Posts Tagged: Honey bee
It was definitely a hot spot.
Honey bees foraging last week on a pomegranate tree on Hopkins Road, west of the UC Davis main campus, competed for food on hundreds of blossoms.
We counted five honey bees on one blossom alone in what amounted to a pushing/shoving match.
Most of the bees probably came from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road.
The pomegranate is an ancient fruit and the honey bee is an ancient insect. Millions of years ago, they grew up together in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. European colonists brought the honey bee to our Eastern coast (Jamestown colony) in 1622; honey bees finally arrived in California in 1853. The pomegranate trees were introduced to California in 1769.
Five honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Four honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two bees on one pomegranate blossom, and about to be three. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A day in the life of a single worker bee...
A honey bee tumbles off the flowering catmint (Nepeta) and struggles to right herself.
Her wings tattered, her body battered, she does not buzz away.
Perhaps she is approaching the end of her six-week lifespan--three weeks working inside the hive and three weeks working outside the hive. Bee scientists say that worker bees literally work themselves to death.
As a forager, she likely made about 40 trips a day gathering nectar and pollen. Forty trips a day. It's like going to the grocery store 40 times a day. Oops, forgot something. Got to return to the store.
Bees can forage from a distance of up 5 miles away from their colony, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
She's just one bee of about 60,000 in the colony. And now, she will not return. She may have eaten something she shouldn't have or may have an intestinal infection, surmised Mussen.
Or maybe she was poisoned by a pesticide, snagged by a bird, bitten by a spider, or ravaged by Varroa mites.
Still, seeing a honey bee tumble off a blossom and die is something we humans rarely observe.
Meanwhile, her sisters keep working the blossoms, tasks needed to keep the colony alive. Back at the hive, the queen bee is busily laying about 2000 eggs a day to replace all the adult bees who die every day.
A day in the life of a single worker bee...
Honey bee tumbles off a flowering catmint and lands on a leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Tattered wings of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee thrusts out her proboscis (tongue). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We all take short cuts--short cuts around the campus, to the beach, to a favorite restaurant...
Honey bees take short cuts, too.
We've often watched assorted bumble bees and carpenter bees drill a hole in a long-tubed flower to rob the nectar.
And we've watched honey bees benefitting from this behavior.
Today we observed a carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, engaging in nectar robbing in salvia at the UC Davis Arboretum. Nectar robbing occurs when a bee or other animal circumvents the usual plant-pollinator relationship and "cheats" by entering a flower from the outside to steal nectar, thus avoiding pollination or contact with the anthers.
There's excellent information on bumble bees, their habitat needs, their behavior, and identifying characteristics in a free, downloadable PDF from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: "Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America's Declining Pollinators."
The PDF mentions that "short-tongued bumble bees will engage in 'nectar robbing' from flowers with a long corolla tube by biting holes at the base of the corolla and drinking the nectar from the outside of the flower." The bee grabs the reward but doesn't contribute to "the plant's pollination needs."
Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, robbing nectar from salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gathering nectar from a carpenter bee's pierced hole in the long tube of a salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another honey bee reaping the benefits of nectar robbing by a carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When there's so much pain, grief and sorrow in the world, it's time to shut off the TV, log off the computer, exit the house, and photograph honey bees.
Watching honey bees foraging in the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, is therapy enough. They are sisters, sisters with a job to do, and so little time to do it. Buzzing from one blossom to another, gathering nectar and pollen, they are a symphony of color, grace and sound, unlike the cacophony that savagely screams from the 10 o'clock news.
"The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer day," write Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "But that relentless hum, soporific perhaps, to the idling human, is in reality the produce of a machine-like urge to work--to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks, before the blooms fade."
What they do every day is for the greater good--the good of the colony. They set an example that the human race should follow.
Yet the winter of 2012-2013 may prove to be the worst yet for the declining bee population, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Meanwhile, we all need to bee-lieve that the worst is over.
In more ways than one.
Honey bee foraging on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almost like a painting, this photo of a honey bee contributes to the softer side of life. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Insects outnumber us on this earth.
And they always will. By the millions.
Penny Gullan and and Peter Cranston, emeritus professors of entomology at the University of California, Davis, wrote in their textbook, The Insects (Wiley Blackwell) that "Although there are millions of kinds of insects, we do not know exactly (or even approximately) how many. This ignorance of how many organisms we share our planet with is remarkable considering that astronomers have listed, mapped and uniquely identified a comparable diversity of galactic objects. Some estimates...imply that the species richness of insects is so great that, to a near approximation, all organisms can be considered insects."
So it's good to see that when the website,Twisted Sifter, recently chose "The 50 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever," three of them were insects.
One insect photo, which they numbered No. 18 (photo by Tustel Ico) depicted a praying mantis on a bicycle. Another, No. 22, showed an unusual bee sting (taken by yours truly) and the third, No. 46, was of a ladybug by Lentilcia on deviantART.
The bee sting photo, which has gone around the world and back, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology getting stung in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Research Facility. You can see a trail of the bee's abdominal tissue as the bee tries to pull away.
At the time, we were walking through the apiary when he said "Kathy, get your camera ready. The bee's going to sting me." (See Bug Squad entry.) The bee was defending its hive, which is what bees do.
Mussen, with the Department of Entomology since 1976, plans to retire in June of 2014, but like the Energizer bunny, this photo of the bee sting will probably keep on going.
It went from winning a feature photo contest sponsored by the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists, to being named the Huffington Post's "Most Amazing Photos of 2012"; one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 news stories of 2012; and My Science Academy's top photos of the year. Along the way, scores of websites named it "Picture of the Day." It also will appear in a number of books.
It's definitely the bee sting felt around the world.
Honey bee stinging Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)