Posts Tagged: bees
With a little care and planning, anyone can make their little corner of the earth safe and friendly for bees.
UC Master Gardener volunteer Clare Bhakta of San Joaquin County shared bee-friendly strategies during a community workshop in August, extending the reach of research information developed by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
"Lure bees in," Bhakta said. "If you make it comfy, they will come."
Bhakta is a newly minted Master Gardener, having graduated in June from the intensive training program presented by UC advisors and specialists. She is part of the San Joaquin County MG speakers bureau; the "Buzz about Bees" was her inaugural engagement.
"We want bees in our gardens," Bhakta said. "Ninety percent of flowering plants and 75 percent of human crops depend on pollinators, including bees. Bee pollination makes about $15 billion in human food in the United States each year."
About 1,600 species of bees are found in California, many of them natives. Most of the bee species live independently, occupying holes in trees trunks or branches, or in the ground. Their sizes range from inch-long metallic black bumble bees to tiny sweat bees 3 millimeters in length. These species rarely sting since they don't have hives to protect.
California's most recognizable bee is the European honeybee, imported from the Old Country by settlers in the 1600s. The insects serve as efficient pollinators and produce more honey than they can use themselves - offering humans an abundance of natural golden sweetener with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Bees work hard to produce honey. It takes 2 million flower visits - about 55,000 flight miles - to make a pound of honey. An individual worker bee lives just six weeks and produces about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
Sharon Butler, president of the Ripon Community Garden, attended the free workshop. The 2.5-acre garden at the corner of Vera and Doak avenues has dozens of raised garden plots. The community just added several bee hives. Butler asked at the workshop about an unexplained phenomenon in their first honey harvest.
"A couple of racks had dark spots with honey that had a cinnamon taste," she said.
Bhatka said the variation was probably the result of nectar from different plants.
"I wish I knew what plant it is, I'd plant a lot more," Butler said.
Creating a bee friendly garden may go against the grain for tidy gardeners. Bees don't prefer the well-trimmed plants and homogeneous color scheme of a formal outdoor space.
"Bees love herbs," Bhakta said. "I let my sage go crazy this year and I couldn't believe how tall they got."
For best results, don't over garden. Follow these five tips from the UC Master Gardener program:
- Rather than cover all soil with mulch, leave open areas for ground nesting bees.
- Keep a few dead tree stumps or branches. Particularly if it has holes, it makes an ideal nesting site for solitary bees.
- Let plants "go to seed," even when they begin to look overgrown and leggy.
- Provide a shallow water source. Filling it with pebbles or marbles allows the bees access to the water.
- Avoid using pesticides. Visit the UC Integeted Pest Management website for environmentally sound methods of controlling pests and weeds.
Bees are the most important pollinators of California agriculture — helping farmers grow field crops, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honey bees receive most of the credit for crop pollination, but many other kinds of bees play an important role as well. There are 1600 species of bees in California! Take time during Pollinator Week to learn about the different kinds of bees and what you can do to help them flourish.
Why should I care about other kinds of bees?
Bees other than honey bees contribute significantly to crop pollination. For example, alfalfa pollination by alfalfa leafcutter bees is worth $7 billion per year in the United States. Other bees can also boost the result of honey bee pollination — in almond orchards, honey bees are more effective when orchard mason bees are present. The more bee species, the merrier the harvest.
While growers often rent honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops, some wild bees pollinate certain crops even better than honey bees do. For instance, bumble bees are more effective pollinators of tomato because they do something honey bees do not: they shake pollen out of flowers with a technique known as buzz pollination. Likewise, native squash bees are better pollinators of cucurbits — unlike honey bees, they start work earlier in the day, and males even sleep in flowers overnight.
How can I help honey bees and other bees?
When it comes to land management and pest management practices, some bees need more accommodations than others. That's why it is important to know what bees are present in your area and important to your crop, and plan for their needs. Use this bee monitoring guide to identify bees present on your farm.
You can help all kinds of bees by using integrated pest management (IPM). This means using nonchemical pest management methods (cultural, mechanical and biological control), monitoring for pests to determine whether a pesticide is needed, and choosing pesticides that are less toxic to bees whenever possible. Check out the UC IPM Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to learn about the risks different pesticides pose to honey bees and other bees, and follow the Best Management Practices To Protect Bees From Pesticides.
Bees also need plenty of food to stay healthy and abundant. Plant flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the year. See the planting resources below to find out which plants provide year-round food for specific types of bees.
Like honey bees, native bees need nesting areas to thrive. Bumble bees, squash bees, and other bees nest underground. Ground-nesting bees may require modified tilling practices (such as tilling fields no more than 6 inches deep for squash bees) or no-till management to survive. For above-ground nesters, like carpenter bees and mason bees, consider planting hedgerows or placing tunnel-filled wooden blocks around the field. See the habitat resources below for more information about native bee nesting in agricultural areas.
Bee habitat resources
- Habitat for Bees and Beneficials
- Managing Wild Bees for Crop Pollination
- Native Bee Nest Locations in Agricultural Landscapes
- Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms
- Hedgerow Planting for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- Conservation Cover for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- The Integrated Crop Pollination Project: Tools for Growers
- Insect Pollinated Crops, Insect Pollinators and U.S. Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009.
- Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens. (PDF)
- Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present.
“Fall, with its cooler temperatures, shorter days, and imminent rainfall, is the best time to plant a bee garden in California. Much of the plants' growth at this time will be in the roots rather than the vegetative growth, and that gives new plants an advantage when temperatures warm up and the soil dries in the spring. Fall and winter are usually the wet seasons in California, and a bee garden will benefit from the natural pattern of rainfall that helps plants get established,” according to California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes (Pawelek et al. 2015)
With fall being the perfect time for planting consider making your home landscape bee-friendly and follow UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes - 12 rules of thumb for creating a bee-friendly home landscape:
- Learn the seasonality of plants and bees.
Bees need both pollen and nectar resources from plants all year long. Sugary nectar provides energy for adult bees, and protein-rich pollen is used to feed their young. Plant not only a variety of plants (to ensure both pollen and nectar resources) but also make sure that they bloom at different times throughout the year, with the most active times of bees in garden running from February to October.
- Provide a diversity of floral hosts.
A large variety of plants in a garden attracts a more diverse bee population. UC ANR researchers recommend planning a minimum of 20 different plant types to provide plenty of nectar and pollen sources for bees. If space or resources don't allow, consider plants that provide both nectar and pollen resources such as seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), blanketflower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
- Give structure to the garden.
When planning your garden arrange plants so it is easy to observe the bees that are visiting your landscape. Place taller plants or shrubs in the back and smaller or shorter plants in the front. Or you can plant in the shape of an island to allow viewing from all sides.
- Plant in the sun.
Typically bees prefer flowers in the sunshine over the shade. Monitor the amount and location of sun in your home landscape and plant sun-loving bee-attractive plants in the sunniest section of your yard.
- Plant shrubs, perennials and annuals in patches.
Most bees will visit one type or a few types of flowers each time they forage, an abundance of the same flower variety allows for more efficient foraging for bees. The California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes publication recommends a 3.5 ft x 3.5 ft flower patch of the same variety.
- Don't forget to seed annuals.
Plant seeds for spring blooming annuals and bulbs in the fall and take advantage of the winter rains and provide beautiful flowers in the spring. Great options include sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans).
- Maintain flowers.
Prolong a plant's blooming season by dead-heading. As soon as flowers begin to fade, wither and brown, pinch or cut-off the flower stem below the flower or right above the first set of healthy leaves. This allows the plant to continue to invest in producing more blooms and not seeds.
- Create a watering regimen.
Regular watering of plants during blooming season allows plants to produce more flowers for a longer period of time. If a plant is water stressed it won't produce new flowers and nectar and pollen production declines. Consider plants that thrive in California's dry Mediterranean climate, UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Lab offers a list of the best bee plants with a large selection of California native options.
- Do not use pesticides!
Applying pesticides to your home landscape can kill beneficial insects and bugs visiting your garden, including bees. Consider using integrated pest management practices that are natural or organic methods like hand-picking, spraying with water or natural insecticides. Contact your local UCCE Master Gardener Program to learn more about integrated pest management.
- Consider plant climate zones.
Consider right plant, right place when selecting plants for your home landscape. Most gardening books, websites, plant labels and seed packets refer to a plants hardiness zone, climate zone or growing zone. Become familiar with the climate or microclimate in your area, the USDA Plant Hardiness Map and the Sunset Zone Map are a great starting guide for determining what plants will thrive in your garden space.
- Provide homes for nesting bees.
A bee-friendly garden provides cover and a safe place for bees to raise young. Most bee habitats are either in the ground or in pre-existing cavities. Provide a nesting home for bees in your garden by leaving a small section of your landscape unmulched for ground-nesting bees. Nesting blocks, drilled holes in untreated wood or “bee-condos” can be offered to bees that prefer a pre-existing cavity habitat.
- Provide nesting materials, including a water source.
Bees build their nests with mud, plant leaves and resins. Bees require a water source to not only drink but also to make mud for nest building. Fill a shallow water dish or birdbath to your garden, add small rocks or a floating cork for bees to rest and to prevent drowning.
Learn more with UC ANR and the UC Master Gardener Program
Interested in learning more about how to grow a buzzing bee-friendly garden? The UC Master Gardener Program has University trained volunteers who are eager to help. Volunteers are available to answer questions about preparing your soil, plant selection, pest management, and more. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California and thousands of workshops a year there is sure to be an event or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program, mg.ucanr.edu.
Pawelek, Jaime C., Frankie, Gordon W., Frey, Kate, Leon Guerrero, Sara, and Schindler, Mary. 2015. “California Bee Friendly Garden Recipes.” ANR Publication 8518, http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8518.pdf
Ponder, Marissa, Frankie, Gordon W., Elkins, Rachel, Frey, Kate, Coville, Rollin, Schindler, Mary, Pawelek, Jaime, and Shaffer, Carolyn. 2013. “How to Attract and Maintain Pollinators in your Garden.” ANR Publication 8518, http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8498.pdf
That old adage takes on more meaning when you plant wildflower strips on your farm. Wildflowers add resilience to our farming systems by providing bees with habitat and food - pollen and nectar. And they're not just for honey bees. Many native bees, such as bumble bees and blue orchard bees, are important crop pollinators. Currently about a third of our crops benefit from bee pollination. This includes vegetables, fruit and nuts, as well as crops grown for seed production, including sunflower, melon, and carrot.
Farmers primarily rely on honey bees for crop pollination; generally two colonies per acre are needed. Honey bees are efficient pollinators, but with colony collapse and increasing colony losses, we must diversify our farming systems so we don't rely solely on honey bees.
Some important native bee crop pollinators include bumble bees, sunflower bees, squash bees, mason bees (blue orchard bees, which pollinate almonds, are mason bees) and leafcutter bees.
The benefits of native bees? Generally they forage on flowers earlier in the day than honey bees do, they tolerate more wind and cooler temperatures and often they're more efficient at gathering and moving pollen from one flower to another. Native bees also prompt honey bees to disperse more, resulting in more pollinator efficiency. All this is important for good pollination and crop production, especially for crops like almonds that bloom in late winter when the weather is more unpredictable.
Many native bees, including squash bees, nest in the soil, generally excavating chambers about 12 inches deep, where they pack cells with pollen for their young. Bumble bees often occupy vacated rodent holes. Leafcutter bees nest in woody cavities, often taking advantage of old beetle galleries. Discing and land clearing removes their nesting sites and potential food sources, but if you add wildflower plantings and hedgerows of flowering shrubs on your farm, that brings them back. Farms with strips of flowers along field edges have higher numbers of native bees than those that do not. Honey bees also benefit from better nutrition from flowers, strengthening their resiliency to pests, diseases, and pesticides.
A recent study, Pest Control and Pollination Cost–Benefit Analysis of Hedgerow Restoration in a Simplified Agricultural Landscape, published by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and UC Berkeley, describes the economic value of these plantings. Generally, a $4,000 investment to plant a 1,000-foot hedgerow of native California plants, takes about seven years to pay off from enhanced pest control and pollination services from natural enemies and bees (where honey bees are limiting). If cost-share funding is available from the USDA, this will reduce the investment cost for the restoration and time on returns.
Although habitat plantings are definitely beneficial, some farmers have expressed concern that these plantings will bring in more pests, including rodents, birds and weeds. However, current UC ANR studies show strips of flowers on field edges export beneficial insects into adjacent crops for enhanced pest control. The wildflower strips are too small to support large numbers of rodents or flocking birds that can damage crops (with the possible exception of ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits), and weeds requiring management are present regardless of field edge habitat.
Water? Although it's hot and dry out right now, many wildflowers do not need summer water. This includes Bolander's sunflower (great for songbirds like goldfinches, but the seeds should not be included in row crop mixes as they will cross-pollinate with our hybrid sunflower seeds), milkweed (great for monarch butterflies), vinegarweed, tarweed, gumplant, turkey mullein (doves love these seeds), and summer lupine. Bees, including natives and honey bees, thrive on these hardy flowers, especially now that the growing season is ending, and few crops are blooming.
Look for more information on wildflower and hedgerow plantings on the Hedgerow Hub website, , the Xerces Society website, and UC Davis fact sheet Habitat for bees and beneficials.
Networking is important too. A recent UC ANR survey showed that networking among growers, landowners, and conservation agencies is crucial in the adoption and implementation of new ideas, such as wildflower plantings.
Bottom line: Wildflower strips can ensure a healthy, sustainable food supply for crops that rely on bee pollination. “Bloom where you're planted” equals “Reap what you sow.”
“Truth or Myth: Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Pollinators: What Is the Science-Based Research?”
That's the topic of a special conference – open to the public – set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9 at the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane. UC Davis professors, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and state officials will be presenters, announced conference coordinator Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
Neonicotinoids, recently implicated in the worldwide die-off of pollinators, including honey bees, are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Considered important in the control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests, they target the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. “Neonics,” as they're called, are commonly used on farms, and around homes, schools and city landscapes.
Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will provide an overview of the current use of neonicotinoids and the role of honey bees in California agriculture. Six other speakers are scheduled, along with a panel discussion.
The speakers include:
- Brian Leahy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, who will discuss “California Pesticide Regulation of Neonicotinoids”
- Nick Condos, director of the Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services Division, California Department of Food and Agriculture, “Neonicotinoid Risks Associated with Invasive Species Management”
- Karen Jetter, associate project economist, UC Agricultural Issues Center, “Trends in Neonicotinoid Usage in California Agriculture and the Control of Invasive Species”
- Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, a doctoral candidate who studies with major professors Neal Williams and Ed Lewis of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, “Past Neonicotinoid and Bee Research”
- Elina Lastro Niño, Extension apiculturist based at the Harry H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, “Current Neonicotinoid and Bee Research.”
After lunch, a panel will discuss neonicotinoid issues and concerns. The panel is:
- James A. Bethke, UC ANR Cooperative Extension, San Diego
- Aaron Dillion, California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers & Four Winds Growers
- Ron Jarvis, The Home Depot
- Darryl Ramoutar, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company
- Nasser Dean, Bayer CropScience
- Gene Brandi, American BeeKeeping Federation
The California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) will co-host the event with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Sponsors include California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC), a trade organization founded in 1911 to promote and protect the California nursery industry; Four Winds Growers, based in Winters, Calif.; Scotts Miracle-Gro, a company headquartered in Marysville, Ohio, and known as the world's largest marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products; and Monrovia, a horticultural craftsmen company headquartered in Azusa, Calif.
At the close of the conference, Fujino will preside over a panel discussion on neonicotinoid issues and concerns. Questions and answers from the audience will follow. The panel is to include a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, and representatives from the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, Home Depot, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bayer CropScience and the American Beekeeping Federation.
The registration fee of $50 will include lunch, as well as the post-conference social hour. To register, access the CCHU website at http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/public/copy_of_public/neonicotinoid-pollinator-conference-2015/neonic or contact CCUH representative Kate Lincoln at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-6642.
The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey