Backyard Orchard News
Hear the buzz?
That's the sound of a honey bee's wings moving at about 11,400 times per minute.
As a field bee, the worker bee lives only several weeks during the peak nectaring season. She can fly four to five miles a day, at a speed of about 15 miles per hour. When her wings (she has four) fray and wear out, she can no longer fly.
We recently spotted a honey bee with very ragged wings nectaring lantana and another nectaring lavender.
A world of difference between the wings.
For more information on honey bees, check out the UC Davis bee biology Web site and the links page.
Mason wasps are strikingly beautiful.
The black and yellow patterns are intriguing, but even more intriguing are the mud nests they build.
Makes sense that these wasps are called mason or potter wasps, named for what they do. Their human counterparts work with stone, brick, and concrete.
Native Americans reportedly designed some of their pottery in the shape of wasp nests.
Last month we spotted two mason wasps in our garden. One was seemingly sunning itself on a salvia leaf. Another was sipping nectar from a rock purslane.
Now if we could only find their nests...
Sunny Side Up
The warmth of the sun and the lure of nectar beckoned the hover flies or flower flies to our bee friendly garden.
We saw this one nectaring the rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) last weekend. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified it as "family Syrphidae, probably the genus Platycheirus."
It stood quite still, sipping the nectar and soon honey bees and a mason wasp joined it.
But for a minute, it seemed to have a "Mine" sign slapped on the blossom.
Hover fly on rock purslane
Ready for Take-Off
Ever wonder how a honey bee sees?
Its compound eyes are comprised of hundreds of single eyes (ommatidia), each with its own lens. It can distinguish colors, but can't see red, which it interprets as black.
Honey bees can even recognize human faces, according to a December 2005 article in the Journal of Experimental Biology. University of Cambridge scientists did a Pavlov-dog type experiment, in which they showed bees black-and-white photos of human faces. They trained the bees to recognize faces with a reward (sugar syrup) or a bitter quinine solution (punishment). In ensuing tests, the researchers took away the rewards and punishment. Result: the bees made a beeline for the "reward faces" 80 to 90 percent of the time.
If you want to see how bees see, check out scientist-artist Andy Giger's Web site, B-Eye. "There are differences between the bee's view of the world and ours," he says. "The bee has a lot fewer ommatidia than we have photoreceptors, and they are not evenly spaced."
B-Eye, Giger says, "ignores most of these differences, simulating just the optics of the honey bee's compound eyes. It shows what a bee would see of a flat image, with the bee facing straight at the plane of the image."
Seeing is bee-lieving.
If you're having cranberries, squash, pumpkins, carrots, cucumbers (and pickles) onions, grapefruit, oranges, apples, pears, cherries, blueberries, sunflowers and almonds, you can thank the honey bee.
“A substantial portion of the meal is pollinated by the honey bee,” said Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and a noted authority on honey bees.
Cole crops, such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, chard, and broccoli, are pollinated by bees.
Almonds often garnish parts of the meal, and those, too, are pollinated by bees--along with macadamia nuts, said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harrry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Even milk and ice cream are linked closely to the honey bee. Cows feed on alfalfa, which is pollinated by honey bees (and other bees). Ice cream ingredients usually include fruits and nuts, other bee favorites.
And the turkey? If it eats sunflower seeds--and it does--sunflowers are pollinated by bees.
Vegetarians can also be thankful. Bees visit soybeans (made into tofu for tofu turkey and other meatless dishes). “And bees can make a honey crop foraging on lima beans,” Mussen said.
And don’t forget the honey: honey-glazed carrots, honey rolls and honey-baked ham…
No wonder "honey" is a term of endearment...