Backyard Orchard News
The skies brightened last weekend and the rain-weary honey bees returned to the nectarine blossoms in our yard
They were in the pink again!
Capturing images of the bees gathering nectar and pollen is more fun than eating cotton candy at a county fair.
Radiant pink flowers.
Industrious honey bees.
What more could anyone ask for a garden party?
Pistol packin’ mamas have nothing on honey bees.
Have you ever seen the pollen load that a honey bee carries?
What's pollen? It's the fine, powder-like material produced by the anthers of flowering plants, or the grains that contain the male reproductive cells of a seed plant.
The worker bees carry pollen in special pollen baskets on their legs. The baskets are concave surfaces fringed with bristles or curved hairs to hold the pollen in place.
Only the worker bees have pollen baskets. The queen bee and the drones (males) have none.
"Honey bees derive their protein, vitamins, minerals and some carbohydrates from pollens," UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen writes in Bee Briefs. "Since no single pollen source provides all their nutritional needs, honey bees must have a number of pollens available to them to remain healthy and to produce the royal jelly required to feed the queen and rear brood."
Worker bees feed the brood "beebread," a mixture of nectar and pollen.
Yesterday the honey bees on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis buzzed around the almond blossoms, gathering nectar and pollen.
It's amazing--truly amazing-how much pollen honey bees can pack in those pollen baskets.
The honey bee population is declining throughout the world, but not the interest in the art of queen rearing.
The annual class taught by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, filled up within a week and 25 are on the waiting list for next year.
It’s so popular that Cobey may teach two classes in 2010: one for commercial beekeepers and one for hobbyists.
The class, set March 17-19, includes two days of classroom and hands-on beekeeping, and an optional tour on March 19 of large scale commercial queen production facilities in northern
The class “is designed to provide an understanding and appreciation of what it takes to rear high-quality queens,” said Cobey, who accepts only 20 students per course.
Cobey, whose background includes operation of a commercial queen production and bee breeding business, will present information on bee biology and principles of queen rearing.
“The beekeepers will be involved in the various steps of the process including setting up cell builders, grafting, handling queen cells and establishing mating nucs (nucleus hives),” Cobey said. She also discuss the importance of drone production and establishing mating areas.
Her queen bee instrumental insemination classes at UC Davis draw students from throughout the world. Cobey will teach “Instrumental Insemination and Bee Breeding Workshop” April 14, 15 and 16, and the “Advanced Workshop on the Technique of Instrumental Insemination” April 22 and 23. The list of registrants includes beekeepers from
For the art of queen rearing class, it’s BYOV.
That means “bring your own veil.”
Teaching a class
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
If you like to take nature walks and lean against an occasional tree, you might rub shoulders with a red-eyed, red-shouldered bug.
On warm, springlike days, soapberry bugs are exploring their territories--and doing what comes naturally.
These predominately black-and-red bugs are seed feeders on plants but they're much more than that. Scientists consider them the evolutionary “canary in the coal mine.”
I captured these photos of soapberry bugs last Friday in the UC Davis Arboretum. UC Davis biologist Scott Carroll, biologist who studies basic and applied aspects of evolutionary biology, specifically soapberry bugs, considers them "good mothers and avid lovers." .
“Soapberry bugs are tame, pretty, good mothers, avid lovers, and among the best native guides to ongoing evolution on the planet," he writes on his under-construction Web site.
"They respond quicky to changes in the environment and can be good models for observing evolution in action."
They're also good photographic models./o:p>/u1:p>/o:p>/u1:p>/o:p>/u1:p>/o:p>/o:p>/u1:p>/o:p>
Up a tree