The wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum), so named because the females collect or "card" plant fuzz for their nests, move quickly. The males, more aggressive and very territorial, move even faster.
The wool carder bee is an Old World bee introduced into the United States (New York) in 1963. It was first discovered in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Today we spotted one in our Vacaville yard that didn't seem to be in much of a hurry.
In fact, it sidled up to the catmint (Nepeta) and appeared to be having a conversation. No, not with an empty chair. With a mint leaf.
No, said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and one of the instructors at the annual Bee Course at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.; this year's course takes place Sept. 10-20.)
"This one is a boy bee," Thorp said. "Note the prominent golden fringe hairs along the side of the abdomen and the edge of the tooth-like processes at the tip of the abdomen. Also the lower part of the face (the clypeus) is mostly yellow."
So there you have it, a boy bee!
I'm still wondering why he wasn't body-slamming the honey bees and engaging in other aggressive and territorial escapades.
You often see a single solitary bee on a sunflower.
Perhaps it's a sunflower bee (Svastra) or a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
But four on one? Sharing a sunflower?
If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see Svasta, Apis and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus on the sunflower head, plus another sweat bee, Halictus triparitus, "coming in for a landing," says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you're curious about the sunflower bee, "Our Svastra obliqua expurgata is a native bee and exhibits a preference for sunflowers which are also native and other relatives of sunflower," Thorp said. "The genus Svastra has over 20, all occurring in North and South America. All are ground nesting solitary bees. Some other species of Svastra exhibit preferences for pollen from evening-primrose or cactus.'
The garden is open from dawn to dusk, with free admission. You can do self-guided tours. Soon, probably next spring, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will offer guided tours.
Bee friendly garden? Indeed. In fact, Thorp has found 75 different species of bees--and counting--since he began monitoring the plot in October 2009, a year before it was planted.
If you wander through the garden, be sure to bring your camera, especially if you love insects and flowers.
You may find five species of bees sharing a sunflower!
The photo just begs for a caption.
The praying mantis, with a female sweat bee grasped in its spiked forelegs, suddenly turns its head to look at the photographer.
Actually, three photographers: Davis insect photographers/bee enthusiasts Allan Jones and Gary Zamzow and I. We were shooting images in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
Jones, admiring the first image (below), commented "I love the way the mantis has set breakfast aside to stare directly at you." With that, Jones served up three captions:
"Oh, is that your bee?"
"What are you looking at?"
"Threat or prey?"
Meanwhile, we were obviously interrupting the praying mantid's bee breakfast.
"The female sweat bee is carrying some pollen she toiled to provide for her young," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "The mantid is also ducking under a spider webline, and needs to be careful that it does not become the meal of another sit and wait predator. It's a real jungle out there!"
Thorp, who has been monitoring the garden since October 2009, a year before it was planted, has so far discovered 75 different species of bees--and counting.
Yes, sometimes amid the predators and the prey, it's definitely a "real jungle out there."
Diggin' the digger bee...
We spotted this female digger bee, Anthophora urbana, zooming in on some zinnias at UC Davis. She buzzed loudly, virtually owning the zinnia patch. Smaller sweat bees scattered.
The bee, identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, is a solitary, ground nesting bee. "She has been around for a while judging by the worn (hairless) patch in the middle of the thorax," Thorp points out. "She has a dense brush of white hairs on her hind legs (scopa) for pollen transport."
Anthophoridae, described by Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World, is a "very large family...found in all parts of the world. Many are robust and resemble bumble bees."
"Most species nest in the ground while a few excavate in dead wood," they write.
The genus, Anthophora, includes more than 450 species worldwide. It's one of the largest in the Apidae family, which includes honey bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees and the like.
Anthophora urbana differs sharply from our honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The honey bee is social, living in a hive with some 60,000 other bees and sharing the workload. The digger bee is solitary.
The honey bee gathers nectar and pollen (and also propolis, from plant resin) and makes honey. The digger bee forages for nectar and pollen but does not make honey.
Occasionally, as floral visitors, they bump into each other. The social and the solitary...
Meet a carpenter bee.
This one (below) is a male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
It's also called a "mountain" or "foothill" carpenter bee.
When it slits the corolla of the flower--in this case, salvia--and bypasses the pollination process--this is called "nectar robbing."
The mountain/foothill carpenter bee is the smallest of the three species of carpenter bees in California, Thorp says. The other two are the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, the largest, and the California carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica, the second largest.
The male of the Valley carpenter bee is a green-eyed blond and often referred to as a "teddy bear." The female of that species is solid black. And huge!
The California carpenter bee or Xylocopa californica is known for its distinctive distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body, Thorp says. The females have dark smokey brown wings.
The one photographed below, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, is common in the center of the Central Valley, "probably due primarily to increased nest sites such as redwood arbors and fences," Thorp says. Although considered a pollinator instead of a pest, "it can be a pest when it gets into untreated redwood used for water tanks or structural timbers," Thorp points out. "The females are black with light smokey-colored wings. The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax."
You can see the yellow hair on the thorax.
And how big is the smallest of the three carpenter bees? "Much larger than a honey bee, but about half the size of the other two carpenter bees," Thorp says.