Posts Tagged: honey bees
It may not be the farmer's friend, but it's the beekeeper's friend.
Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum), a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, is considered a weed, but I consider it a flowering plant for bees when I see it along roadsides and parks and lining orchards and vineyards.
As winter leaves us and spring snuggles closer, the bees are all over the wild radish. Typically white or a pale pink with pale pinkish-purplish veins, it's an early bloomer. Often you see mustard and "the rad" growing together.
If a weed is "a plant that is not valued where it is growing," then this most certainly is not a weed.
At least to bees, beekeepers and photographers.
A honey bee heading for wild radish. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in motion. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In actuality, those fragile white petals fluttering to the ground in the Central Valley are a different kind of snow, but the kind that doesn't make you shiver or shovel.
The University of California, Davis, campus is now seeing the last of its dwindling almond blooms. Over on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, steady rains are driving the bees 'n blooms away.
So we took one last look for the buds that first began unfolding in mid-February. The almond trees are leafing out as if to welcome spring. In a couple more weeks, spring officially arrives (March 20).
Meanwhile, the California State Beekeepers' Association is busy planning its display at the California Agriculture Day, a farm-to-fork celebration always held near the beginning of spring on the State Capitol grounds. This year it's March 19. It's when the rural folk meet the city folk. Youths learn that chocolate milk doesn't come from chocolate cows, honey doesn't come from sticks, and beef doesn't originate on a bun at a fast food restaurant.
It's good to see the governor and the state legislators mingle with the farmers, the ranchers, the growers, the 4-H'ers and the FFA'ers.
For one day, the State Capitol lawn virtually turns into the land of milk and honey: the dairy industry hands out cartons of milk and the state beekeepers, sticks of honey.
Best of all, it's good to see a tractor on the steps of the capitol building. That's exactly where it belongs.
Honey bee foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollen-packing honey bee dives in head first. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Land around an almond tree on Bee Biology Road is being prepared for UC Davis pollination ecology plots. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mine--well, it's not exactly mine!--is on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
It's spectacular in bloom. You can hear the buzz of honey bees, the tweeting of birds, and occasionally, an airplane droning over the field or a hog squealing from the nearby UC Davis hog farm.
But the sounds of the bees empower us and assure us that spring is coming. This particular almond tree, with its low hanging branches, is an addiction and a good place to get "a fix."
Meanwhile, 1.6 million honey bee colonies, trucked in from all over the United States, are pollinating California's 810,000 acres of almonds. Each acre requires two bee hives.
California growers produced 1.88 billion pounds of almonds for the 2012-13 crop year, according to Christine Souza's Dec. 11, 2013 article in Ag Alert. The 2013-14 crop is estimated at 1.85 billion pounds.
A little less than last year but that's a lot of almonds! And a lot of buzz in the almonds...
Springlike scene--a honey bee foraging in almond blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden is her color and white is her aim. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Historians agree that the infamous story about George Washington cutting down his father's favorite cherry tree and then admitting it ("I cannot tell a lie") is probably just that--a story. A myth. Didn't happen.
At age 6, George Washington reportedly got a little hatchet-happy and started chopping down every thing in sight. At least that's what biographer Parson Weems wrote in telling a story supposedly related to him by an elderly woman, maybe a cousin, maybe a neighbor, maybe not. Historians say there's no proof young George did that; and that Weems made up the story, later printed in a McGuffey Reader, to encourage children to always tell the truth.
So there you have it: Weems made up the story to get young children to always tell the truth.
As we all know, young George Washington (Feb. 22, 1732-Dec. 14, 1799) went on to become the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, 1775–1783, and then the founding president of the United States, serving from 1789 until 1797.
We don't know much about George Washington's early life, but we do know that as an adult, he kept bees--bees that pollinated his fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums, and cherries. We do know that honey bees were here 110 years before young George was born; European colonists brought the honey bee to America (to the Jamestown colony, Virginia) in 1622.
Some tall tales also exist about bees during the American Revolutionary War. According to a fictional story first published in the Sunday School Advocate and then reprinted in the September 1917 in the American Bee Journal, 12-year-old beekeeper Charity Crabtree was tending her father's bees when she encountered a wounded soldier who told her to ride his horse to Gen. Washington's camp, just outside Philadelphia, and warn him about the impending attack by Gen. Charles Cornwallis.
However, before she could ride off, the British surrounded her and yelled “Ho, there! Stop, girl, or by heaven we'll make you!”
The story continues: "Suddenly, with the entrance of the soldiers, the bees began to buzz with a cannon's roar, as if to say, 'Here we are, Charity! Didn't Washington say we were patriots, too? Just give us a chance to defend our country!'
"Like lightning, now, Charity bent from her saddle, and seizing a stout stick, she wheeled around to the outer side of the hedge that protected the hives like a low wall. Then, with a smart blow, she beat each hive until the bees clouded the air. Realizing from experience that bees always follow the thing that hits them rather than the person who directs it, she threw the stick full force at her pursuers.
"As Charity galloped off at high speed she heard the shouts of fury from the soldiers, who fought madly against the bees. And, of course, the harder they fought, the harder they were stung. If they had been armed with swords the brave bees could not have kept the enemy more magnificently at bay.
"While Charity was riding furiously miles away, down the pike, past the bridge, over the hill, right into Washington's camp, her would-be pursuers lay limply in the dust—their noses swollen like powder horns. When the little maid finally gained admission to Washington's tent, for to none other would she trust her secret, the great general stared at her gray dress torn to ribbons, her kerchief draggled with mud and her gold hair loosened by the wind. But Charity had no time for ceremony."
Charity delivered the message about the the two attacks: the pending British attack and the bee attack. At that point, George Washington praised Charity's bees for saving the country.
Said George: "It is well done, Little Miss Crabtree...Neither you nor your bees shall be forgotten when our country is at peace again. It was the cackling geese that saved Rome, but the bees saved America.”
George Washington never said that, either.
He did, however, go on to rear bees at his Mount Vernon estate.
A young honey bee foraging on a cherry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee deep inside a cherry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We know that honey bees work hard. They forage for food within a four-mile range of their hive. They can fly up to 15 miles per hour, and their wings can beat about 200 times per second, or 12,000 beats per minute. Sometimes they'll visit 50 to 100 flowers on a collection trip. No wonder worker bees live only four to six weeks during their peak season. They literally work themselves to death.
Matan Shelomi, doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, responded. He answers scores of questions on Quora. (He won a Shorty award for his answer to "If you injure a bug, should you kill it or let it live?”).
Shelomi took the bee question to heart.
"Nope," he wrote. "No blood vessels."
"A heart attack is when fatty deposits, clots, etc. block the coronary artery that leads to the heart muscle. Blood flow to the heart muscle itself (as opposed to the pumping chambers) stops, so the muscle dies and the heart stops beating. So to have a heart attack, you need a heart and arteries."
"Insects have a heart, sometimes, but no arteries or veins. They have an open circulatory system: all their organs just float in a goo called 'hemolymph' that is a combination of lymph and blood. Some insects, bees included, have a heart and an aorta (the vessel leading out of the heart) that pumps the blood and gives it some semblance of direction (from the back of the insect to the front), but beyond that there is no circulatory system. The heart floats in the hemolymph along with everything else. No way to stop it from receiving blood flow, because it's surrounded by it.
"Furthermore, unlike human blood, insect blood doesn't carry oxygen. They have a special network of tubes called trachea that provide oxygen: think of it having air vessels go from your lungs all throughout your body instead of blood vessels. Conceivably the trachea leading to an insect heart could all get blocked by something from the outside, which would be the closest thing to a 'heart attack' in an insect, but there's no record of that happening and its unlikely anyway. So, nope, no insect can have a heart attack. Scare them to your heart's content."
So, this month being "American Heart Month" and all, we don't have to worry about honey bees having heart attacks. All drones (male bees), however, pay the ultimate price when they mate with a queen. During the in-flight mating process, parts of the male anatomy are ripped out and they die.
Honey bee heading toward rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)