Befriending the Bumble Bee

Did you know that honey bees were imported from Europe and are not native to the United States?

Honey bee collects pollen. (K. Ethington)

In California, we have about 1,600 species of native bees, and 26 of these are bumble beesThe bumble bee is the largest and gentlest of all the known species of bees. The queen bumble bee hibernates in the winter, then emerges in the spring to collect nectar, rebuild her strength, and find a suitable nest location. Click on this link to learn more fascinating details about a year in the life of a bumble bee from the Xerces Society.

If you look closely at the vegetation in your garden or park space now, you might spot a bumble bee collecting pollen from the flowers. Bumble bees are particularly good at pollination. Their wings beat 130 times or more per second, according to the National Wildlife Federation, and the beating combined with their large bodies vibrates flowers until they release pollen, which is called buzz pollination. Buzz pollination helps plants produce more fruit.

Crotch’s Bumble Bee. (E. Wallace)

When you see a bumble bee, snap a photo and share it with scientists. One of the best places to record your bumble bee sighting is iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. With iNaturalist “every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed.”

The Crotch’s bumble bee pictured above was verified by scientists after I imported the photo to iNaturalist. It is classified as endangered due to the impacts of pesticides, climate change, and human development.

Black-tailed bumble bee. (E. Wallace)

Bumble bees need three things to thrive:

  1. Flowers on which to forage.
  2. A place to build their nest (abandoned rodent holes in the soil, leaf litter, and cavities in rock piles).
  3. A pesticide-free environment.

Yellow-faced bumble bee. (E. Wallace)

Let’s help our bumble bees so we can enjoy their fuzzy buzzing every spring. Now that we have been forced to slow down, we can spend some of our free time watching the secret lives of animals, and then upload our observations on iNaturalist. Maybe we can plant a native plant or two in our gardens, and see if we can help these creatures while we help ourselves.

Buckwheat blossom. (E. Wallace)

Speaking of native plants, the Orange County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) is offering free California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants (while supplies last) at Tree of Life Nursery and  Roger’s Gardens. These two nurseries are operating carefully and have made some changes in light of COVID-19. Tree of Life Nursery has reduced their operating hours — check the web site before picking up your free buckwheat. Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is also operating with protective measures in place.

Digger bee. (K. Ethington)

After you pick up your buckwheat, send us an email at buckwheat@occnps.org. Let us know where you planted your new buckwheat and we can input the location on our Buckwheat iNaturalist map. Wishing you the best in these uncertain times. I hope you spot a bumble bee, and take some solace in your garden or local park space. Be well.

Buckwheat Giveaway in Dana Point

The city of Dana Point is partnering with the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) on an ambitious 200-plant Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway this Friday, November 15 at the Dana Point Community Center.

Four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant is ready to be planted in a new Orange County home landscape. (Elizabeth Wallace)

OCCNPS and the city of Dana Point will give away 200 four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street on Friday, November 15.

Buckwheat giveaway earlier this month. Photo by Thea Gavin.

Tree of Life Nursery selected the ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) from a buckwheat plant growing at the Dana Point Headlands. The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is a long-flowering shrub that grows one-foot tall and three-feet wide, making it well-suited to smaller home landscapes and gardens.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

One ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant per homeowner will be given in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city. OCCNPS is mapping the buckwheats as they are planted across Orange County home landscapes on the BIEG iNaturalist map. A recent version of the iNaturalist map is shown here with nearly 700 buckwheats planted across Orange County.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map.

Please join us this Friday and help make Dana Point’s namesake buckwheat giveaway a success. The plants are ready to go into the ground. Get yours this Friday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street, Dana Point, California.

Newly installed ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Rob Skinner.

Buckwheat Brings Buckeyes

Autumn has arrived and the creamy white buckwheat flowers are beginning to take on their rich, russet brown color.

Thea Gavin’s buckwheat hosts a common Buckeye butterfly in Orange, California. Photo by Thea Gavin.

Can you see the common Buckeye butterfly visiting the buckwheat in the image above? Several native plant gardeners have shared photos of the common Buckeye butterfly visiting buckwheat plants in their home landscapes recently.

Common buckeye visits buckwheat flowers in Kris Ethington’s San Clemente garden.

Doug Tallamy, scientist and author of Bringing Nature Home, argues that the single, best method to help bird and butterfly populations recover is for homeowners to plant a portion of their garden with native plants.

Metalmark butterfly and pollinator visit a native milkweed. (Elizabeth Wallace)

California Native Plant Society Orange County chapter (OCCNPS) has begun free distribution of California buckwheat plants to Orange County homeowners while supplies last.

Buckeye butterfly resting on a Dana Point Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

October is the perfect time for planting buckwheat–the upcoming rainfall will help your new buckwheat thrive in your garden. Join us! We would love to meet you and help you get an iconic California native plant started in your garden.

Buckwheat Builds Habitat

The Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) has begun to distribute free, four-inch California buckwheat plants to homeowners living in Orange County.

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheats are growing well at Tree of Life. Photo by Laura Camp.

OCCNPS hopes to improve habitat for wildlife and butterflies throughout Orange County with this first-ever campaign to distribute 1,500 buckwheats to homeowners who pledge to plant them in their home landscapes.

Doug Tallamy, scientist and author of Bringing Nature Home, argues that the single, best method to help bird and butterfly populations recover is for homeowners to plant a portion of their garden with native plants.

Two butterflies enjoy California buckwheat blossoms. Photo by Kris Ethington.

To that end, OCCNPS has developed A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign as a direct way to “put California native plants in the ground.”

The group has selected the ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat for the campaign because it is a beautiful addition to home landscapes, easy to grow, blooms profusely for 10 months of the year, and supports pollinators and wildlife.

Soldier fly visits California buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

OCCNPS is connecting gardeners who are planting the 1,500 buckwheat plants in Orange County with an iNaturalist map. As the buckwheat plants go to their new homes, OCCNPS will mark the locations on the map. Homeowners can follow along as buckwheats are planted in Orange County by logging into the group’s website at OCCNPS.orgCNPS Orange County

Join us at the following events to get your free buckwheat (*while supplies last):

  1. October 5:  Acorn Day, O’Neill Regional Park, 30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd., Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  2. October 12:  Laguna Beach Smart Scape Expo, 306 Third St., Laguna Beach, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Only 64 buckwheat plants available).
  3. October 17:  OCCNPS Chapter Meeting, The Duck Club, Irvine, CA,  from 7 to 9 p.m.
  4. October 19:  Orange Home Grown Education Farm, 356 N. Lemon St., Orange, CA 92866, from 10 a.m. to noon.
  5. October 22-24:  Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, CA 92625 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
  6. October 26:  Tree of Life Nursery, 33201 Ortega Highway, San Clemente, CA, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  7. November 1:  Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, CA 92625 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  8. November 1:  Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton, CA, 92831, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  9. November 6:  San Clemente Garden Club, St. Andrews Church recreation room, 2001 Calle Frontera, San Clemente, CA 92673, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

    St. Catherine’s lace decorates a patio area. (Elizabeth Wallace)