California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists

Discover California’s wild bees

California is home to over sixteen hundred species of undomesticated bees—most of them native—that populate and pollinate our gardens, fields, and urban green spaces. In this absorbing guidebook, some of the state’s preeminent bee and botany experts introduce us to this diverse population. California Bees and Blooms holds a magnifying glass up to the twenty-two most common genera (and six species of cuckoo bees), describing each one’s distinctive behaviors, social structures, flight season, preferred flowers, and enemies. Enhancing these descriptions are photographs of bees so finely detailed they capture pollen scattered across gauzy wings and iridescent exoskeletons.

Drawing from years of research at the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, California Bees and Blooms presents an authoritative look at these creatures, emphasizing their vital relationship with flowers. In addition to opening our eyes to the beautiful array of wild bees in our midst, this book provides information on fifty-three bee-friendly plants and how to grow them. Just a few square feet of poppies, sage, and phacelia are enough to sustain a healthy population of wild bees, transforming an urban or suburban garden into a world that hums and buzzes with life.


“This is a landmark book, and one that could mark the start of a revolution in how our crops are pollinated. It will also provide a great deal of enjoyment as gardeners attract and learn about these big or tiny, fuzzy or shiny, striped, black, brown or iridescent green bees.”—San Francisco Chronicle


“A well thought out and researched reference for the beginner as well as for the more seasoned naturalist.”—Steve Gerischer, Pacific Horticulture


“A choice pick.”—Midwest Book Review


“A ‘must-have’ for every gardener and naturalist or would-be gardeners and naturalists.”—Bug Squad


“A wonderfully entertaining and instructive contribution to our understanding of the biological diversity found in gardens. The book’s comprehensive treatment of bees reaches far beyond California’s boundaries. Equally important is the discussion of plants, worthy of a book in itself and useful to any gardener seeking to enhance his or her gardening pleasure. The copious drawings and photographs illustrate every aspect of the text, making this a book that gardeners can rely upon for years.”—Eric Grissell, author of Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology

About the Authors

Gordon W. FrankieGordon W. Frankie is a professor and research entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley. His specialty is behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural, and urban environments of California and Costa Rica, and he is particularly involved with questions of how people relate to bees and their plants in these environments, and how to raise human awareness about bee-plant relationships. Dr. Frankie also teaches conservation and environmental problem solving at UC Berkeley. More information on his projects can be found at
Robbin W. ThorpRobbin W. Thorp is a professor emeritus of entomology at the University of California, Davis. He retired in 1994 after thirty years of teaching, research, and mentoring graduate students. He continues to conduct research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. He has special interests in native bees of the vernal pool ecosystem. For more information, visit his website.
Rollin E. CovilleRollin E. Coville received his Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1978 and for more than twenty-five years has been deeply involved with photographing insects and spiders. He also has a strong interest in the biology and behavior of Hymenoptera and has published papers on Trypoxylon wasps and Centris bees.
Barbara ErtterBarbara Ertter is Curator of Western North American Botany at the University and Jepson Herbaria, University of California, Berkeley. Primary research interests include western floristics (including the East Bay), systematics of several members of the rose family (e.g., Potentilla, Ivesia, Rosa), and the history of western botany. Significant publications include an updated edition of The Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mount Diablo, California (2002, with M. L. Bowerman), Annotated Checklist of the East Bay Flora (2nd edition, 2013, with L. Naumovich), and treatments of Potentilla, Ivesia, Horkelia, Rosa, and related genera for The Jepson Manual, Vascular Plants of California (2nd edition, 2012) and Flora of North America (pending). She currently lives in Boise, Idaho.