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Bees Commonly Found in Our Gardens-Solano and Surrounding Counties

Recently my husband brought home a “bee barn” to aid in our quest for attracting pollinators to our garden.  We are hoping that some bees will take up residency in this barn, but I am not sure what to expect. So, I started to do some research that brought me to a more wide-ranging question; what types of bees am I really going to see in my garden in Solano County and what are their needs to become established?

In my hunt for new bee-related information, I took a very informative and enjoyable class at the Häagen-Dazs Bee Haven in Davis, taught by Christine Casey, Ph.D., Academic Program Management Office, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis. The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is an outdoor museum on the UC Davis campus where visitors can observe and learn about bees, and the plants in their habitat.  Visit their website for information about their museum at https://beegarden.ucdavis.edu/.

To my delight, the class not only answered my question on what types of bees I will probably see in my garden, but also provided some really useful tips on how to identify the different bees, their nesting behavior, and some fascinating facts unique to each species. 

Honey bees

o   1/2 to 1/3”

o   Black stripes alternating with bands of amber to brown

o   Nest in large colonies in above ground hives

o   To keep the hive cool, some of the bees will fan the nest, some will leave the nest to increase airflow, and then there are the “water collector” bees, who find water, drink the water, and then return to the hive and regurgitate the liquid for hive regulation.

Bumblebees

o   3/4 – 1 ½ ”

o   Black and yellow with a fuzzy abdomen

o   Nest above ground and underground (could use bee box/barn)

o   Many bees, especially bumblebees use “scent marking” to be able to detect and avoid flowers already visited.

o   Queen lives through winter so important to have early bloomers – continuous overlapping bloom

Carpenter bees

o   1/2 – 1”

o   Resemble bumble bees but the abdomen is shiny, not fuzzy

o   Drills nest into softwood (doesn't use “predrilled” nest)

o   Occasionally referred to as “robber” bees.  When nectar is hard to reach, they bite a hole at the base of the flower in order to get to the nectar.  Because the anthers are bypassed and the flower is not ‘rewarded' by being pollinated, this is referred to as nectar robbing.

Long-horned bees

o   0.3 – 0.7”

o   Vary in the color of their wings, hair, eyes, legs, and antennae

o   They get their name from the males' unmistakable and unusually long antennae

o   Females nest underground and males have to find a place outside the nests to sleep, sometimes forming “male sleeping aggregations” on plants.

Sweat bees 

o   Very small –0.12 to 0.40”

o   Usually black or metallic

o   Primarily nest underground in the soil - be careful to leave some bare ground/space – mulch will prevent them from nesting.

o   Can be attracted to salts in human perspiration.

Leafcutter bees

o   Resemble honey bees but usually darker in color

o   Nest above ground in “premade” holes – could use bee barn!

o   If you see half-moon shaped holes in leaves – a leafcutter bee has been gathering leaf tissue to take back to form nest cells.  This will only be located around the edges of the leaf and will be smooth, not jagged.

Picture of Bee Display at Haagen-Dazs Bee Haven
Picture of Bee Display at Haagen-Dazs Bee Haven

Sign identifying active bees June 2019 Haagen-Dazs Bee Haven
Sign identifying active bees June 2019 Haagen-Dazs Bee Haven

Longhorn bee in Dixon. photo by Jennifer Baumbach
Longhorn bee in Dixon. photo by Jennifer Baumbach

Posted on Friday, July 19, 2019 at 10:34 AM

4th International Pollinator Conference Begins

Extension piculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology chats with the International Pollinator Conference co-founder Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University at the Thursday reception. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With a buzz here and a buzz there, the 4th International Pollinator Conference, hosted by the University of California, Davis, is underway. The...

Extension piculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology chats with the International Pollinator Conference co-founder Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University at the Thursday reception. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension piculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology chats with the International Pollinator Conference co-founder Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University at the Thursday reception. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension piculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology chats with the International Pollinator Conference co-founder Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University at the Thursday reception. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollinator champion Phyllis Stiles (left) of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation chats with Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at the Thursday night reception. Niño and Professor Neal Williams are co-chairing the International Pollinator Conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollinator champion Phyllis Stiles (left) of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation chats with Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at the Thursday night reception. Niño and Professor Neal Williams are co-chairing the International Pollinator Conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollinator champion Phyllis Stiles (left) of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation chats with Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at the Thursday night reception. Niño and Professor Neal Williams are co-chairing the International Pollinator Conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Amina Harris (right), director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, chats with honey bee veterinarian Terry Ryan Kane of Ann Arbor, Mich., at the Thursday night reception. The Honey and Pollination Center organized the conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris (right), director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, chats with honey bee veterinarian Terry Ryan Kane of Ann Arbor, Mich., at the Thursday night reception. The Honey and Pollination Center organized the conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Amina Harris (right), director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, chats with honey bee veterinarian Terry Ryan Kane of Ann Arbor, Mich., at the Thursday night reception. The Honey and Pollination Center organized the conference.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Researcher Aaron Anderson of Oregon State University stands by his poster on
Researcher Aaron Anderson of Oregon State University stands by his poster on "Which Native Plants Should Home Gardeners Grow for Pollinators." Poster sessions are an integral part of the International Pollination Conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Researcher Aaron Anderson of Oregon State University stands by his poster on "Which Native Plants Should Home Gardeners Grow for Pollinators." Poster sessions are an integral part of the International Pollination Conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

International Pollinator Conference co-chair Neal Williams shares a laugh with keynote speaker Lynn Dicks (left) of the University of East Anglia, UK, and speaker Rachel Vannette of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
International Pollinator Conference co-chair Neal Williams shares a laugh with keynote speaker Lynn Dicks (left) of the University of East Anglia, UK, and speaker Rachel Vannette of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

International Pollinator Conference co-chair Neal Williams shares a laugh with keynote speaker Lynn Dicks (left) of the University of East Anglia, UK, and speaker Rachel Vannette of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Dealing with the Devil Bulb

Nothoscordum gracile, commonly known as “slender false garlic” or the“devil bulb,” truly deserves its latter name as it attempts to take over my back yard.  Nothoscordum gracile is somewhat similar to a wild onion in that it has long, narrow leaves and little white flowers.  But this plant has longer and more gray-green leaves and white flowers with pink stripes.  It is a much taller plant overall than the wild onion and blooms through the summer. 

Nothoscordum gracile's success lies in its bulbs.  Once the plant forms three leaves, it begins producing bulblets.  The central bulb is surrounded by many, tiny, bublets that fall off as you dig up the plant.  They are so tiny that it is hard to capture them all.  In my yard, we have to dig at least 6 inches deep, and usually deeper, to get to the central bulb.  To avoid breaking the central bulb and spreading bublets, we have to dig carefully and remove the bulb and soil entirely.  This year, where feasible, we are now digging up and removing yards of soils to get as many bulbs and bublets as possible.  We aren't fooling ourselves that we will get them all.

When we had renovated our yard several years ago, we asked the landscaper to dig out the dirt in the problem areas because we knew the bulbs spread easily.  I have a strong suspicion that the landscaper didn't take us seriously because the plant is more widespread than before.  Moving the dirt around, instead of removing it, spread the bulbs even farther.

But digging big holes isn't always feasible.  The devil bulb is very clever at nestling at the base of other plants and often can't be dug up without harming the plant that you want to keep.  In that case, I break off the plant as close to the surface as I can, or if it is possible to dig a little, I dig as deeply as I can even if I am only getting the stalk and not the bulb.  My hope is that such continued efforts will reduce the plant's ability to obtain energy.  I'm not optimistic that it helps, but at least I feel better for doing something.  I also make it a priority to remove all the flowers so that they don't go to seed, but frankly, I haven't noticed a reduction in plants the following year when I do this.  I think the main issue is the spread of the bulbs.  We try to limit the use of herbicides in our backyard, but we have tried them as well and they didn't work at all.

I wish I could end on a more optimistic note, but the devil bulb truly is a scourge in my backyard.  I hope that our persistence and removal of dirt where feasible will help slow the bulbs' spread at least.

For more information on eradicating the devil bulb, see Pam Peirce's article “Eradicating noxious N. gracile devil bulbs” (May 19, 2011) at https://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/goldengategardener/article/Eradicating-noxious-N-gracile-devil-bulbs-2370868.php.

 

photos by Erin Mahaney
photos by Erin Mahaney

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thumbnail UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 2a154

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thumbnail UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 2a172

Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 1:54 PM

International Pollinator Conference Comes to UC Davis

A longhorned bee flies over a Mexican sunflower blossom (Tithonia) in Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's all about the pollinators--whether they be bumble bees, longhorned bees, squash bees, sweat bees, honey bees or hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds...

A longhorned bee flies over a Mexican sunflower blossom (Tithonia) in Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A longhorned bee flies over a Mexican sunflower blossom (Tithonia) in Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A longhorned bee flies over a Mexican sunflower blossom (Tithonia) in Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A squash bee, a specialist bee that forages on the genus Cucurbita, buzzes out of squash blossom in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A squash bee, a specialist bee that forages on the genus Cucurbita, buzzes out of squash blossom in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A squash bee, a specialist bee that forages on the genus Cucurbita, buzzes out of squash blossom in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) share a flower on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) share a flower on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) share a flower on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male Longhorned Bees: Boys' Night Out!

Male longhorned bees, Melissodes, spending the night on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Boys' Night Out! Have you ever seen a cluster of longhorned male bees sleeping overnight on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)? Every day around...

Male longhorned bees, Melissodes, spending the night on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male longhorned bees, Melissodes, spending the night on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male longhorned bees, Melissodes, spending the night on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male longhorned bees, probably Melissodes agilis, begin to wake up after spending the night clustered on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male longhorned bees, probably Melissodes agilis, begin to wake up after spending the night clustered on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male longhorned bees, probably Melissodes agilis, begin to wake up after spending the night clustered on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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