UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab - The Buzz - November, 2017 
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SoCal Avocado Pollination Study

In 2014 , we started monitoring diversity and abundance of native bee species visiting both habitat and crop flowers on six farms in Ventura County (3 control farms and 3 treatment farms with installed native bee habitat). It was in 2017 that we began to see substantial differences between treatment and control farms; treatment farms had much greater bee diversity and abundance than control farms. This past year we have recorded 12 native bees (identified by our taxonomist, Jaime Pawalek) visiting avocado flowers, in addition to syrphid flies and several wasp species. 

Recently, we acquired a grant from the Change Happens Foundation to research beneficial insects and their ability to supplement honey bee pollination for avocado flowers. We have three main, overarching goals for this project: 
  1. Expand and evaluate the impacts of existing bee habitat gardens on 3 avocado farms 
  2. Identify target bee pollinators as well as other potential pollinators and develop a prescriptive treatment (both habitat composition and management practices) to attract and sustain them
  3. Distribute our findings to local and statewide growers and stakeholders through outreach and education.
We estimate that there may be 25-30 non-honey bee insects visiting avocado flowers in the Ventura and Santa Barbara area. Since there is no previous record of these avocado pollinators, we are excited to begin this groundbreaking work in the spring! 
Saying Goodbye to Ingrid

Ingrid has been working in the lab for the past 2.5 years on all aspects of our research, including taking the lead on our pilot trap nest study, participating in field work and data analysis, and presenting at many outreach events. Ingrid started out in the lab as an undergraduate volunteer and became a full time research assistant after graduating from UC Berkeley with a B.S. degree in Molecular Environmental Biology. On top of all the amazing work Ingrid has done on behalf of the lab over the years, we'll truly miss the warm and positive energy she brings. She truly brightens each day in the field and lab. Ingrid is off to pursue a future in health sciences. Good luck, Ingrid, we'll miss you! 
Upcoming Events:

December 14 - Dr. Gordon Frankie and Marissa Chase will be giving a presentation at the 4th Annual Mary Bowerman Science and Research Colloquium. They will be presenting our work on behalf of the Save Mt. Diablo Project. 

After this presentation, we have availability to schedule talks, events, or workshops. If you would like us to come and speak at an event, conference, workshop, etc., visit our website and send us a presentation request!
We are working on installing new plants into our habitats at our Brentwood farms, Ventura farms, and urban sampling sites before the rains come. This will allow the plants to be well established come spring. One plant we just installed into an urban garden in Marin is Sphaeralcea ambigua, otherwise known as apricot or desert mallow. It's one of our favorite bee plants to garden with, and bees such as Diadasia spp. will love to forage from it once they emerge in early spring.
November Bee of the Month

Above: Male Xylocopa varipuncta on nectar robbing*

Our November Bee of the Month is Xylocopa spp., otherwise known as the carpenter bee! 
There are a total of three species of carpenter bees in California: Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, Xylocopa varipuncta, and Xylocopa californica. While flight season is year round, you are most likely to see these large, noisy bees from March to August. 

But how do you know it's a carpenter bee? While these bees can be confused with some bumble bees and large horse and cactus flies, carpenter bees are shinier and less fuzzy than a bumble, and have two pairs of wings and much longer antennae than a fly. If you're wanting to distinguish between species of carpenter bee, a more extensive guide can be found in our book, "California Bees & Blooms."

Female carpenter bees are generalists for pollen, but in urban gardens can be specifically found on Fabaceae, like Wisteria sinensis (a pollen and nectar source). They can be seen foraging from Lavandula sppand Salvia spp., as well.

Carpenter bees can be viewed as pests due to their use of wood for nesting habitat. While it is possible for them to drill a nest into the wood of a house, they very commonly use pithy stems and dying tree trunks for nesting-their preference is soft and decaying wood. They are solitary bees, but males and females overwinter in wood in small groups. Female carpenter bees build intricate nests (up to twenty-six cells opposite the central nest) to place a developing egg with pollen and nectar. The egg will develop into an adult bee and will emerge the following spring. 

*Note the interesting behavior used to extract nectar. Carpenter bees have small mouth-parts that sometimes inhibit them from accessing the nectar of a flower. To circumvent this, they use their tongue as a knife to slit the base of the flower and "rob" the nectar from the flower. This is called "nectar robbing" because this interaction of bee and flower does not result in pollination.

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UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab · Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley · 130 Mulford Hall #3114 · Berkeley, Ca 94720 · USA

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