World Bee Day – Celebrate the Wild!

Whirly bee image by Katy Pye

Happy World Bee Day!

Wow! Are there more than honey bees out there and are they ever busy. Wild bees all over the world are pollinating all kinds of plants that benefit not only us, but every ecosystem.

Sam Droege of the USGS Bee Identification and Monitoring Lab put together this terrific slide show celebrating native bees. The images are from the lab’s permanent research collection.

 “25 Facts About North American Wild Bees.” How many of these facts are news to you? I counted 7. Most interesting to me are #4, #13, and #21.

Like all pollinators, native bees are in trouble – even more so than honey bees. What can we do to help these often over-looked wonders? Plant the native plants of your area, not cultivars, if possible. Check online for native plant societies in your area. They will have lists.

Confession: my yard has lots of non-native plants the bees love, but there’s no way of knowing whether they contain the level of nutrients the bees need to be their best. We’re working to add more straight native plants so all our pollinators (and other critters) benefit. 

It’s a day to open our eyes and ears and give a big nod of gratitude to these insect “workhorses” of the planet.

Here are a few photos of the wild bees active in my yard during spring and summer. I’m still learning species, so not all are identified.

Bombus vosnesenskii-Yellow-faced bumble bee on ceanothus
photo: © Katy Pye

Bombus vosnesenskii – Yellow-faced bumble bee on Sparaxis tricolor
photo: © Katy Pye

Bombus melanopygus ssp edwardsii – black-tailed bumble bee
photo: © Katy Pye

5-spot flower with Sweat bee-exact species not identified
photo: © Katy Pye

unidentified native bees on poppy
photo: © Katy Pye

Ok, not a bee, it’s one type of syrphid fly. But they are just as good a pollinator (if not better). They are great predators, too. Their larvae eat 1000 aphids each as they grow! Since it doesn’t have its own day, let’s celebrate them today, too! 
photo: © Katy Pye

I Spy! Who's Using My Garden: A Pollinator Garden Workbook

 

 

Painted Lady Day in the I Spy! Garden

Two days ago, I spotted a single Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly sunning on a pile of wood chips. With all the rain we’ve had, seeing even one butterfly is an early treat.

Stepping out this afternoon, dozens of butterflies filled the sky, buds, and blooms on our rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and New Zealand tea trees (Leptospermum). Traveling north from the Mojave desert up to the Pacific Northwest, some Ladies (and their gents) have veered off their normal interior CA migration route to skim along the coast. Ours may not mirror or rival the Southern California explosion, but I’m ecstatic!

Here on the Northern CA coast, the nights have been cool, so native spring-flowering plants are slower to get started. My manzanitas and huckleberry are coming along, but not getting a lot of action. So far, honey bees from the neighbor’s hive and the native “Yellow-faced” bumble bees ( Bombus vosnesenskii) are the only active bee species I’ve seen around the yard. Hover flies are busy, though. Everyone love the rosemary, grevillea, and teas. Anna’s hummingbirds have been here all year, and they’re now having to share resources with the Allen’s.

Bombus vosnesenskii on Allium variety
Allen’s hummingbird Photo: Katy Pye

Are you seeing Painted Ladies or other butterflies already this spring?
If you want to contribute your P.L. sightings to science, check out this project at Iowa State University: vanessa.ent.iastate.edu

I Spy! Butterfly watch station by puddling pond Photo: Katy Pye

Take an I Spy! video tour.

Puddling pond for butterflies: sand, water, and a sprinkling of salt. Sticks for perching. Aging banana added later. Males need added minerals to help with sperm development.

Host and Nectar Plant Preferences of Vanessa Butterflies
from: www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Butterfly common name – scientific name; Host plants; Adult food = host and nectar plants

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta Nettle family (Urticaceae) including stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), tall wild nettle (U. gracilis), wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), pellitory (Parietoria pennsylvanica), mamaki (Pipturus albidus), and possibly hops (Humulus); Prefer sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings; visiting flowers only when these are not available. Then they will nectar at common milkweed, red clover, aster, and alfalfa, among others.
Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui More than 100 host plants noted; favorites include thistles, hollyhock and mallow (Malvaceae), and various legumes (Fabaceae); The Painted Lady prefers nectar from composites 3-6 feet high, especially thistles; also aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. Flowers from other families that are visited include red clover, buttonbush, privet, and milkweeds.
West Coast Lady – Vanessa annabella Mallow family (Malvaceae) including tree mallow (Lavatera), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea), bush mallow (Malvastrum), mallow (Malva), alkali mallow (Sida), checkerbloom (Sidalcea), and hollyhock (Althea); Flower nectar.
American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis Plants in the sunflower family everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), plantain-leaved pussy toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), wormwood (Artemisia), ironweed (Vernonia), and burdock (Arctium); Flower nectar almost exclusively, including dogbane, aster, goldenrod, marigold, selfheal, common milkweed, and vetch.

Want to start your own I Spy! garden watch? Download a free poster or link to lots of gardening and pollinator ID resources section from my new workbook, I Spy! Who’s Using My Garden? A Pollinator Garden Workbook.

I Spy! Fall In The Pollinator Garden

9-16-18 I Spy glasses-HBe & HBr copy

Walks in my pollinator garden are always “I Spy” adventures. I’m tracking which pollinators are using the plants, flowers, and extra water and food resources I’ve provided. These include two hummingbird feeders. A few days ago another group of “I spy” eyes locked onto the feeders . . . honey bees. Maybe they’re from a wild colony or domesticated bees from a neighbor’s box. Either way, a scout made it back to the hive to do its boogie, woogie, waggle dance and map out the way to a sugar fest in my yard. Continue reading