Posts Tagged: honey bees
Beekeepers consider stings just a part of their job.
However, say the word "bee" and John Q. and Jane Q. Public may not think about the pollination of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Or the end product: honey.
The bee conjures up the "S" word: sting.
Of the scores of questions that Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen has fielded since 1976 (when he joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty), many relate to bee stings.
Here are his answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:
1. Can a honey bee sting kill you?
If a person is highly sensitized to honey bee venom, one sting could be fatal, causing anaphylactic shock. Otherwise, it is just painful and likely to cause some swelling and local tenderness that will last for two or three days.
2. How do you treat a honey bee sting?
Try to remove honey bee stings as quickly as possible, since venom is pumped from a sting into the victim for 45-60 seconds. Stings are easily scraped off with a fingernail. If many honey bees are stinging, leave the area quickly and deal with the stings when you are out of range of the defensive area (about 100 feet with European honey bees, but up to ¼ mile – 1,320 feet – with Africanized honey bees). The pain can be reduced a bit by putting ice on the sting site, but the stabbing pain backs off fairly quickly without any treatment.
3. Can a honey bee hear you?
Honey bees do not have sensory organs that can pick up sounds that we can hear. They are very sensitive to vibrations. They feel us walking toward the nesting site before we get there.
4. Why do beekeepers use smokers when they visit their beehives?
The smoke from the smoker has three effects on the bees. First, it prevents the guard bees from liberating much “alarm pheromone” (smells like bananas) in the hive. Second, it prevents “soldier” bees in the hive from smelling the pheromone that has been secreted. Third, it causes many bees to fill up on honey. Despite the wives’ tales to the contrary, there is no reason to believe that the bees “think” there is a fire or that bees full of honey cannot sting.
5. Can honey bees see color?
Yes, honey bees can see nearly all the colors we see. They cannot see red, which looks black to them. They can see into the UV wavelengths a ways, which is beyond our limit at purple. UV looks black to us.
6. Do honey bees need to eat meat?
No. Unlike wasps, honey bees derive nearly all the important ingredients in their diet from pollens. Pollens contain protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, sterols, and many plant-derived antioxidants. No single pollen contains all the essential ingredients, so colonies do best where a good mix of attractive flowers are available. Nectar, the dilute sugar syrup honey bees collect from flowers, contains mostly sugar, an energy food. The flavor and color of honey depend upon the source of the nectar from which it is condensed.
There you have it: The A, Bee and C of the most commonly asked questions.
Bottom line: Sure, bees can and do sting, but our survival depends on them. Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat (fruits, vegetables and nuts). They pollinate some 100 crops in California, including about 700,000 acres of almonds.
“The value of California crops pollinated by bees is $6.1 billion,” Mussen says.
Site of the Sting
An article posted on the ScienceNews Web site today indicates that North America did, too, have a honey bee.
For nearly 400 years, we've been told that the honey bee (genus Apis) did not exist on this continent until 1622. That's when the colonists brought it over from Europe.The Native Americans dubbed it "the white man's fly."
Honey bees existed at least 14 million years ago in North America, according to a fossil record recently identified by paleontologist-entomologist Michael Engle of the University of Kansas, Lawrence. The fossilized female worker bee, now at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, was unearthed in paper shale from Stewart Valley, west-central Nevada. The geological epoch: Middle Miocene.
Engle, the lead author of research published in the May 7th edition of the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, says the bee is definitely a honey bee. It has the distinctive hairy eyes, wing patterns and barbs on the stinger.
Unfortunately, this ancient bee--which Engle and his colleagues have named Apis nearctica--no longer exists. The researchers say it's most similar to the extinct species, Apis armbrusteri Zeuner from the Miocene epoch of southwestern Germany.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a noted authority on honey bees, tells us that "hairy eyes" is a distinctive feature of the honey bee. "All honey bees," he said, "have hairy eyes."
The Nevada bee certainly isn't the oldest known record of a fossilized bee. The oldest known bee is 100 million years old, found embedded in amber in Burma back in 2006.
But Apis nearctica is proof that North America was a native range of the honey bee. In the journal article, Engle says that "honey bees were likely truly absent" from North America duirng the Pliocense and Pleistocene, "not becoming reintroduced until the major European colonization of the New World in the early 17th century."
Fact is, the honey bee lived here, but it did not survive.
Which begs the question--OK, we have to ask--Was it some kind of a colony collapse disorder (CCD)?
Bee on Sweet William
It’s the lemon law.
When life hands you a lemon (cucumber), make honey.
The lemon cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is an increasingly popular garden vegetable that doesn't look like your typical cucumber. The vegetable is round to oval in shape and is pale yellow to pale green in color.
A key point about all cucumbers: No bees, no cucumbers. Or, no pollination, no cucumbers.
The photos below show a honey bee nectaring a lemon cucumber blossom and then packing the pollen.
You can see the pollen basket (corbicula), a concave structure located on the tibia of the hind legs. The pollen basket is fringed with hairs.
Bee use their middle legs to “pat down and compact the growing pollen mass in the pollen baskets,” according to A. I. Root (1839-1923) and E. R. Root (1862-1953) in their landmark encyclopedia. The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture. Although first published in 1877 and updated in 1920, the book maintains both an historical and current-day presence. It is considered a "must-have" or "must-read" book. The Smithsonian sponsored the digititzing and it can now be read online.
Here's what they have to say about cucumber blossoms:
“In the absence of bees, cucumber blossoms, whether in the field or hothouse, remain barren. The stamens and pistils are in different flowers on the same vine, the staminate flowers being more abundant on the main stems and the pistillate on the lateral branches.”No bees, no cucumbers.
Bee on Lemon Cucumber
“You’re not going to be able to jump on the pomegranate bandwagon with your pockets bulging with gold without a lot of hard work,” Kevin Day, farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension Tulare County, told a reporter for a news story published May 14 in the Western Farm Press.
Yes, hard work.
Day told Western Farm Press that from 2006 to 2009, the number of acres in California planted with pomegranate trees "has increased from 12,000 or 15,000 acres in 2006, to 29,000 acres in 2009."
“We’ve doubled in three years, and that’s a lot of young pomegranate trees,” he said.
And that's a lot of work for the honey bees, too.
Our "orchard" of one pomegranate tree is buzzing with bees.
Just when we thought they'd forgotten their old buddy--"old" because the pomegranate tree was planted in 1927--here they come in the late afternoon. One by one, two by two, they head for the blossoms to gather the nectar and roll in the pollen of the papery blossoms.
Gold may bulge from the pockets of pomegranate orchardists, but a different kind of gold bulges from the honey bees--pollen.
Get in Line
A field of dreams, for a honey bee, almost certainly would be a field of lavender.
Call it what you want, but if a bee could talk, it would probably be "lovely lavender."
When UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, guided a group of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City to commercial bee operations in the Central Valley, one of the stops was to Ann Beekman's lavender fields in Hughson, Stanislaus County.
Ann Beekman of Beekman and Beekman (beekeepers) grows lavender and keeps bees to produce honey, mead soaps and candles. She's featured in the UC Davis Small Farm Center’s book, Outstanding in Their Fields: California’s Women Farmers, which celebrates the achievements of 17 women farmers and ranchers.
Visiting the lavender fields is on my "honey-do" list, but presently, I'll have to be content capturing images of honey bees nectaring the lavender in our bee friendly garden.
And I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. A group of Sausalito residents submitted the winning design, which will be implemented this year. A public dedication is tentatively scheduled in October.
The honey bees will surely be as happy as we bee lovers. We all love lavender.
Honey Bee on Lavender