I would bet that all across the country, sunflowers have now finally bloomed. I know ours have here along the foggy Northern California coast, and even those in the Pacific Northwest have opened. We are hoping that both you and the bees in your area take advantage of these beautiful blooms and join us for the Return of the Great Bee Count on August 20th . Of course, you can make your observations anytime, as often as you can, but if you haven’t yet participated this summer, mark your calendars for August 20th now.
If you haven’t been to our web site recently, come by and check out our “Leader Board” on the homepage (www.greatsunflower.org) to see our top data collectors. We’ll update this each week, so you have a chance to get your name on the board. Thanks to all our top collectors, by the way. Keep up the great work!
On a recent trip to the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Portland, OR (www. rogersonclematiscollection.org), I was surprised (and a little shocked) when I observed some interesting bee behavior.
The Rogerson is a magical place – a 100 year-old farmhouse and cottage garden nestled in the bucolic farmland south of Portland that houses the one of the world’s most complete collection of clematis plants, both heirloom and hybrid. One specific plant in the test plots caught my eye. It’s a sensual, light purple, bonnet-shaped C. pitcheri x crispa cross. It’s mainly pollinated by hummingbirds, whose beaks can reach up into the long, narrow, curvy sepals. Now, however, honeybees have been observed “breaking in” to the nectaries by prying open the rounded tops of the flowers! By doing this, they are not coming in contact with the anthers, so they skip the pollinating part and just go for the nectar!
Not only do they busily work open the tops of the sepals, but they take turns tag teaming to get them fully apart then let their hive-mates know where to go for the goodies. Linda Beutler, the Rogerson Executive Director, laughingly calls them “Freeloading Bees” but has named the new hybrid Clematis ‘Bee Happy’ for the honeybees that can’t leave these blossoms alone. No native bees were seen engaging in this roguish behavior, and have no fear, the hummingbirds are continuing their pollinating chores on these wonderful plants.
The natural world is so much fun to observe. Now, more than ever, we need to take action to preserve and enhance habitat for these precious resources. Keep up the great work, and join with us on August 20th to contribute to the project.