Category Archives: bees

She wears a pink hat while drinking.

That honeybee knows just where she’s going…

The Lamb’s Ears remind me of my grandma’s bathroom.
In the 50’s she had it all soft in gray and pink.

Smooth pink sheets were on our beds at her house,
some of which I still have.
Good quality!

Little honeybee,
thank you for the memory, and for today’s visit.
You look cute in your pink hat!

The Bombini are not the robbers.

bee in the neighborhood

This is a post about bees. If you find them icky or boring and don’t care which bee is a robber, I understand! I put a pretty flower at the bottom for you to look at before you leave.

One morning this week I went back and forth along the front walk, for fifteen minutes or so, stooping over the germander hedges to watch a bumblebee. It caught my eye because of its yellow markings that were not what I’m used to seeing, and also because  of its nectar-gathering style.

Was it because of its size and weight, that it couldn’t manage the flowers near the tops of the germander stems? It seemed to get lost in the understory of that purple forest, but would eventually resurface, tempting me to try again and again with my camera to fix his image (I can’t help switching male pronouns so I will just give in to my inclinations and be unscientific, because of course I have no idea of “his” sex.) so as to be able to see his markings better.

Here are the best pictures I got. Bees are buzzy and usually vibrating!

My Yellow-Faced Bumblebee is funny-looking! In that middle picture sprawled on his back like a suckling child, his yellow face is more like a yellow toupee. Here is a clearer, more classic image of the bee:

yellow faced bumblebee seek

It is from the page Bumblebees of California, which is where I realized that what I thought for years was the primary bumblebee enjoying my pollinator garden is not a bumblebee at all.

It wasn’t until that same evening that I was set straight. As the sun was about to go down, I was snipping spent penstemon blooms in the back garden when I saw one of these “bumblebees” visiting the non-spent ones. He was not trying to go in at the door, so to speak, but was busy at the top. Did he have a short cut to the nectar? Was he making a short cut?

Back inside, when it began to dawn on me that he was not a bumblebee, I searched for “black bees that  look like bumblebees,” and soon realized that he is a carpenter bee. And on the first site I found they described what I had seen a few minutes before: “On flowers such as salvias, penstemons, and other long, tubular flowers the carpenter bee, due to its large size, is unable to enter the flower opening. Instead they become nectar robbers. Using their mouthparts they cut a slit at the base of corolla and steal away with the nectar without having pollinated the flower.”

I learned that there are 500 species of carpenter bees! Most of them are all black and hard to tell one from another. The easiest way to tell them apart from bumblebees is by their abdomens: The bumblebees’ abdomens are covered with dense hair, while the carpenters’ are shiny. This last fact I was well aware of, because it has been the biggest hindrance to me getting a picture of these bees that usually show up as shiny black blobs. But now that I  have identified two bees in one day, and have blurry pictures to refer to when I forget, I will relax and move on.

But — early this morning I went out looking for Yellow Face. I didn’t see him, but I did see the carpenter bees, and what were they doing? Stealing nectar from the tubular white salvia flowers!

I wasn’t shocked, but pleased. And I don’t see why this should be called “stealing.” Is there a law of nature that says a bee has a right to nectar only if he pollinates the flower at the same time? Have the tubular flowers filed a complaint about the theft?

Last year I was trying to identify a strange-looking wasp, and I browsed entomology sites to no avail. Entomologists can’t even keep the thousands of species straight, and we common people who deal with insects our whole lives have strong and conflicting beliefs about their names and identities. I realized back then that wasps were a low priority for me; I’m sorry to say that I even hate some of them. But I feel otherwise about bees. Here is a photo from the U.S. Forest Service showing the smallest bee with the largest bee:

It is the Perdita minima on the head of a female carpenter bee. Wasps and bees, along with ants, are among the members of the Order Hymenoptera, but wasps are not bees any more than ants are bees. The first very readable paragraphs on this site I found helpful in refreshing my own memory on these creatures: Bees, Wasps, and Ants.

The tribe to which the 250 species of bumblebees belong is called Bombini. Isn’t that cute?

Okay, enough entomology for today. Here is that flower I promised you. It is my Belle of India jasmine that Soldier and Joy gave me for Christmas one year. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to make it happy, but now it is healthy and blooming and so sweet! I wonder if any Bombini will come by for a taste?

Historic and overcast with sun.

Of course, every day is historic. Today grandson Brodie ate with a fork for the first time! And lest I forget, it’s the day of the Total Solar Eclipse 2017. My view was as at right.

Last week I was in Monterey, California, where the sky is also commonly white in the mornings. I’m guessing that today Soldier’s family couldn’t see the natural and rare wonder above the overcast there, either.

bee balm

 

 

But as is also typical, during my brief visit the sun would come out within a few hours of the start of day, and we enjoyed many lovely walks in the neighborhood, and outings a little farther afield.

 

 

 

 

Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley has paths to wander through various gardens with a teepee, a fort, a store and café, berry patches…

It is the perfect place to examine snails, red peppers growing, tiny leaves or flowers. Below is a weed I’ve often wanted to get a good picture of – it helps to have a boy’s finger for comparing size:

Laddie especially loved the aromatherapy chamomile labyrinth. I think he might have walked that path for an hour if we had not moved on.

artichoke in bloom

In the Alphabet Garden we saw a plant, or at least a place where a plant had grown, for every letter, including Echinacea and Bean.

On our walks in the neighborhood we saw familiar flowers and plants that Liam and I have noticed many times now, as well as some new ones. I haven’t had time to research most of them, like this:

But I did learn Sea Lavender, what Liam described as having a rattle-like sound to the flower heads. Only the white parts are the true flowers, what I assume this bee is sipping at:

Flowers love to grow on California’s coast! Here are several more I don’t know – if any of my readers knows them, please share.

Below, a tall bush in Soldier and Joy’s back yard:

Awfully fancy, this one:
Joy and I drove down to the Monterey Bay Recreational Trail and walked with three boys, two bikes, a double stroller and a baby pack. We looked for a long time into the water next to the boat docks and I saw my first jellyfish and skate not in an aquarium, plus lots of hermit crabs scuttling in and out of rock crevices.  It was beautiful down there.

I have been to visit Monterey twice this summer, to offer a little adult company to Joy while Soldier is working on the east coast. So we chatted and talked and talked some more, which may have been the cause of the boys being even more rambunctious than usual. I was amazed at how when it involves three boys ages 5, 3, and 1, every activity, even something as soothing as Grandma reading to them, devolves into roughhousing.

I don’t have a good picture of that. Just imagine a tangle of six arms, six legs, giggling faces and tousled hair, all somehow hanging on to my lap, with an open storybook underneath it all. It was a multi-sensory experience that will go down in my history book as a sunny day.