Honey Bee on Buckwheat?

Nope!  

It is a syrphid fly, and this species happens to be an especially good bee mimic.   And just as bees are good pollinators, so are many fly species.  In fact, after bees, Syrphid flies are considered to be some of the best all-around flower pollinators.

Syrphid Fly - Eristalis stipulator

Oak Titmouse Grabs a Snack

In addition to the native foods the garden offers to birdlife, feeders are available for extra nutrition.  Here an adolescent Oak Titmouse pulls a sunflower seed from a wire mesh feeder.

Extraordinary Battle

While surveying moths in the GNG this past week, a fight between two beetles caught our attention: a Soldier Beetle and a Checkered Beetle were locked in mortal combat .  It was quite a struggle until the Checkered Beetle maneuvered the Soldier Beetle on to its back - then the clash ended “Game of Thrones” style.

Checkered Beetles are in the family cleric, ferocious predators of wood boring beetles (like this Soldier Beetle).  Clerid larvae also feed on wood borer, bark beetle and other insect larvae that occur under bark, which they pursue by traveling down the tunnels of their prey.  Because of this behavior, they are very good at controlling many wood-boring pests.  As we say time and time again; nature does a very good job at keeping all in balance - albeit sometimes in a brutal way.

Checkered Beetle - Enoclerus quadrisignatus (top) and Soldier Beetle – Xanthochroina bicolor (bottom).

Sonoran Bumble Bee Flies-off with a Load of Pollen

Sonoran Bumble Bees have declined severely in their Northern California range and is no longer detected at sites where it was once abundant. It can still be found in Southern California but numbers have also decreased in recent years, probably due to habitat loss.  As its name implies, Bombus sonorus is the most common bumble bee found in intact habitats of the Sonoran deserts.

Sonoran Bumble Bee - Bombus sonorus ♀

The GNG is Buzzing with Pollinators!

One of the busy pollinators is the GNG is Hylaeus, or yellow masked bee. As a Genus, this small bee (about 3/16”) is easy to identify based on its sleek black body and pale markings on the face. But they are very hard to identify down to species level, even under a microscope.  Males tend to have extensive markings on their face, while females often have just two little strips on the insides of the eyes. One thing that makes Hylaeus unique in the bee world is that the female does not carry pollen externally.  Instead, she swallows the pollen and regurgitates it back at her nest as food for her young.  That’s one way to get the task done!

Yellow masked bee - Hylaeus sp. ♀ on Eriogonum fasciculatum flower.

Hylaeus sp. 

Hylaeus sp. 

Band-tails Hog the Platform Feeder

Band-tailed Pigeons are the largest pigeon native to North America (also the only native pigeon found in California), and boy do they know how to throw their weight around at a bird feeder!  As seen in this photo, it's clear where their name originated.  When perched, the band on their tail is concealed but can clearly be seen when the bird is in flight.

Interesting note:  The Band-tailed Pigeon appears to be the closest genetic relative of the Passenger Pigeon and has been investigated for being used in efforts to bring back that extinct species.

Band-tailed Pigeons and one Mourning Dove making an exit at lower right.

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee

Bees come in many shapes and sizes, and bumble bees are always a welcome sight in the GNG. This Yellow-faced Bumble Bee spent an entire morning collecting from only California Poppy flowers.  I would take about 15 minutes for it to fully load-up its scopa with orange poppy pollen, then disappear for a few minutes while it unloaded its bounty at the hive, the reappear to repeat the process.

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee - Bombus vosnesenskii  on California Poppy - Eschscholzia californica

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

UCLA graduate students busily collect last night’s catch from both pitfall and tray traps, part of a study being conducted by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.  The GNG was chosen as one of the Los Angeles gardens to be surveyed for bio-diversity.  Gardens from all over the city will be monitored, giving a snapshot of species living within them.  These gardens will range from native to non-native plantings and we expect the study to prove how more species-diverse a native garden is, even when surrounded by a major metropolis.

Non-native Can Attract Native

Some non-native flowers, like this Rock Purslane, are taken advantage of by our native pollinators. This small male sweat bee is waiting for a female to show-up at this striking purple flower for pollen and nectar. His plan eventually paid-off.

Halictus tripartitus ♂ on Calandrinia grandiflora.

Wrens can be Prolific Breeders…

Here we are, now in June and these House Wrens are getting ready to raise another family - in a different home! This nesting box was a new addition to the GNG, just added in 2016. It had been passed-over up to this point and we didn’t think it would be adopted this season.

Nature and its surprises…