Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Do you know your A, Bees and C's?

Awhile back I did a post on the many native bees that frequent the Bay Area. That post proved popular so today I'm returning with a kind of part two. I recently discovered a wonderful book - 'California Bees & Blooms' by Gordon Frankie and friends. And at the very beginning they have a Sidebar about common bee myths (and the real truths). I thought that might be fun and informative to share (in a briefer form) so that will lead off today's post. Then I'll share a few recent garden photos, taken over the last week.

Bee Myths
1. Bees live in hives. Only a small % of bees live in hives and only the introduced European honey bee lives in hives here in North America. Also, ~ 75% of bees are solitary and live in individual nests tunneled in the soil.
2. Bees make honey. Only honey bees make enough honey to harvest. Bumblebees make a small amount of a honey-like substance. Most native bees (over a thousand species here in CA alone) make no honey at all; being solitary and not living long they have no need of it.
3. Honey is made from pollen. Honey is actually regurgitated nectar collected by worker bees. That nectar is mixed with water and stomach enzymes to form the honey we know.
4. Bees die after they sting. Only honey bees make this ultimate sacrifice. Bumblebees and social sweat bees can sting but don't die afterwards. Solitary native bees have no need to use such an option, not defending a hive. 
5. Wasps are bees. Well, you probably knew that but did you know that bees are vegetarians, only collecting nectar, while wasps are carnivores. That's why you see them hovering around your turkey sandwich at a picnic.
6. Small bees are 'baby' bees. Bees, belonging to the order Hymenoptera, emerge from their nests fully mature. The wide range of shapes and sizes of bees - over 1600 alone in California - accounts for the small bees you sometimes spot (and probably wonder 'Is that a bee?')
7. Bees go to their hives to sleep at night. Honey bees and most bumble bees do but males of solitary bee species can be found sleeping on plants, even nestled into flowers! Females may return to their nests at night to construct new tunnels and brood chambers.
8. Bees do the 'waggle dance.' Honey bees are famous for these dances that indicate nectar locations but solitary native bees have no need and want to keep these good locations to themselves.
9. Bees are short distance fliers. Indeed, bees prefer to be efficient in their nectar gathering, usually not going more than 1500' afoot but they have been known to travel further for a good source.
10. Adult bees live a long time. Alas your average male honey bee lives only about 6 weeks. Honey or bumblebee queens may live as long as 3-4 years. Solitary bees have it the worst, only living several weeks.
11. Male honey bees die upon mating. Under the 'I'm not sure I really wanted to know this' category, the genitalia of male honey bees explode at mating, paralyzing and killing them. Males of native species can and do mate more than once without dying.
12. Honey bees displace native bees on flowers. Evidence seems to indicate that apart from the occasional territorial scuffle between honey and native male bees, the groups seem to coexist peacefully.

So, there you have it, the 411 on the world of honey and native bees. 

Begonia Illumination Apricot. Somehow, these begonia flowers seem to glow with their own inner light. Golds, peaches, apricots, oranges, the flowers seem to display every color in this spectrum.

With my zoom lens I was finally able to get more of a closeup of the tiny flowers on my Emilia sonchifolia. My first attempt at growing it yielded mixed results but this year it has been in continuous glorious bloom for 3 months. Orange for orange lovers.

We're a long ways from Valentine's Day but this Cupid's Dart (Catananche caerulea) doesn't care. It's begun popping out lovely 1.5" flowers with overlapping petals. Not sure why this summer bloomer is so late but better late than never.

Who doesn't love moths? Here's a colorful little guy on my Tweedia plant. Gathering nectar no doubt. I've seen him frequently on this tweedia so I guess it's a good source. 

Calibrachoa Lemon Slice. One of my favorite variety names plus a pretty yellow star against white background flower. Million Bells as they're called are also enjoying the warmth of our autumn.

The flower on this hard to find Ruellia brittoniana may be a simple purple but dark stems and a bit of dark edging to the leaves of this vigorous perennial add up to an interesting specimen.

So, this photo illustrates the question 'What is a 'good' photo?' Shadows are somewhat camouflaging this shot of my Calothamnus villosus but in a way it adds a bit of mystery to the shot. As I've shared in previous photos, this is one of a number of plants whose flowers sprout directly off the stems. A close look reveals some burgundy buds here that have yet to open. And though the flowers look delicate, they are stiff and semi-waxy.

It may not be spring, when most bulbs begin to send up shoots and bloom, but some bulbs just can't wait. That would include a number of South African bulbs such as this Moraea polystacha, which naturally bloom in the late fall through late winter period.

Speaking of bulbs that don't bloom in spring or winter, this Rain lily waits for fall rains to quickly send up its simple white flowers. In short, most bulbs wait for the right combo of moisture and warmth to send up shoots. That's why it's not wise to plant things like Daffodils too early in the fall. If they get watered, intentionally or accidentally, or if we get unexpectedly early rain, they may get confused into thinking it's spring send up shoots.

Finally my latest discovery from the great world of Begonias, this B. Belleconia Soft Orange has one beautiful and somewhat unusual flower. The outer petals surround a collection of almost peony-like inner petals. Lovely!

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