Posts Tagged: Honey bee
Great article in the Tuesday, April 28 edition of The New York Times on "Let's Hear It for the Bees."
And did I mention that the photo accompanying the article is one I shot last year on a Yolo County farm tour? The bee is nectaring a button willow (Cephalanthus occidentalis).
In The Times' article, Leon Kreitzman writes about the rhythmic opening and closing of blossoms. "Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments--say 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees' time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes."
That's fascinating stuff. Kreitzman is so right when he calls honey bees "nature's little treasures." He points out that "They are a centimeter or so long, their brains are tiny, and a small set of simple rules can explain the sophisticated social behavior that produces the coordinated activity of a hive. They live by sets of instructions that are familiar to computer programmers as subroutines--do this until the stop code, then into the next subroutine, and so on."
Kreitzman's new book on seasonal rhythms will be published in May. He earlier penned Rhythms of Life with neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford.
If we all paid more attention to the honey bees, we'd appreciate all the work they do and maybe we'd try to protect them more.
Yes, let's hear it for the bees!
Honey bee on button willow
It's not spring until you see honey bees, carpenter bees and butterflies on Tidy Tips.
That would be Layia platyglossa, a wildflower native to southern California. Its common name is "Tidy Tips" or "Coastal Tidy Tips." It's a daisylike flower with yellow petals tipped in white, thus the name. It's a member of the aster family.
A flower bed in the center of the UC Davis campus (near the Science LaboratoriesBuilding) boasts an intermingling of the yellow-and-white Tidy Tips and sky-blue Desert Blue Bells (Phacelia campanularia).
Insects think so, too. On any given day you'll see honey bees, carpenter bees, butterflies and lacewings holding family reunions.
Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)
Blue merle mini-Australian shepherds have one.
So do honey bees.
What? A tongue.
For a puppy, the tongue can symbolize pure happiness. For a worker honey bee: a solid work ethic.
It's easy to take a photo of a happy puppy with her tongue hanging out, but not so easy to capture an image of a honey bee nectaring a flower--unless you have a macro lens, a quick trigger finger and a state of endurance called patience.
To be technically correct, entomologists refer to the honey bee "tongue" as "mouthparts." That would be the tubelike organ that enables them to nectar flowers and serve as nursemaids and undertakers and the like.
"The mouthparts of bees are of a chewing and lapping type," they write. 'Lapping is a mode of feeding in which liquid or semi-liquid food adhering to a protrusible organ, or 'tongue,' is transferred from substrate to mouth. in the honey bee, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera Apidae), the elongate and fused labial glossae form a hairy tongue, which is surrounded by the maxillary galeae and the labial palps to form a tubular proboscis containing a food canal. In feeding, the tongue is dipped into the nectar or honey, which adheres to the hairs, and then is retracted so that adhering liquid is carried into the space between the galeae and labial palps. This back-and-forth glossal movement occurs repeatedly. Movement of liquid to the mouth apparently results from the action of the cibarial pump, facilitated by each retraction of the tongue pushing liquid up the food canal."
Wait! There's more.
"The maxillary laciniae and palps are rudimentary and the paraglossae embrace the base of the tongue, directing salvia from the dorsal salivary orifice around into a ventral channel from whence it is transported to the flabellum, a small lobe at the glossal tip; saliva may dissolve solid or semi-solid sugar. The sclerotized, spoon-shaped mandibles lie at the base of the proboscis and have a variety of functions, including the manipulation of wax and plant resins for nest construction, the feeding of larvae and the queen, grooming, fighting and the removal of nest debris including dead bees.
And you thought the mouthparts of a bee were simple? Not at all.
Be sure to read this again. There will be a test tomorrow.
Industrious honey bee
Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) lamented in his poem “To a Mouse” (1786) that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
He had just plowed into a mouse nest on his farm. The loss of life disturbed him.
Today folks have only to hear "best laid plans" and know about the "awry" or "astray" part..
Friday we were out looking for bumble bees (Plan A).
A brilliant pink shrub,
But the honey bees were all over it.
From Plan A to Plan Bee.
Close-up of Honey Bee
UC Davis Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty for 32 years, says this looks like a challenging year for almond growers.
There's this water problem. Think "drought."
There's this honey bee crisis. Think "bee health" and "declining bee population."
Then there's these increased production costs. Think "tanked economy."
Christine Souza, assistant editor of Ag Alert, published by the California Farm Bureau Federation, wrote an excellent article in the Jan. 28th edition about the problems almond growers and beekeepers alike are facing.
Headlined "Challenges Face Almond Growers and Beekeepers," the article began:
A reduction in almond prices, limited water availability, increased production costs and the declining health of bees may all influence what happens during this year's almond bloom, impacting both almond growers and beekeepers.
Speaking at the Almond Board of California annual meeting last month, board member Dan Cummings warned his audience that this spring could be "dicey" for almond growers and beekeepers alike.
"Bees are competing for almond growers' money the same as water, fertilizer, fuel and all of our other inputs, at a time when the price of almonds has dropped. So we will be rationalizing where we go with our bees," said Cummings, who farms almonds in Chico and is co-owner of a full-service beekeeping operation. "We will be fallowing some other crops to direct water to almonds and perhaps abandoning almond orchards."
As a result, he said he believes many growers may reduce the amount of honeybee colonies that they place into the orchards for pollination during bloom, to save money.
And all this is happening right now. We saw the first almond blossoms this week in Yolo and Solano counties, a sure sign that spring can't be far behind.
Mussen told Souza that beekeepers are most concerned about the health of their bees, "whether they operate one colony in the backyard or thousands of colonies throughout the country."
"Money is important," Mussen told her, "because it costs nearly $150 to keep a commercial colony alive and productive over a year. Without that income the bees would be lost and the beekeeper would be out of business."
Get ready for the bumpy ride. Take a deep breath. And, as the bumpersticker says: Get in, sit down, and hold on tight.
This may be like Disneyland's Big Thunder rollercoaster that twists through mine shafts, bat caves and caverns.
And watch for the falling rocks.
Honey bee and almond blossom