Is Jade Lucky? Well, Bumble Bees Like It!

The bumble bee was hungry.

She moved quickly from blossom to blossom on a jade plant at the Benicia (Calif.) Capitol State Historic Park, Solano County. As she foraged, you could see her tongue (proboscis) and her trademark yellow face and yellow stripe on her abdomen.

Bombus vosnesenskii, the yellow-faced bumble bee. And what a treat to see her in January.

It's enough to make you want to plant jade (Crassula ovata), also known as the friendship plant and lucky plant. It's native to South Africa and Mozambique, but is cultivated worldwide.

Another jade--jewelry--is considered lucky, too. It's supposed to bring you good luck and protect you from evil, according to Chinese tradition.

For bumble bee enthusiasts, just seeing a bumble bee on the plant is luck enough.

If you want to learn more about bumble bees, be sure to pick up a copy of the award-winning Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press, 2014). Lead author is Paul H. Williams, a research entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Co-authors are Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis;   Leif L. Richardson,  then a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College; and Sheila R. Colla, then a postdoctoral fellow at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a project leader at Wildlife Preservation Canada. Of the 250 species of Bombus worldwide, some 46 bumble bee species are found in North America.  You can read about "evolutionary relationships, geographical distributions and ecological roles." 

Bumble bees will also find their way into a presentation by world-class garden designer, pollinator advocate and author Kate Frey of Hopland, Calif., at the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium: Keeping Bees Healthy, set Saturday, March 3 in the UC Davis Conference Room on Alumni Drive. She'll speak on "Designing Bee-Friendly Gardens" at 2:45 p.m. Frey is co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (with Gretchen LeBuhn, professor of biology, San Francisco State University). The book won the American Horticultural Society 2017 Book Award.

Registration is underway for the conference, sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, located in the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Keynote speaker is noted bee scientist/professor/author Tom Seeley of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., who will speak on "Darwinian Beekeeping" at 9:15 a.m. Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, where he teaches courses on animal behavior and researches the behavior and social life of honey bees. He's the author of Honeybee Ecology: A Study of Adaptation in Social Life (1985), The Wisdom of the Hive: the Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies (1995), and Honeybee Democracy (2010), all published by Princeton University Press. His books will be available for purchase and signing at the symposium.

The daylong event "is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees," said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. "In addition to our speakers, there will be lobby displays featuring graduate student research posters, the latest in beekeeping equipment, books, honey, plants, and much more."

Graduate students throughout the country are invited to submit their research posters. The winners will share $1800 in cash prizes. Applications must be submitted to Liz Luu at, by Feb. 12. For the rules, see this web page.

To register, access the Honey and Pollination Center website. The cost is $85 (general), $25 (students). For more information, contact Amina Harris at or Liz Luu at