Posts Tagged: honey bee
Bees carry pollen in their pollen baskets, but that's not the only place.
"Pollen grains adhere to the bee's hairs, influenced by opposite electrical charges," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Bees comb and brush the pollen into their pollen baskets but, as Gary writes, "Fortunately for the plants, bees aren't 100 percent efficient at transferring the pollen to the pollen baskets. Thousands of pollen grains may still remain on their bodies even after they finish grooming. Bees leave enough pollen behind, depositing it accidentally on female flower structures to ensure effective pollination."
Honey bees collect nectar, pollen, propolis (plant resin) and water to keep the colony humming. Nectar is the colony's carbohydrate (sugar) while pollen is the protein. Pollen also contains such nutrients as minerals, vitamins and fatty substances.
"During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen," Gary writes, adding that a single pollen-foraging bee will average 10 trips per day. "When pollen is abundant, a bee can gather a full load in as little as ten minutes by visiting several dozen flowers," he points out.
If you look closely, sometimes you'll see a bee covered with pollen. The bee below was on a yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) in Napa.
If you're allergic to pollen, these photos just might make you sneeze!
Honey bee covered with pollen; she is on a yellow coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee covered with pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
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)