Bees at Alcatraz

When we get busy, updating the blog is the first thing to fall off the “honey do” list. I guess that’s normal. We had Spring Break (WhoOoO) and took a 1700 mile road trip to Northern California so we could feel the sun on our faces. It is well-documented that we really love road trips. I got sunburned, of course, and it was a little difficult to come home to our soggy, gray town. But in California in April, the sun shines. The weather was warm, and everything is growing, blooming & buzzing. Do you know how magical that is to those of us under the constant PNW drizzle? Very magical.

While in San Francisco, we took an Alcatraz Cruise over to The Rock. The decaying prison facility & history are interesting, but what I really loved was the Alcatraz Island garden. The Army started bringing dirt to the barren rock island in the 1850s, back when it was Fort Alcatraz. People who lived on the island brought plants from home, and prisoners worked on gardens over the years. When the island was abandoned a few decades ago, many transplants escaped. Lush gardens have taken over, and a group of volunteers is in the process of restoring them. The Alcatraz gardens were my favorite thing on our trip and I can’t stop talking about them.

Alcatraz is an island, of course, so I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t see honey bees. The island might be a great place for a bee hive, but the National Park Service probably isn’t maintaining one and honey bees are not known for their trips across bodies of water. However, we found bumble bees hard at work in the old prison. Bumble bees are suited to life on Alcatraz. They don’t need humans meddling and there’s plenty of food.

I took a photo of a bumble bee with the golden gate bridge in the background. I believe this flower is Pride of Madeira, but please tell me if I’m wrong. Levi identified this bumble bee as Bombus bombus, which is kind of a nerd joke, like “I know it’s a bumble bee but I don’t know what kind because there are hundreds of them.”

Back at the dock, the National Park Service has container gardens featuring many of the plants from the Alcatraz Island Gardens. The container gardens give you a feeling of continuity on both sides of the boat ride, like a preview of the gardens you’re going to see while you’re waiting in line for the boat. I stopped to check out the Pride of Madeira potted up on the dock. No surprise — I found a honey bee working the flowers at Pier 33. My book research indicates the flower is a good nectar source for bees, and my field research seems consistent with that finding.

Bees. They’re pretty much everywhere, thankfully.

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