Native Bee ID workshop in California

Interested in learning to ID bees? Now you don’t have to wait for the annual Bee Course in Arizona (though I highly recommend it to everyone).

The Frankie lab at Berkeley is hosting a Jepson Herbarium workshop at Hastings Reserve in June! Here are the details:

California’s Native Bees: Biology, Ecology, and Identification
Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville, Sara Leon Guerrero, and Jaime Pawalek
Location: Hastings Reserve, Carmel Valley

Are you interested in learning more about the most important pollinators in your gardens? California’s native bees are extremely diverse (~1,600 species) and are critical for providing ecosystem services not only in wild habitats but also in agricultural and urban settings.

This course will provide basic information about native bee biology and ecology with a specific focus on identification to the generic level. Course participants will spend time collecting in the field at the UC Hastings Reserve and at a nearby diverse garden in Carmel Valley. They will also spend time in the lab viewing and keying collected specimens. Evening lectures on a variety of related topics will add to the field experiences. This workshop is an extension of the previously offered weekend bee workshop, with more focus on bee identification.

Bee collections from the Hastings Reserve date back several decades, so knowledge of important bee-flower relationships are well known for this site. Participants will learn about bees’ flower preferences, how to collect bees using several different methods, information on how to build a bee-friendly garden, bee photography techniques, and bee identification using generic keys and microscopes. Participants will also learn about Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville, and Barbara Ertter’s new book on urban California bees and their preferred flowers.

June 4-8 • Workshop fee ($595/$635) includes lodging and meals from Wednesday dinner through Sunday lunch. Most participants will be accommodated in dormitory-style rooms with twin or bunk-style beds. Space outside the bunkhouse is also available for camping. Showers and flush toilets are available. This workshop will conclude early Sunday afternoon.

Bee diseases hop from honey bees to bumble bees

Honey bees are bumble bees are closely related, which means that some diseases apadted to one might be able to jump to the other. We already knew zombie flies could transition from a bumble bee host to honey bees- causing them to leave their hives at night to fly lurchingly around lights until they die and the parasites controlling them emerge to find new hosts.

Now it seems deformed wing virus and a fungal pathogen, Nosema ceranae, were found on bumble bees across the United Kingdom. Both pathogens lead to shorter bee lifespans, which increases the threat to bumble bees, which are already in decline in most of the world due to habitat loss.

These two diseases have already taken a high toll on honey bees- so the out look is decidedly not good. This is a reminder to continue working to preserve natural areas, create habitat in urban and agricultural areas, and reduce spraying of pesticides that are known to be highly toxic to all bee species.

Read the full story here:

Bees use plastic in nests

Two species of leaf cutting bee were found to harvest plastics from their environment and use them to seal the brood chambers in their nests, the places where they lay their eggs and young larval bees develop. In both cases, the plastics resembled the materials that the bees typically collected. In one case the plastic was from a plastic shopping bag and in another it was exterior house sealant.


Pictures i-iii show cell linings with plastic incorporated with leaves, photo iv was constructed with natural materials only.

Although the bees used the plastics, they were found in less than 1% of cell walls constructed. Nevertheless, the plastic pieces did not adhere to the masticated leaf fragments and were flaking off. Yet in the bees in chambers containing plastics matured and emerged successfully. When plastic straws have been used to rear leaf-cutter bees, the young were not successful, usually due to moisture retention that lead to mold.

It’s hard to say whether this discovery is positive or negative. According the authors, the ability of the bees to use plastics displays flexibility and adaptation to a world that has ever-increasing levels of plastic in the environment. Yet there could be consequences of using plastics if they alter bee development, although this was not noted in this study. At any rate, plastics are here to stay, and insect adaptation to their presence is likely to become increasingly necessary.


J. Scott MacIvor and Andrew E. Moore 2013. Bees collect polyurethane and polyethylene plastics as novel nest materials. Ecosphere 4:art155.