” he said.

“Apparently, farmland isn’t desolate at all – at least not for honey bees.”

Uncovering where the bees had been and what exactly captured their attention was a two-part process.

First, researchers videotaped then analyzed the tell-tale dance patterns of bees returning to the three study colonies. Translated by scientists, these dance moves explain what direction the foraging bee has been in relation to the hive and how far in that direction.

“These things can be pretty easily decoded by the human observer, thankfully. You can map the locations that are being referred to in the dance,” Sponsler said.

The second part of the analysis – pollen identification – confirmed the dance-derived findings. When the honeybees came back to the cemetery, they flew through a screen that allowed their bodies in but scraped the pollen off their hind legs and into a collection chamber.

Sponsler and his colleagues then sorted through the bees’ collection, separating the grains of pollen by color and shape and then cross-referencing to determine what exactly the bees were foraging.

They examined pollen from five sampling dates. Agricultural foraging outweighed urban foraging in every sample and hit a high of 96 percent on the Sept. 19 collection date and a low of 62 percent of the honey bees’ haul on Sept. 4.

For urban beekeepers and others interested in a thriving honey bee population, it could be prudent to think about supplementing the bees’ diets at summer’s end, the researchers said.

Honey bee populations could also become more stable in urban areas with more careful landscaping choices in and around cities, the researchers said.

“The focus is how can we make urban spaces better for bees so we can attract them back into the city?” Johnson said.

He suggested that planting certain trees could serve the honey bee population well. Linden trees, for instance, are “phenomenal” nectar producers, Johnson said.

Sponsler said there’s plenty of room to improve urban plant diversity and keep honey bees satiated there as well as in the country.

“There’s no reason why our urban landscapes cannot be full of flowers. It’s just that we’ve inherited a certain preference toward things that look like golf courses rather than things that look like prairies.”

Other Ohio State researchers who worked on the study were Emma Matcham, Chia-Hua Lin and Jessie Lanterman.

The study was supported by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.


Spatial and Taxonomic Patterns of Honey Bee Foraging: A Choice Test Between Urban and Agricultural Landscapes (Journal of Urban Ecology)

Ohio State University  By Denise Ellsworth   February 16, 2017

The health of honey bee colonies cannot be understood apart from the landscapes in which they live. Urban and agricultural developments are two of the most dramatic and widespread forms of human land use, but their respective effects on honey bees remain poorly understood. Here, we evaluate the relative attractiveness of urban and agricultural land use to honey bees by conducting a foraging choice test. Our study was conducted in the summer and fall, capturing a key portion of the honey bee foraging season that includes both the shift from summer- to fall-blooming flora and the critical period of pre-winter food accumulation. Colonies located at an apiary on the border of urban and agricultural landscapes were allowed to forage freely, and we observed their spatial and taxonomic foraging patterns using a combination of dance language analysis and pollen identification. We found a consistent spatial bias in favor of the agricultural landscape over the urban, a pattern that was corroborated by the prevalence in pollen samples of adventitious taxa common in the agricultural landscape. The strongest bias toward the agricultural environment occurred late in the foraging season, when goldenrod became the principal floral resource. We conclude that, in our study region, the primary honey bee foraging resources are more abundant in agricultural than in urban landscapes, a pattern that is especially marked at the end of the foraging season as colonies prepare to overwinter. Urban beekeepers in this region should, therefore, consider supplemental feeding when summer-blooming flora begin to decline. (Full paper here.)

Douglas B. Sponsler, Emma G. Matcham, Chia-Hua Lin, Jessie L. Lanterman, Reed M. Johnson


2017 Spring Pollen and Nectar Source: Pussy Willow

Bee Informed Partnership     By Rob Snyder     February 14, 2017

As spring approaches and the days grow longer, more plants are starting to bloom, including pussy willows. These plants usually bloom here in Northern California between February and March. There are several species of this plant but Salix discolor is the most commonly found. I usually find these trees near water though they are also used as ornamental plantings. There is a tree in the image below in bloom.

Willow starting to bloom.

Once you get closer to the trees, you can start to see the catkins, which are unique on this plant as opposed to the alders which are also in bloom now (For more information see Ben’s Blog from last week). There are two pictures below showing the difference between the two catkins. Here you can see the anthers of the pussy willow which don’t appear to have much powdery pollen on them because of the rain and wind. The dioecious trees produce both nectar and pollen, only the male produces pollen. They can produce a considerable amount of nectar but usually it is too cold for the bees to really work the plants. I’ve read that they can produce 100-150 lbs. of nectar and 1500 lbs. of pollen per acre, but have not seen this in any operations. The pollen has 20-25% crude protein, about average in blooming plants, but helps when nothing else is really blooming at the time..

Alder Catkins

Pussy Willow Catkin.

A compelling point about the pussy willows is that they are easy to propagate; you can cut off new growth and place it in water for several weeks until roots are visible and then the cutting is now ready to plant. I have not tried this, but I would think rooting hormone would speed up the process. I may attempt to propagate some this spring. I will post photos if everything works out


These Winter Blooming Plants Give Bees a Boost

The Orgonian   By Kim Pokorny    January 15, 2017

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Bees and other pollinators out and about during the dark days of winter look to gardeners for the nourishment that keeps them going until the more abundant seasons of the year arrive.

"Black-tailed bumblebees are out as early as January," said Andony Melathopoulos, a bee specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service. "Native bees are just starting and will be seen more often later in February when the wild willow starts blooming."

Though there are winter-flowering plants growing in the wild, many pollinators don't live anywhere near them. That makes using cultivated winter bloomers an important consideration when planning a garden.

"Even a small amount of habitat will sustain bees, even rare species," Melanthopoulos said. "These are tiny creatures. Well-thought-out landscapes can provide all the food they need in winter. Gardeners can really help with that."

Granted, there aren't that many plants that flower in winter, but what's out there adds much-needed brightness to the garden and sustenance for pollinators. Melathopoulos suggested the following winter-blooming plants.

Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard): If left to bloom into winter (which they will), your brassica crops will attract a bevy of bees.

Hazelnut (Corylus): Members of the Corylus genus - including the popular contorted and weeping hazelnuts - are one of earliest sources of pollen for bees.

Oregon grape (Mahonia): No garden - or bee - should be without one of these evergreen shrubs, especially since it's designated Oregon's state flower. But an even better reason are the insanely yellow flowers that last for weeks.

Heath and heather (Erica and Calluna): Bees zoom in to heaths and heathers like they're approaching a runway. In shades from purple to copper to gold, these low-growing plants make a mat of color throughout the year, including winter.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflora): Though it doesn't have the fragrance of other jasmines, this vining shrub has bright yellow flowers that are a welcome sight in winter.

Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii): The burke Viburnum is best known for the clusters of fragrant white blooms that bees find irresistible.

Sweet box (Sarcococcus confusa): It's not the inconspicuous wispy white flowers that draw attention in deepest winter, it's the waft of fragrance that attracts both people and bees.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis): Bees get fired up over witch hazel with its crepe-paperlike flowers in colors of orange, red and, most famously, yellow.


Help Bees By Restoring Natural Landscapes, Roadside Planting, Green Belts, Green Roofs and Urban Gardening Initiatives

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Billy Hicks    January 16, 2017

Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, discusses the different varieties of bees at Rush Ranch, recently. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)SUISUN CITY — As a county with an economy strongly tied to agriculture, Solano County should care greatly about the health and well-being of bees.

Educating local residents on ways to improve local living conditions for bee populations was the aim of a highly popular program being hosted by Solano Land Trust at Rush Ranch, recently.

The program, moderated by University of California, Davis Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, helped define exactly what bees are and aren’t, identified some different varieties and ways to help support those bee populations.

Related to wasps, which are carnivorous, Thorp said that bees, “are simply wasps that have gone vegan,” relying on pollen and nectar as a food source.

Another key difference is that bees, unlike wasps, not only collect pollen but are adapted to do so efficiently. Bees have branched hairs on their bodies, which wasps do not, aiding in their capacity to carry pollen. Likewise, bees generate an electrostatic charge when they fly, helping pollen cling to them.

The most surprising fact for many was the wide variety of bee species. Most people likely associate bees with the creatures that make honey, but there are between 20,000 to 30,000 bee species in North America, which is more than the total number of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians combined.

About 1,600 varieties of bees live in California, and 300 of those call the Solano/Yolo county areas home. Not all of those types live in hives, create honey or live as part of a social group, Thorp said.

Many build nests in the soil or wood. Those living in wood seal off some of these chambers with a slurry made from wood particles.

“Bees invented particle board a long time before people did,” Thorp said.

Even in hot climate conditions, bees have proven to be highly adaptive. Some bee varieties will collect water, deliver it to a hive or nest then fan the water with their wings, Thorp said.

“They came up with the idea for a swamp cooler a long time ago,” he joked.

There are a number of environmental stresses on bee populations, not all of which are manmade. Thorp said there are a number of manmade solutions that can benefit bees – and thus, local agriculture. Among those were the restoration of landscapes, roadside planting, green belts, green roofs and urban gardening initiatives.

More information about steps to help encourage bee populations to thrive locally is available at www.helpabee.org.


Valley Farmers Aim to Provide Bees With Appetizers, Dessert to go With Main Meal

 The Fresno Bee - Agriculture    By John Holland    January 17, 2016 

Daikon radish was planted in an almond orchard near Livingston so the flowers could provide food for bees in advance of the almond pollination in February. John Holland

About a month from now, billions of bees will get to work pollinating nearly 1 million acres of California almonds.

Mustard flowers were sown in an almond orchard near Livingston to provide food for bees in advance of the almond pollination in February. John HollandOn a small part of that acreage, growers are providing other flowers for the bees to dine on before and after the almond bloom. They hope to strengthen the insects against disease and other challenges that have reduced their numbers in recent years.

An orchard east of Livingston provided a glimpse Tuesday of how it works – in this case with yellow mustard and daikon radish sown in the fall. They provide nectar and pollen at a time of year when it is not available on most of the nation’s farmland and wild areas.

“It sustains the bees and boosts their health in myriad ways,” said Billy Synk, who runs a program that offers free seeds to almond growers. They can plant them between the tree rows, at orchard edges and at other spots without reducing their nut yield, he said.

The Almond Board of California, based in Modesto, hosted the demonstration at Jean Okuye’s farm along Olive Avenue. She has 19 of the farm’s roughly 6,000 acres enrolled so far in the Seeds for Bees program.

Almond grower Ralf Sauter speaks in an orchard near Livingston on Tuesday about mustard flowers that were sown to provide food for bees in advance of the almond pollination in February.

Almonds are second only to milk for gross income among the state’s farm products. About two-thirds of the nation’s commercial bee colonies are trucked to the Central Valley each year to do the essential task of moving pollen among the blossoms.

Beekeepers expect to lose some of their colonies each winter, but the losses have grown for reasons that are still being studied. They could include disease, parasites, pesticides, the stress from trucking, or poor nutrition when drought reduces flowering plants.

Seeds for Bees this year provided several types of mustard and clover, along with the lana type of vetch. They flower from January, when almond trees are bare, through the end of nut pollination in late March.

The bees gain weight and immunity from disease thanks to the extra food, said Synk, director of pollination programs for Project Apis m. It is named for Apis mellifera, the scientific term for the European honeybee, the species at issue.

Daikon radish was planted in an almond orchard near Livingston so the flowers could provide food for bees in advance of the almond pollination in February.The plants add organic matter that improves soil fertility and water retention, Synk said, and they can be mown well in advance of the nut harvest. Almond growers like to minimize the debris that could get picked up with the crop shaken from the trees.

The additional food sources do not appear to keep bees from fully pollinating the trees, said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board. He added that some beekeepers have discounts for program participants because it reduces the need to feed sugar and other winter supplements to the colonies.

For more information, go to www.projectapism.org. Read more here: ttp://www.fresnobee.com/news/business/agriculture/article127111249.html#storylink=cpy


Bees Knees: A New $4M Effort Aims to Stop the Death Spiral of Honey Bees

The Guardian  By Allison Moodie    December 11, 2016 

General Mills is co-funding a project with the federal government to restore the habitat of pollinators such as bees and butterflies on North American farms

On the 33-acre Prairie Drifter Farm in central Minnesota, farmers Joan and Nick Olson are cultivating more than just organic vegetables. Alongside their seven acres of crops – including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions – they’ve also planted flowering plants, dogwood and elderberry hedgerows to accommodate species of bees and butterflies essential for the health of the crops.

The Olsons are not beekeepers, but they are part of a movement to reconnect sustainable farming to a healthy environment. As part of a 2013 project by Xerces Society, a nonprofit that specializes in wildlife preservation, the Olsons worked with a biologist to figure out what types of flowers and shrubs to plant to attract bees, butterflies and other insects that pollinate plants. With seeds and plants they received from Xerxes, and those bought with federal grants, the couple also planted strips of grasses and flowers to attract beetles, which help to defend the vegetables against pests.

“There’s now a ton of bees – bumblebees, honeybees, sweat bees – and predatory insects,” Joan Olson said, adding that the flowering plants also add beauty to the land. “It’s good for the habitat but it’s also lovely for us.”

The Olsons’ effort is one that General Mills, in partnership with Xerces and the US Department of Agriculture, hopes to replicate in other parts of the country in a new initiative. The company is contributing $2m to an ongoing project by Xerces to restore 100,000 acres of farmland in North America over the next five years. The project, which will receive an additional $2m from the agriculture department, will bring General Mills’ investment in pollinator habitat restoration to $6m since 2011.

“Most of our products contain honey, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that require pollination,” said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “So healthy and abundant bee populations are a priority for us.”

Each year, pollinators contribute more than $24bn to the US economy. Honeybees alone are responsible for $15bn of it by boosting the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables. But bee and other pollinator populations such as butterflies have been in decline in recent years, which has made food giants sit up and take notice.

Nearly 30% of American honeybees were lost last winter, according to the department of agriculture. More than aquarter of the 46 bumblebee species in North America are considered at risk. Another study found that up to 40% of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, are in decline worldwide.

“One in three bites of food that we eat comes from a pollinator, as well as nearly three-quarters of the crops that we eat,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

Scientists are still investigating what is causing the mass die-off of bees, although they have reasons to believe that pesticides, fungicides, disease and a loss of habitat are all contributing factors. General Mills has been under pressure to protect the bees from exposure to pesticides.

A 2015 study of wild bees showed the wild bee population in major agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley.

Studies show that habitat restoration is an effective way to increase bee and other pollinator populations. Restoration work involves planting flowers and shrubs on marginal land, typically narrow strips and edges that border crop fields. President Obama established a 2014 task force that developed a plan to boost pollinator populations, which committed to restoring 7m acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.

“Restoration boils down to having the right kind of flowers in the places pollinators live, and having a lot of them,” said Andony Melathopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health extension at Oregon State University.

As part of its restoration initiative, Xerces will hire six conservation specialists to work with the staff from the agriculture department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has field offices throughout the country. The conservation service works with local farmers and will refer to Xerces those who want to create a pollinator habitat on their farms. There’s no limit to the type or size of the farms that could participate.

Xerces’s specialists will visit each participating farm to help draw up a plan on what and where to plant and how to minimize the use of pesticides. For instance, California farmers could plant baby blue eyes to attract native bees, or narrowleaf milkweed for monarch butterflies.

“Many farmers are good at growing single crops, but pollinator habitat is about growing diversity, something a lot of farmers haven’t done,” Black said, adding that figuring out a good mixture of plants can be tricky. “Some sites might be wetter, some might be drier or on a slope. There’s a lot that goes into what type of flowers will attract which pollinators on what site.”

There are potential downsides to any habitat restoration effort. Some insects that live in hedgerows are pests that could destroy a farmer’s crops. As part of the program, farmers will learn how to minimize this risk by choosing plants that pests don’t like.

Habitat restoration can also be expensive. Costs vary depending on the amount of work needed to prepare for planting and the types of plants used. The least costly habitat might be around $500 an acre, Black said, but a thriving habitat with a dense amount of flowering plants can set a farmer back $1000 to $2000 an acre.

Hedgerows, which consist of woody plants laid out in a straight line along crop fields, can also be costly, between $5000 and $6000 per mile.

Preparing the soil and planting the flowers and shrubs strategically are also more labor-intensive than many farmers realize. This is what farmers have the hardest time grasping, said Black.

“We live in a society where everything gets done now,” he said. “We tell farmers to take a step back and do this first step right so it works in the long run.”

Xerces will measure the success of the project mainly based on the acres of pollinator habitats created. It’s planted roughly 150,000 acres this year, and about 400,000 acres since it started restoring habitats in 2008. The biologists also plan to walk the fields and record the bee count and species, although Xerces couldn’t say how often this will occur.

Creating a habitat to accommodate a variety of bee species can sometimes be even more important than maintaining a high number of bees, Black said. Each species may prefer visiting different flowers and plants – a mixture of species is good for pollination.

“We also want to make a difference with our small piece of land, and make it a teaching tool for our kids and the community,” Joan Olson said.

The Plants the Help Monarchs Also Help Honey Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ  By Candace Fallon   December 15, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Monarchs are in decline across North America. With milkweed loss in the east identified as a major contributing factor to this decline, the national call to action has understandably focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, and a favorite for honey bees, too. Yet while restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region, but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists for the continental U.S. based on a database of nearly 24,000 monarch nectaring observations. Each of the 15 regional guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting.

Read more about this project at http://www.xerces.org/blog/to-save-monarchs-we-need-more-than-just-milkweed/  or find a nectar plant guide for your region herehttp://www.xerces.org/monarch-nectar-plants/

These plant lists are works-in-progress and benefit from your help. You can submit additional monarch nectaring observations via our online survey. We are grateful to the many different researchers and monarch enthusiasts across the country who have already contributed to our database – thank you! 

To Save Monarchs We Need More Than Just Milkweed

Xerces Society  By Candace Fallon   December 7, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) was the plant with the most records of nectaring 
monarchs of any plant in the database. (Photo: Joshua Mayer/Flickr) 

The message is out: Monarchs are in decline across North America. The loss of milkweed plants due to extensive herbicide use and changes in farming practices, such as the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops, has been identified as a major contributing factor of monarch’s decline in the eastern U.S. Disease, climate change, widespread insecticide use, and loss or degradation of nectar-rich habitat may also be contributing to declines. A memorandum issued by President Obama and subsequent U.S. national strategy to protect monarchs and other pollinators, in addition to a recent petition to list monarchs under the Endangered Species Act, has highlighted their plight and led to a surge of interest in protecting these amazing animals and their phenomenal fall migration.

The national call to action has focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, a simple and effective way to support monarch conservation. However, it is important to remember that milkweed may not be appropriate in every landscape. For example, we do not recommend planting milkweed in areas such as coastal California, where it did not historically occur.

While restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter. Too few nectar plants in the landscape may reduce the number of monarchs that successfully arrive at overwintering sites in the fall.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region (including from the Xerces Society), but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. To address this need, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists based on a database of monarch nectaring observations compiled from a wide variety of sources, including published and technical reports, research datasets, and personal communications with monarch researchers, lepidopterists, botanists, and other experts. This database now houses nearly 24,000 reported monarch nectaring observations on 358 native plant species.

Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society used this database to develop monarch nectar plant guides for all regions of the continental U.S.  Each of the 15 guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting—although, as with any plant choice, we encourage you to use additional references when making final species determinations for your location. 


 Second place in the “Nectar Plant Top 10” went to bearded beggarticks (Bidens aristosa),
which is native in eastern and central North America. It blooms in late summer,
just in time for the monarchs fall migration. (Photo: Dennis Burnette) 

Whenever possible, we included species that were reported by multiple sources or were noted to be exceptional monarch magnets. Each list is also tailored to include only species that bloom during the times of year that monarchs are expected to be in each region. Only native species were included. (These plant lists were compiled using the best available data, but we expect to update them as new information is available. You can help us improve them by submitting your own monarch nectaring observations via our online survey.)

These guides are geared toward gardeners and landscape designers but will also be useful for land managers who are undertaking large-scale monarch restoration projects. And importantly, the plants on these lists will attract not only monarchs but also many other pollinators, from butterflies and moths to bees and hummingbirds.


Nectar Plant Top 10: The ten flowers in this table are those with the greatest number of recorded observations of nectaring monarchs—but be sure to check the nectar plant list for your region to find out which plants are the best for where you live!


How DNA and a Supercomputer Can Help Sustain Honey Bee Populations

Science Daily   Source: Botanical Society of America   November 13, 2015

New multi-locus metabarcoding approach for pollen analysis uncovers what plants bee species rely on

To uncover what plants honey bees rely on, researchers from The Ohio State University are using the latest DNA sequencing technology and a supercomputer. They spent months collecting pollen from beehives and have developed a multi-locus metabarcoding approach to identify which plants, and what proportions of each, are present in pollen samples.

A single beehive can collect pollen from dozens of different plant species, and this pollen is useful evidence of the hive's foraging behavior and nutrition preferences.

"Knowing the degree to which certain plants are being foraged upon allows us to infer things like the potential for pesticide exposure in a given landscape, the preference of certain plant species over others, and the degree to which certain plant species contribute to the honey bee diet," says graduate student Rodney Richardson. "One of the major interests of our lab is researching honey bee foraging preferences so we can enhance landscapes to sustain robust honey bee populations."

For Richardson and his colleagues, metabarcoding is key to this research. It is a DNA analysis method that enables researchers to identify biological specimens.

Metabarcoding works by comparing short genetic sequence "markers" from unidentified biological specimens to libraries of known reference sequences. It can be used to detect biological contaminants in food and water, characterize animal diets from dung samples, and even test air samples for bacteria and fungal spores. In the case of pollen, it could save researchers countless hours of identifying and counting individual pollen grains under a microscope.

Richardson and his colleagues devised the new metabarcoding method using three specific locations in the genome, or loci, as markers. They found that using multiple loci simultaneously produced the best metabarcoding results for pollen. The entire procedure, including DNA extraction, sequencing, and marker analysis, is described in the November issue of Applications in Plant Sciences.

To develop the new method, the researchers needed a machine powerful enough to process millions of DNA sequences. For this work, the team turned to the Ohio Supercomputer Center.

"As a researcher, you feel like a kid in a candy store," Richardson says. "You can analyze huge datasets in an instant and experiment with the fast-evolving world of open source bioinformatics software as well as the vast amount of publicly available data from previous studies."

In previous metabarcoding experiments, the researchers worked solely with a marker found in the nuclear genome called ITS2. ITS2 successfully identified plant species present in pollen samples, but it could not produce quantitative measurements of the proportions of each.

While searching for something better, they decided to test two markers from the plastid genome. Pollen was previously thought to rarely contain plastids, but recent studies showed promise for plastid-based barcoding of pollen. Richardson and his colleagues found that the combined data from the two plastid markers, rbcL and matK, successfully correlated with microscopic measurements of pollen abundance.

The new multi-locus metabarcoding method involves all three markers and could serve as a valuable tool for research on the native bee species that comprise local bee communities.

"With a tool like this, we could more easily assess what plants various bee species are relying on, helping to boost their populations as well as the economic and ecological services they provide to our agricultural and natural landscapes." Richardson says, "While the honey bee is seen as our most economically important pollinator, it's only one of several hundred bee species in Ohio, the vast majority of which are greatly understudied in terms of their foraging ecology."

Read at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151113144542.htm

More Problems for Bees; We've Wiped Out Their Favorite Plants

Arstechnica.com   By Diana Gitig   November 25, 2014 

Pollen samples from old museum specimens indicate bees' favorite meals are gone.

That orange blob on the bees legs is all pollen, saved for a future meal. (Credit: CA Dept of Food & Ag)Bees are disappearing—that much is certain. What's unclear is why. Pathogens and pesticides have been posited as potential causes, as has the loss of bees' preferred floral resources. This last reason has intuitive appeal: wildflowers are disappearing because of agriculture, and bees rely on the pollen and nectar in flowers, so the loss of flowers should be causing the loss of bees.

But a demonstration of this seemingly simple idea has been hard to come by. Different species of bees rely on different plants—the bee species that are disappearing have never been analyzed in terms of taste for the plants that are disappearing to see if they match up. And, once the bees or plants are gone...

Read more... http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/11/more-problems-for-bees-weve-wiped-out-their-favorite-plants/#p3

Related article:  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v516/n7529/full/516010a.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20141204#access

From Project Apis m. - The Forage and Nutrition Summit

Project Apis m. The Forage and Nutrition Summit    October 24, 2014

Beekeepers Speak Up at the Forage and Nutrition Summit

by Christi Heintz and Meg Ribotto, Project Apis m.

The Honey Bee Forage and Nutrition Summit, sponsored by USDA, was held October 20-21, in Alexandria, VA.  The Summit was postured to seek input from stakeholder groups on issues concerning the interaction of nutrition and available forage on honey bee health.  The Summit was organized and hosted by a true friend of the honey bee, Dr. David Epstein of USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy.

Day 1 consisted of a series of presentations aimed at honey bee forage and nutrition, and to provide background for Day 2, when participants provided input by participating in one of four assigned work groups.

Zac Browning, American Beekeeping Federation and Project Apis m board member, provided a dire view of honey bee habitat in the US.  The impact of habitat loss is seen in decreased honey production, with US honey crops the lowest in history.  Browning emphasized bees require 200 lb of honey and 40 lb of pollen per colony per year just to survive and factors such as increased soy and corn acreage, the decreased quantity and quality of Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP) lands, increased herbicide use, more efficient farming practices, and limitations imposed by pesticide use, all serve to decrease available flowers and forage for honey bees.  Honey bees, the very backbone of agriculture, are in trouble.  The unique delivery system for bees to agricultural crops - the beekeeper - is also in trouble.

An impressive slate of researchers followed Browning’s presentation, emphasizing the important role of nutrition in honey bee health and in mitigating the impacts of pests, diseases and even pesticide exposure.  

Presentations by government representatives were somewhat disheartening.  The Department of Defense, manager of huge acreage in the US, was a no-show.  The National Park Service, understandably, wants to keep its lands pristine and would only consider “manipulated” or urban areas as suitable for bees.  Urban areas, of course, are not suitable for commercially managed bees.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service will consider apiary locations on a case-by-case basis, but 85% of BLM offices surveyed didn’t know whether or not they even provided apiary permits.  Let’s hope the President’s White House Initiatives hold some hope for bees on our public lands!

In discussions about honey bee forage, beekeepers made it clear they wanted to be at the table when it came to making decisions about plant species and land use.  Government decisions made at the regional level that have excluded yellow sweet clover were called to question.  “Sweet clover is cost effective, bees love it, and it’s good for them”, said RandyVerhoek, American Honey Producers.  “Why is it classified as invasive?” he continued, when questioning how these bottom-up, sometimes subjective, regional decisions are made.  Bret Adee, South Dakota beekeeper, stated that herbicide use on sweet clover growing in roadways and ditches eliminated a critical food source for bees since bees are so dependent now on marginal lands for the ir food. Dr. Marla Spivak summed it up on Day 2, “Bees are in crisis.  Beekeepers need sweet clover now”.   No doubt one of the next research avenues as a result of the Summit will be identifying high quality honey bee nectar and pollen sources that fit well within goals for a an overall healthier environment.   Unlike the report on the Varroa Summit that seems to have been lost somewhere in the halls of USDA, Dr. Epstein has personally promised timely reporting on the Forage and Nutrition Summit.

If bees and beekeepers are to survive, affordable seed mixtures and incentives for landowners, even those not needing pollination services directly, must be developed to increase honey bee forage opportunities.   Bees, beekeepers, their honey crop, and the over 90 crops dependent on honey bee pollination, cannot survive on a ditch diet alone.

From CATCH THE BUZZ - By Kim Flottum

For more information about the summit: http://pollinator.org/nappc/taskforces.htm