Let's Celebrate National Pollinator Week

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey June 14, 2019

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, “Miss Bee Haven,” anchors the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, “Miss Bee Haven,” anchors the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey Bee Haven.jpg

Did you know that next week is National Pollinator Week?

It is. June 17-21 is the week set aside to celebrate pollinators and how we can protect them.

Actually, National Pollinator Week should be every day.

Launched 12 years ago under U.S. Senate approval,  National Pollinator Week zeroes in on the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, according to Pollinator Partnership, which manages the national celebration.  (Other pollinators include syrphid or hover flies, mosquitoes, moths, pollen wasps, and ants. Pollination involves the transfer of pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma.)

On the UC Davis campus, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be a "hive" of activity next week, announced manager Christine Casey, academic program management officer. "We'll be hosting National Pollinator Week events Monday through Friday, June 17 to 21, between 10 a.m. and noon each day." Activities include bee information and identification, solitary bee house making, and catch-and-release bee observation.

The haven volunteers also will sell bee friendly plants and bee houses to support the haven (cash and checks only).

A new event at the haven is hive opening. At 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, California Master Beekeeper Program volunteers will open the hive in the haven "so visitors may see the girls in action." The haven, installed in the fall of 2009,  is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It is open from dawn to dark, free admission.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is planning a free webinar Insect Apocalypse? What Is Really Happening, Why It Matters and How Natural Area Managers Can Help on Tuesday, June 18. The webinar, by Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society begins at noon, Eastern Time, which is 9 a.m., Pacific Time. 

Black says he will "explain the latest science on insect declines and highlight important ways natural areas managers can incorporate invertebrate conservation into their land management portfolio. Though they are indisputably the most important creatures on earth, invertebrates are in trouble. Recent regional reports and trends in biomonitoring suggest that insects are experiencing a multi continental crisis evident as reductions in abundance, diversity and biomass. Given the centrality of insects to terrestrial and freshwater aquatic ecosystems and the food chain that supports humans, the potential importance of this crisis cannot be overstated. If we hope to stem the losses of insect diversity and the services they provide, society must take steps at all levels to protect, restore and enhance habitat for insects across landscapes, from wildlands to farmlands to urban cores. Protecting and managing existing habitat is an essential step as natural areas can act as reservoirs for invertebrate diversity." Click here for more information and to register.

Happy Pollinator Week! Think the "b" alliteration: bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. But don't forget the flies, ants, mosquitoes and moths!

Visitors to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Visitors to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Protecting Honey Bees and Wild Pollinators From Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides advocates for widespread adoption of organic management practices as key to protecting pollinators and the environment, and has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that legally prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. Learn more (below) on the role that pesticides play in pollinator decline, and actions you can take to BEE Protective. For information on growing plants to protect pollinators, see our Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide to plant a pollinator garden suited for your region, and consider seeding white clover into your lawn; learn more from Taking a Stand on Clover.

Read more: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/bee-protective

A Former Lawn Sets The Stage For A Wildflower Super Bloom In Woodland Hills

Los Angeles Times (Home & Garden)     By Lisa Boone     May 15, 2018

Andrea Fields' former front lawn is now filled with low water plants, a swale and a plethora of wildflowers. The Woodland Hills homeowner took advantage of the turf removal rebate in 2015 -- and received $15,000 to remove and relandscape her front and back lawns. (Katie Falkenberg)California's super bloom hasn't materialized the way it did last spring, but that hasn't stopped Woodland Hills homeowners Ron Gales and Andrea Fields from enjoying a spectacular wildflower bloom of their own.

Walking up to the house in springtime, it's hard to believe the landscape was "an ugly lawn filled with weeds" when they purchased the home in 2009.

When the drought hit, the couple wanted to save water but was overwhelmed by the prospect of removing more than 6,000-square-feet of turf. When the Metropolitan Water District began offering turf removal rebates in 2015, the couple felt empowered to remove both lawns and start over.

They turned to landscape designer Marilee Kuhlmann of the Santa Monica-based Urban Water Group, who had transformed their neighbor's yard with low-water, low-maintenance plants.

To create the meadow-like gardens, Kuhlmann first removed the lawns, which the couple had stopped watering. She then transformed the blank canvas with permeable pathways made from broken concrete to allow visitors to experience the garden firsthand — woolly grevillea, sun-loving purple celosia intenz, flowering desert willow and rock roses, prickly yucca and fragrant calamint and Russian sage, among others. With water conservation in mind, she also installed a drip irrigation system, added mulch to retain moisture and swales and rain barrels to collect rainwater.

Lupine and California poppies bloom in Woodland Hills. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)Three years ago, Fields broadcast several packs of wildflowers, including California poppy, lupine and clarkia, in the gardens. From then on, the gardens have been inhabited with brightly colored wildflowers year-round, especially in the spring.

"We wanted color," Fields says of the makeover. "We wanted it to look natural. We like the wild look."

And while Fields admits that wildflower cleanup can be labor-intensive, she isn't complaining.

"The backyard looks so amazing from our kitchen," she says of the project which cost $15,000 after a turf removal rebate of $15,000. "It's just spectacular. We sit and have dinner and look out over the backyard, and it makes us feel like we are living in a beautiful forest."

The backyard, which was formerly a lawn, in bloom. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

A partial list of plants used in the Gales-Fields gardens:

Acacia farnesiana, or 'Sierra Sweet'
Aloe 'Fairy Pink'
Arctotis 'Pumpkin Pie'
Celosia intenz and argentea
Cercis canadensis, or 'Forest Pansy'
Chilopsis linearis, or 'Lucretia Hamilton'
Cistanthe grandiflora, or 'Jazz Time'
Cistus x pulverulentus, or 'Sunset'
Dasylirion wheeleri
Eremophila racemose
Fuchsia thymifolia
Grevillea 'Bonfire,' 'Moonlight' and grevillea paniculata
Hakea nodosa
Helictotrichon semp., or 'Sapphire'
Hesperaloe parviflora, 'Breaklights;' parviflora yellow, 'Pink Parade'
Juncus phaeocephalus
Lavandula 'Regal Splendor'
Leucadendron 'Red Eye,' Leucadendron salignum, 'Silvan Red,'
Maytenus phyllanthoides
Melampodium leucanthum
Myoporum montanum
Penstemon 'Garnet,' Penstemon ambiguus, 'Shadow Mountain'
Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire,'
Pimelea 'Snow Clouds'
Prosopis 'Hybrid Phoenix'
Rhamnus californica 'Mound San Bruno'
Rudbeckia 'Black Eyed Susan'
Salvia chamaedryoides, Salvia greggii 'Red,' 
Salvia greggii 'Sierra Linda,' Salvia guarantica 'Black & Blue'
Santolina neapolitana 'Lemon Queen'
Verbena rigida

Show us your garden makeover

We're highlighting yards and gardens that go from heavy water users to thrifty water sippers. If you've given your yard a drought-tolerant makeover, send "before" and "after" pictures to home@latimes.com. We may include your yard in an upcoming Saturday section.


Twitter: @lisaboone19

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A Pasadena garden mixes fresh and modern design with a rustic style

Before & After: A massive front lawn is transformed into an inviting, low-water landscape

Photos: Ready to scratch the grass? Here are 27 inspiring lawn-free yards


10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Superstar Dutch Designer Piet Oudolf

Gardenista     By Michelle Slatalla     April 7, 2018

If the world of gardening has rock stars, Piet Oudolf qualifies as Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Prince rolled into one. The Dutch landscape designer—whose work is instantly recognizable for its dreamy romanticism and oft-copied for its emphasis on sustainable, sensible plantings—makes it look so easy. But is it?

We’ve dog-eared Oudolf’s books. Hummelo and Planting: A New Perspective are our two gardening bibles (and we quote from both below). Reading them, you learn that signature Oudolf style calls for drifts of grasses, perfectly appropriate perennials, and garden beds that look beautiful even in the depths of winter. Here are 10 of Piet Oudolf’s best ideas to steal for your own garden.

Continue reading at: https://www.gardenista.com/posts/10-garden-ideas-to-steal-from-superstar-dutch-designer-piet-oudolf/

Photography via Hummelo, courtesy of The Monacelli Press.

Using Science to Design a Bee Garden: Color and What Bees See

The Bee Gardener    By Christine Casey    March 26, 2018

Bee gardening news and education from the UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven

Spring is here, and planting is underway in bee gardens throughout California. And planting, especially if you're creating a new garden, means you are thinking about design. In this series of posts I will cover various aspects of garden design -- such as color, texture, shape, and size -- from the perspective of what bees need. Based on research, this information should provide a solid foundation for a successful bee garden.

This post will focus on color. An understanding of color theory is helpful in creating an aesthetically pleasing garden for us, but color is also relevant for bees. All color wheel screen shots shown here are from the Adobe web page

1. Complementary colors. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are complementary; this is one of the easiest ways to select colors. Using opposite colors together makes each color appear more vibrant.

Complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel.

Red and green are complementary colors. Note how the red flowers are accentuated against the green of the foliage in this photo of 'Royal Bumble' sage.

Purple and yellow are excellent complementary colors for a bee garden

2. Analogous colors. Colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel are analogous; using these colors can be a bit trickier, especially with hot colors like oranges and reds. One way to combine these effectively is to mix in white, as is done here with white gaura in this planting of the analogous colors pink (echinacea) and purple (tall verbena).

Analogous colors are those that are next to each other on the color wheel

Analogous colors can be softened with white flowers

3. Shades of one color. This is the easiest combination to pull off. Cool colors (blues and purples) tend to create a calming effect and make the garden appear larger, while warm colors (reds and yellows) create energy and make the garden appear smaller. Here is an example of shades of a cool color (purple) used in the Haven: 

Shades of one color can also create an effective garden color scheme

Shades of purple in the Honey Bee Haven

So how do we meld this with bee biology? Here are some pointers:

1. Bees see color differently than we do. They don't see red at all, and see purple very well....there's a reason we have so many purple flowers in the Haven. Here's an example: the first photo shows a flannel bush flower in daylight, while the second shows it under ultraviolet (UV) light, which is the light spectrum where bees see. The 'invisible' nectar (to us) is a bright blue beacon to bees under UV light.

Flannel bush flower as we see it

Flannel bush flower as bees see it

But, you might be thinking, I see bees on red flowers all the time! Well bees can use more than color to find a flower, which brings us to scent....I'll discuss this in a future post. 

2. Does color pattern in the garden matter to bees? One study (Proc. R. Soc. London B. 2003. 270: 569-575) found that honey bee foraging distance was longer in simple landscapes; this makes sense because honey bees do best with a varied diet and need to travel further to find a mix of flowers in a simple landscape. Conversely, waggle dance activity was greater in complex landscapes because the patches of plants were more variable -- high quality and low quality plants were mixed together. So it's also important to ensure a good mix of high-quality bee plants in appropriately-sized patches.

3. Another aspect of flower color often not considered is patterns on the flowers themselves. Called nectar guides, these serve to guide bees into the nectary. Of course they pick up and deposit pollen as they do this, thereby pollinating the flower.

Spotted nectar guides in the center of Texas ranger flowers

For lots more detail about how bees see, check out this article. My next post will cover shape, size, scent, and texture. I'll finish with suggested plant lists and planting plans. Here's to your successful bee garden!


Wildflower Garden Mega Time Lapse - 9 Full Months

The Pollinator Partnership  Jim Burnham published to YouTube March 17, 2018

Jim Burnham created this nine-month time lapse of a huge wildflower garden in Washington, IL. It is a designated Monarch Waystation and part of the Illinois Buffer partnership to improve pollinator habitat. Check out the Pollinator Partnership quotes at the end! Nine months and 148,000 plus photos compressed into a spectacular time lapse showing a wildflower garden from early Spring to Winter.  (Original music composition "Spring" by Simeon Amburgey) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRSfRfy78w&t=304s

Scientists Discover Optical Illusion Some Flowers Use to Attract Bees

Inquisitr/Discoveries     By Lorenzo Tanos     October 21, 2017

New research suggests that there are certain flowers that attract bees with a rather unusual optical illusion that’s visible to the insects, but not to human observers in most cases.

Typically, gardeners attract bumblebees by planting blue flowers such as hydrangeas and delphiniums, as noted on a report from the Daily Mail. These flowers are high in nectar and are easily capable of attracting bees on their own. But the new discovery points to something different altogether — flowers luring the insects with microscopic ridges found on their petals. These ridges spread out a “blue halo” of light, creating an “aura” that could also be used as a bee signal.

“The exciting thing is that it is a new optical trick – we didn’t know that flowers could use disorder to generate a specific color, and that is quite clever,” said study co-author Beverley Glover, from the University of Cambridge in England.

The Guardian wrote that the discovery of how flowers attract bees via optical effects builds on previous research from Glover and her colleagues, who had found that the small ridges on the petals of select flowers are capable of bending light — a phenomenon known as diffracting. Having discovered some plants that could diffract, the researchers examined the petals of 12 different flower species to see if the phenomenon also occurred in them. Using artificial flowers with and without blue halos and testing them on bees, the researchers later found that the bees tended to go to the flowers with halos, while also using the blue hue to inform them which of the artificial flowers came with a sugar solution reward.

Based on their findings, Glover’s team found that each of the flowers’ ridges had their own unique architecture, with the heights and spacings of the ridges tending to vary in particular. And while it was found that all 12 flowers only gave off a weak sheen, the researchers discovered that the ridges were also capable of dispersing blue and ultraviolet light. With that established, the flowers were revealed to have a “blue halo” effect, one that can only be seen by people in darkly-pigmented flowers, and one that differed based on the ridges’ degree of variation in height or spacing.

Humans can’t see the blue hue emitted by the evening primrose’s petal ridges, but bees can. [Image by High Mountain/Shutterstock]The Daily Mail further noted that flowers that attract bees with the blue halo have been around for millions of years. Fossils of flowering plants, or angiosperms, from over 200 million years ago did not yield any proof of petal ridges capable of such optical illusions. But there were “several” examples of blue halo-generating ridges found in examples from two flower groups that had first appeared about 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. These flowers reportedly existed just as bees and other “flower-visiting insects” were beginning to evolve.

“Our findings suggest the petal ridges that produce ‘blue halos’ evolved many times across different flower lineages, all converging on this optical signal for pollinators,” said Glover.

According to the Daily Mail, the Venice Mallow (Hibiscus trionum), Queen of the Night tulips, a species of daisy (Ursinia speciosa), and a species of evening primrose (Oenothera stricta) are among the examples of blue halo-emitting flowers that attract bees.

[Featured Image by Lucia Speck/Shutterstock]


Happy National Honey Bee Day - August 19, 2017

The Bee Gardener    By Christine Casey   August 18, 2017

This Saturday, August 19, 2017, is National Honey Bee Day. This commemoration was created by Pennsylvania beekeepers to recognize the beekeeping industry, honey bees, and the role they play in our food supply. Let's take this opportunity to honor the hard-working honey bees (they pollinate about 85% of bee-pollinated crops in the US, which is worth billions of dollars annually).

To keep honey bees healthy, access to ample, nutritious forage, i.e. flowers, is essential. It's important to provide year-round bloom and to include both pollen and nectar sources. The Haven's web page includes the information you need to develop this in your own garden...

Continue reading: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24934

EPA Honors Fifth-Grader from Everett, Washington for Protecting Bees and Other Pollinators

Environmental Protection Agency News Releases from Region 10   June 14, 2017

St. Mary Magdalen School 5th grader Elizabeth Sajan’s project “Bee Happy We Happy” helps protect bees and other pollinators and encourages her Everett, Washington community to promote bee health by planting bee-friendly flowers, keeping “weeds,” becoming a beekeeper, reducing pesticide use, and including water sources in a garden. Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Elizabeth Sajan, a 5th grade student at St. Mary Magdalen School in Everett, Washington, for her outstanding work to promote and protect bees and other pollinators in her local community. Elizabeth’s project is among 15 student projects from 13 states to receive the 2016 President’s Environmental Youth Award for their environmental education and stewardship achievements.  EPA presented the award at a ceremony today at St. Mary Magdalen School.

“Today, we are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities, and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”

As part of the 5th grade science curriculum, Elizabeth learned about pollination and the importance of bees. The topic struck her curiosity and after encouragement from her teacher, Elizabeth embarked on an independent project to educate herself and her community about bee health and beekeeping.

“I am so proud of Elizabeth for taking a topic we were learning about in class and transforming this topic into a passion,” said Julie Tyndall, Fifth Grade Teacher at St. Mary Magdalen School. “She educated the community about the importance of bees as pollinators, how it will affect our lives if bees disappear, and what we can do to help bees thrive in our communities.” 

During her project “Bee Happy We Happy,” Elizabeth did extensive research including reviewing articles, Washington State University Extension videos on pollination and pollinator protection, a TED talk, visiting a local nursery to understand cultivation, and reaching out to organizations and scientists as direct sources. Her research included sources such as the community horticulture wing of the department of pest management of Washington State University Extension, a chemical engineer in Oregon, and a biotechnologist in pharmaceuticals, which helped her to understand chemicals being used in modern agriculture and managing balanced biodiversity. 

Following her research, to engage her community, Elizabeth created an awareness flier, and set out to distribute it across her school and community. Elizabeth shared actions that her community members could take to promote bee health, such as planting bee-friendly flowers, keeping “weeds,” becoming a beekeeper, reducing pesticide use, and including water sources in a garden. She presented to her classmates and principal, and provided fliers to homeroom teachers to discuss with their science classes. At her local grocery, she engaged customers at the door by giving out her flier and discussing her concerns about bee health and how individuals could make a difference in protecting pollinators. Elizabeth plans to continue to get the message out to her family, friends and community to develop more “bee helpers” in her community. 

President’s Environmental Youth Awards information:  https://www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award


Kate Frey: How to Attract Pollinators

Bug Squad: Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    June 22, 2017

Pollinator enthusiasts Kate Frey (left) and Annie Hayes, owner of Annie's Annuals and Perennials, receive applause at the bee gardening presentation. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's National Pollinator Week and you might be wondering where your pollinators are. 

“I'd love to attract honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators, but what can I do?" you ask. "Where do I start?"

So we asked world-class garden designer Kate Frey of Hopland, a two-time gold medal winner at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, co-founder of the American Garden School, and co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University) for her advice.

Few people are as passionate about pollinators and pollinator gardens as Kate Frey.

We heard her speak at the Native Bees Workshop last September at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, Mendocino County, and we tagged along on her guided tour of her one-acre spectacular garden at her Hopland home, where she and husband Ben and assorted pets reside. We also heard her speak on "Gardening for Bees, Beauty and Diversity" May 14 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, Richmond.

Kate is highly sought as a speaker, whether it be at sustainable landscape programs,  gardening seminars,  or at UC workshops. Among her affiliates: University of California entomologists Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, and Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley. (Read what Frankie has to say about native bees.)

So, what to do first? Kate offers these tips:

Create healthy gardens that require no pesticides by using the right plant, right place approach, add quality compost to all plants and irrigate adequately. 

Choose appropriate plants for your water, soils, exposure, climate, and if annuals, season!

Think in terms of abundance, not minimalism. Plant at least a 3-x-3 foot area of each plant, or repeat the same plant throughout your garden. Each honey bee colony needs an estimated one-acre of flowers to support it.

Goal: 12 months of bloom. Plants can be annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.

Make sure plants do offer floral resources, as many landscape plants don't.

Have patches or repeated plants of the same flower.  Honey bees practice floral constancy.

Include water for honey bees

Sunny spaces are the best.

Provide bee-block nests and mulch-free nest sites for native bees.

All great advice! Indeed, we should think of pollinators as not mere "visitors," but permanent residents. Plant what they like and they will come. To ensure that they will stay stay, leave soil bare for ground-nesting bees, such as bumble bees. And don't forget those bee-block nests, or bee condos, for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees.

A honey bee forages on the California golden poppy, the state flower. It yields no nectar, only pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)But what to plant to attract pollinators?  These are Kate Frey's top 14 favorites "which are long blooming and easy to grow":

Asclepias milkweeds, all

Asters, Aster x frikartii 'Monch' A. ericoides ‘Monte Casino', A. laterifolius Lady in Black' 

Agastache, ‘Black Adder' ‘'Purple Haze' Rosy Giant' ‘Tutti Frutti' and many more

Arbutus unedo, Strawberry tree

Arctostaphylos, most Manzanita

Calamentha nepetoides, Calamentha

Ceanothus, all California lilac

Epilobium, California fuchsia. There are many good cultivars

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat

Gaillardia, Blanket flower

Helianthus bolanderi, native shrubby sunflower

Monardella villosa,  Coyote mint

Nepeta faassenii, all nepetas,  Catmint

Origanum,  flowering oregano, all. Origanum 'Santa Cruz' and 'Bristol Cross' are good.

 "Bee gardens make people happy," Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn write in their book. "Whether you enjoy a brilliant chorus of saturated color, a tranquil sanctuary from the busy world, or a hardworking edible garden, there is a glorious, flower-filled bee garden waiting for you."

Yes, we all need a happy place. And so, too, do the pollinators.

Award-winning garden designer, author and pollinator specialist Kate Frey addresses a recent crowd at Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. Her topic: “Gardening for Bees, Beauty and Diversity.” (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Following her talk at Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, Richmond, Kate Frey (center) answers questions and signs copies of her book, “A Bee Friendly Garden,” (co-authored with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Read and view more photos: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24474

Tower of Beauty; Tower of Bees

Bug Squad: Happenings in the Insect World    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     June 21, 2017

The Echium wildpretii is commonly known as "The Tower of Jewels" but it ought to be known as "The Tower of Beauty."

That's especially when honey bees gather to collect the blue pollen and sip the sweet nectar.

Or when their wings glisten in the early morning sun.

Or when it's National Pollinator Week.

In our family, we call it "The Christmas Tree" due to two reasons: its height (it's as tall as a Christmas tree) and due to its spiked red blossoms, the color of Christmas.

The plant, in the family Boraginaceae, is biennial and it can reach 10 feet in height. You often see its purple-spiked cousin, the Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) growing wild in Sonoma, along the roads to Bodega Bay. 

The species is endemic to the island of Tenerife. There they call it "Tenerife bugloss."

Whatever you call the plant, it's good to see it racing up the popularity scale as gardeners seek it for their pollinator gardens. There's even a Facebook page, "We got an Echium through the winter."

Common question: "Anyone got seeds for sale?'

Echium wildpretii is that pretty.

A honey bee packing blue pollen as it forages on the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)This foraging honey bee can't get enought of the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24436&sharing=yes

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).



Poppy Day Spring Plant Sale is Saturday, March 18, 2017

Theodore Payne Foundation

POPPY DAY SPRING PLANT SALE is tomorrow: MARCH 18, 2017! Special sale items include Trichostema lanatum (woolly blue curls), Dendromecon harfordii (Channel Islands bush poppy), Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy) and more sought-after native beauties. Quantities are limited! Shop early for best selection.
Discounts to TPF members all day and discounts to non-members after 11:00am (Not yet a member?
Join at the door!), Before you come, see our online nursery inventory:
#CANativePlants #TheodorePayne 
#NativePlantSale #Sustainable#HabitatGardening

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


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!


Bee-Friendly Gardening Seminar by Merrill Kruger of Design By Nature Studio

“On Monday, August 1st, Merrill Kruger offered the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association a ‘Bee Friendly Gardening’ seminar where Ms. Kruger illustrated a variety of natural bee habitat options. The slide show included a myriad of styles of water destinations as well as planning for continuous nectar sources throughout the year by using a combination of edibles, ornamentals, and natives. Bee-loved plants were highlighted along with their maintenance considerations. Drought issues were addressed with sustainable gardening techniques including pruning to increase flower yields, cultivating healthy soils, weed and disease prevention, passive water harvesting, and water conservation. Charts and graphs explaining the added nutritional value of organic produce and illustrated the correlation between pesticide use, human health, and hive decline; making a strong case for the inherent risks associated with purchasing chemical pesticides and foods that were produced using chemical pesticides. A myriad of methods for managing pests and weeds in mechanical, and otherwise non-toxic, ways were mentioned as well.

To continue the effort of growing more bee friendly gardens in Southern California, there is a plan in the works for Ms. Kruger to curate two plant sales / workshops, hosted by The Valley Hive, during the 2016-2017 planting season; the first for ‘Native Plants + Care’ in the Winter, and the second for ‘Edible Plants + Care’ in the early Spring. If you’re interested, please sing out to let The Valley Hive or Design By Nature know that you’d enjoy either, or both, of these special events. You can visit www.DesignByNatureStudio.com, LIKE Design By Nature on Facebook as ‘Design By Nature Landscape Studio’ and/or follow Ms. Kruger on Instagram as @merrill_mel to stay in touch.” 

(NOTE: The members of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association would like to thank Ms. Kruger for her informative and inspiring presentation on Bee-Friendly Gardening.)

Bee Friendly, Bee Happy and Bee Healthy!

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey    June 9, 2016

Sometimes when you walk through a bee garden, you feel Mother Nature tugging at your arm, pulling you from one breathtaking area to another. You resist the tug and want to linger, to admire the diversity of bees, to marvel at the colors and patterns of the flowers.

That's how we felt when we recently visited the one-acre pollinator bee garden of Kate Frey and her artist husband, Ben, in Hopland, Mendocino County. It's magical.

Kate, a world-class garden designer, and bee expert Gretchen LeBuhn, professor in the San Francisco State University, have just co-authored The Bee-Friendly Garden, an educational, enthusiastic and inspiring book that will help you turn your own garden--large or small, rural or urban--into something magical.

Read more: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=21258&sharing=yes