There was a e-mail that went out this afternoon at work: the bees are swarming. And they’re swarming on a window, not some more appropriate opening in a log. Of course I had to check it out.
Armed with my crappy cellphone camera and protected by only half an inch of plate glass I braved the downstairs of my building where the bees were swarming to bring you these photos.
Here’s the swarm from the side you don’t ordinarily see. If Hello Kitty were made out of live bees she would look something like this.
The lighting and reflections didn’t help make for good photos. I think this might be a better self-portrait than a picture of the swarm…
I wasn’t the only picture taker out this afternoon–something you can see in this shot if you look close enough.
And being on the back-side you could get a pretty close look at the colony.
Crappy photos but pretty cool event, huh?
We interrupt our series on the gardens at the Huntington Library with this quick update on the progress of the bloom spike of my Agave attenuata.
At this point there flowers have opened on about three feet of the spike. The lowest ones are beginning to wither.
So far the blooms are proving to be extremely popular with the honeybees. (Notice the bee on the flower and ignore the bright red car in the background. Thank you.)
In this last image you can even see the pollen that the bee has attached to its back legs for transport back to the hive.
Thanks for your patience. With the next post we return to the gardens at the Huntington…
Previous posts on this plant:
One agave, eight ways (December Bloom Day)
When plants collide
A lot of nurseries around here tout plants as being hummingbird- or butterfly-friendly. Those little critters are awfully decorative and fun to have around, but the major work of pollination belongs to the bees. For instance the California almond crop supplies something like 80% of the world’s almond exports, and the crop wouldn’t be possible without all the hives that are trucked into the Central Valley about this time of year. According to the Los Angeles Times, farmers now are spending more on renting hives than they are on watering their trees.
A recent article, The Headbonker’s Ball, in Orion Magazine has a great article on the Urban Bee Project, a project headed by UC Berkeley prof Gordon Frankie that’s designed to educate folks about the value of having bee-friendly gardens. Their Urban Bee Gardens site crawls with all sorts of information on the value of bees and what you can do to welcome them into your garden. Some of it’s under construction still, but there’s already lots of useful information there.
One of the cores of the site is a list of plants that are friendly to bees, and the list is broken into spring plants and summer plants so that you can plan a progression of food sources for the little guys. The list is a little Berkeley-centric, though many of the plants on the list would grow plenty of other places. At first you might worry that you’d have to plant oddball ugly plants just to the do the right thing, but incorporating bee-friendly plants requires no such thing. A lot of the selections are really common garden plants, and you probably have a number of them in your garden already: lavenders, penstemons, salvias, cosmos, sunflowers, and the like.
With all the plants out there the list couldn’t possibly list every bee-friendly plant out there.Various thymes, for instance, have a reputation for being major bee party pads. The Berkeley project came to its conclusions by sending people out into gardens and having them count how many bees visited a plant in a certain time period. (Not a bad way to conduct research, eh?) You could do the same. If there’s something not on the list but you notice that the bees like it, why not plant a little more of it? Give the hummingbirds and butterflies some company.