Leaf Cutting Bee on the Chim Chiminee

So nice to see a leaf cutting bee on the Rudbeckia hirta "Chim Chiminee". This is a hard to find "Black Eyed Susan" that I purchased from Annies Annuals https://www.anniesannuals.com/ as a seedling. Although I planted it as a nectar plant for butterflies, it's great to see that bees are getting nourishment from it, as well. The plant is getting quite tall in its pot, full of blossoms, as you can see from its shadow on the patio surface.

Skunks in the garden beds

These aren't the greatest images, but they were taken through both a glass and screen sliding doors. It was evening and I happened to look out at the patio when I heard some movement in the garden beds. First a skunk emerged from the upper garden bed Cuphea Minnie Mouse shrubs, and climbed down to the lower garden bed. We have some native plants growing there, Sticky Monkey, Heuchera Maxima "Alum Root", as well as an abutilon and Chiapas Salvia. The skunk was rooting around in the soil for a long time, probably finding grubs and worms just under the top layer of soil. And then another skunk climbed down from the upper garden bed. At first I thought they were a couple, but then it seemed to b

Sunday greetings to you!

Here is a Yellow-Faced bumble bee flying in the California Thai Silk poppy patch. Look at all that pollen in its basket!

Some very good books about pollinators and pollinator-friendly gardening

Aside from being a passionate organic gardener, planting for the pollinators, I am also an avid reader. I have many nature-themed books about pollinators, other beneficial insects, both non-fiction as well as poetry and prose. Here are some very wonderful books that you absolutely should have, if you want to learn more about pollinators and how to create habitats for them in your garden. This wonderful book, meant for gardening in North America, was written and published by the Xerxes Society, It includes suggestions for native plants and habitat designs to help butterflies and moths thrive. Full of photographs, this book provides garden strategies that have proven to be very successful to

Monarch Caterpillars are growing

Here is one of the caterpillars who were still tiny eggs nineteen days ago. It is a little less than 1/4 inch long, and is on a showy milkweed leaf, on the plant where it started out as an egg. It is of great concern to me that there are very few of these caterpillars on our milkweed plants this year. So far I've counted only five. Considering that we have fifteen potted milkweed plants, some of which are quite lush, one would think that the female monarchs laid more eggs. At this time last year there were three times the amount of monarch caterpillars. Last year I observed monarchs visiting our garden often, sipping nectar from various flowers. This year I have yet to see any. We are keepin

Anna's Hummingbirds in the Garden

Some of the plants in our garden I intentionally planted for our local hummingbirds as their nectar source. Instead of a feeder, which we had kept full of nectar in the backyard of our former home, we decided it best here that the hummingbirds get their nectar from natural sources. And the Anna's hummingbirds are enjoying all the blossoms providing the nectar. In the above image one of the birds is sipping nectar from the clustered whorled inflorescence of a Hummingbird Sage Salvia spathacea. Another Anna's hummingbird is sipping nectar from a Redvein Indian Mallow Abutilon striatum. Other birds, such as Brown-eyed bushtits, also visit the mallow shrub to eat insects in the shriveled up blos

A Summer Long-horned Bee laden with Pollen

Just look at all that pollen that this Summer Long-horned female has groomed into its scopa on its hind legs. Yes, all that bright yellow on its legs is pollen. I can't tell if this is a Melissodes robustior or Svastra obliqua expurgata. But I know that this is a Summer Long-horned because it has a flattened head (as opposed to rounded head). And it is a female because the antennae aren't as long as on a Long-horned male (see image below). Also, you can identify the females quite easily because, since they focus on collecting pollen, they are the ones with bright pollen loads on their hind legs. These bees often visit sunflowers and cosmos plants, which is one of the reasons I plant both Del

Thank your Flower Flies

Flower flies, otherwise known as hover flies or syrphid flies, are common visitors in gardens, but because some of them, like this one, closely resemble bees in coloring and size, they may often go unrecognized. This flower fly, an Eristalis arbustorum, is one of the most common in gardens. It is feeding on the nectar of a cluster of flowers on a naked buckwheat plant. The larvae of some species of flower flies feed on aphids and thrips, while others eat decaying plant and animal matter in soil, ponds and streams. Since aphids cause damage to crops, flower flies are invaluable in the garden and on farms. Keep planting native plants in your garden, and you will attract flower flies and lady b

Feed the Pollinators

And they will help feed you. It's that time of year when we see the lovely and tasty results of a great team effort, ours and the bees'. Without the bumble bees we wouldn't have these beautiful purple cherry tomatoes. Or luscious strawberries. And believe me, these are luscious, sweet strawberries when ripe. To create habitat and to nourish the bumble bees, honey bees, leaf cutting bees, digger bees, flower flies, wool carder bees, and others that visit our garden, we plant many kinds, mostly native flowering plants. Such as the Silver Lupines Lupinus albifrons. Various native buckwheat, like the Red Buckwheat Eriogonum grande rubescens California poppies Eschscholzia californica Lambs Ears

The Monarch Butterflies are back!

At last! Hopeful signs on the milkweed! I spotted a monarch butterfly flying over the patio sometime in June, and hoped it was a female that was ready to lay her eggs on our lush potted milkweed plants. She may have returned to our milkweed pots shortly after, because early July, instead of caterpillars I discovered three tiny eggs on narrow-leafed milkweed plants in one of the pots. In previous years we discovered monarch caterpillars already in first instar on our milkweed plants during the first week of July. So this year the monarchs in our area may be reproducing later in the season. The eggs here probably measure less than 1/16th of an inch. Last year and the previous year the monarch

A Chestnut-Backed Chickadee visits

Aha! Finally caught some photos of a chestnut-backed chickadee. This happened by chance. I was standing with the camera on our patio observing some bees on the California figwort. And suddenly, with a great flapping of wings, this chickadee landed on a branch of a large potted rosebush. Some of the long branches of the figwort are pushing through the rosebush. You can see the distinctive little figwort buds here center right. It was in the very late afternoon, and I think the chickadee was after tiny insects in the rosebush. By the look of the feathers I think this is a young chickadee. I'm so thrilled to have had this encounter, because I often hear the chestnut-backed chickadees singing an

Another Leaf Cutting Bee Sighting

The leaf cutting bees Megachile Latreille have been busy in the native patch for several weeks now, and I've observed them on the Klondike Orange Sulphur Cosmos shrub. But I haven't yet noticed any of their handiwork - circular or cylindrical holes along plant leaves. Usually I know these bees are around by first seeing the even holes along the edges of rose leaves. Because of the tapered, triangular broad abdomen with a dense mass of hair, or scopa, beneath, and the pointed tip, you can tell that this is a Megachile perihirta female. One of the distinctive characteristics of these bees is their wing position while foraging. While other bees, such as the Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees, close and f

Wool Carder Bee female making a fiber ball for her nest

Aha! Captured this female Wool Carder bee Anthidium manicatum making a fiber ball from a lambs ear. Good timing for me, although the image isn't that great. The bee landed on the lambs ear, which wasn't so unusual, since the wool carders are constantly monitoring this patch. But when she crawled under the leaf, I sensed that this was a female who was going to scrape fibers for her nest, from the underside of the leaf. These bees are fairly quick when they scrape off the hairs of the lambs ears, and this seems to always happen on the underside of the leaves. This means that to get a photo of the bees in action is always difficult, because there are always other leaves blocking part of the vie

Sing a lullaby for the sleeping Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees

This was the scene a couple of evenings ago in our front yard, a slumber party for the Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees Bombus vosnesenskii ! In the photo above one of the bees squeezed into a partially closed California poppy, to settle in for the night. Its leg, with a full pollen basket, seems to be draped over the side of a petal. This bee is sleeping on a lambs ear flower spike, on an area which is soft and fuzzy. The antennae are drooping over the bee's face. Since bees don't have eyelids, the only way you can tell that they are sleeping is when they remain completely still on a plant. In the past I have seen honeybees that were completely still, but that was because a crab spider had attacked

A glorious Sunset

This is the sky at sunset, as seen from our window a couple of days ago. No, there aren't any forest fires raging nearby. And the air quality was good that day. Sometimes its good to simply enjoy the majestic beauty of nature, like this sunset with its dramatic colors and various cloud layers.

A visiting Pale Swallowtail Butterfly

Yesterday afternoon we were honored to have a Pale Swallowtail Papilio eurymedon spend a while resting on a blackberry leaf above the patio. These butterflies are quite impressive in size, and are ever so graceful as they soar in the breeze. This one could be a female because it is pale yellow. The males tend to be a white-cream color. The orange and blue markings near the tail are very striking. The host plants for these butterflies include coffeeberry and ceanothus. I'd like to think that our Ray Hartman ceanothus shrub is a host for these butterflies, but I rarely see Pale Swallowtails here and have never noticed their larvae on the shrub. There is only one brood per year, and they can be

bees in the bay breeze

For years I have been sharing ideas, gardening tips and recipes  with family, friends and colleagues.

And now I'd like to share them with you!


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