Sharing a Sunflower

Aug 30, 2012

Sharing a Sunflower

Aug 30, 2012

You often see a single solitary bee on a sunflower.

Perhaps it's a sunflower bee (Svastra) or a honey bee (Apis mellifera).

But four on one? Sharing a sunflower?


If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see Svasta, Apis and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus on the sunflower head, plus another sweat bee, Halictus triparitus, "coming in for a landing," says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.

If you're curious about the sunflower bee, "Our Svastra obliqua expurgata is a native bee and exhibits a preference for sunflowers which are also native and other relatives of sunflower," Thorp said. "The genus Svastra has over 20, all occurring in North and South America.  All are ground nesting solitary bees.  Some other species of Svastra exhibit preferences for pollen from evening-primrose or cactus.'  

We captured this image at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.

The garden is open from dawn to dusk, with free admission. You can do self-guided tours. Soon, probably next spring, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will offer guided tours. 

Bee friendly garden? Indeed. In fact, Thorp has found 75 different species of bees--and counting--since he began monitoring the plot in October 2009, a year before it was planted.

If you wander through the garden, be sure to bring your camera, especially if you love insects and flowers.

You may find five species of bees sharing a sunflower!