Posts Tagged: honey bee
Talk about pollen power.
When honey bees forage among the bird’s eyes, they're a delight to see. They dive into the yellow-throated lavender flowers and emerge covered with a blue-gray pollen.
Bird’s eyes (Gilia tricolor) is a native California wildflower common in the Central Valley and surrounding mountain ranges and foothills.
If you look behind the Sciences Laboratory Building (near Briggs Hall) on the University of California, Davis campus, you'll see a thriving wildflower patch filled with bird's eyes, tidy tips, rock purslane, salvia and desert bluebells.
You'll see honey bees, hover flies, lady bugs and carpenter bees.
It's a bird's eye view for the bees. Or maybe a bee's eye view.
Covered with Pollen
It probably wasn't colony collapse disorder.
Probably not pesticides, a disease, malnutrition or stress, either.
It could have been a pest.
When we were walking through the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden at the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend, we spotted the still body of a honey bee on a white calla lily (Zantedeschia aethipica), a native of South Africa.
It seemed so incongruous. It was spring in the garden. Worker bees at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis are bustling out of their hives, collecting nectar and pollen for their expanding colonies.
Worker bees live only four to six weeks during the busy season. But this isn't the busy season.
"What happened to the bee?" someone inquired, after seeing the photo. "How did she die?"
"Don't know," I said. It probably wasn't pesticides, though. The garden is pesticide-free.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, speculated that a spider hiding inside the blossom may have killed the bee and then sucked its blood.
"Spiders do that--they lurk inside the blossoms," he said.
Another pest of the beleagered honey bee.
Death by a Spider?
Take a close look.
What's wrong with the first photo posted below this blog?
If you're a beekeeper or someone who's been around bees, you'll know immediately.
If not, you may look at the photo and say "Hmm, a honey bee. Yep, it's a honey bee, all right. It's on a what...nectarine blossom?"
Yes, it's a honey bee. Yes, it's on a nectarine blossom. But if you look at the huge eyes and the stout body, you'll know it doesn't belong on the blossom. It's a drone (male) and drones don't forage.
They have one responsibility and that's to mate with the queen. A virgin queen, on her maiden flight, leaves the hive and mates in the air with 12 to 25 males waiting for her in the drone congregation area.
After mating, the drones immediately fall to the ground and die. "They die happy," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Meanwhile, the queen bee returns to her hive and spends the rest of her life laying eggs. She's a veritable egg-laying machine. During the peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day. She will not mate again. She has enough stored sperm to last the rest of her life, which is usually one to two years.
UC Davis bee scientists got a kick out of the drone on the nectarine blossom. (If you watched the Jerry Seinfeld movie, "The Bee Movie," you probably heard Seinfeld erroneously referring to his fellow male bees as "pollen jocks." He also said males have stingers--they don't.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, said the photo would make "A great quiz material for beekeeping and pollination courses."
However, the best comment about the photo came from UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis:
"Silly drone--he has one function and that is not it!"
There's nothing like a steaming hot cup of coffee to jump-start the day.
If there's anything better than one cup, it's TWO cups.
Well, honey bees like a little caffeine, too.
Scientists at the University of Haifa, Israel, found that bees prefer nectar with a small concentration of caffeine and nicotine over nectar without those substances. The bees like the amount naturally found in nature and not at the higher, more toxic levels.
A news release posted on EurekaAlert noted that the bees "clearly" favored the blossoms that gave them a little buzz.
What's caffeine and nicotine doing in flowers, you ask? Did someone pour coffee or stub their cigarette in the blossoms? No. Some plant species naturally have a little caffeine or nicotine in their floral nectar.
"Nicotine is found naturally in floral nectar at a concentration of up to 2.5 milligrams per liter, primarily in various types of the tobacco tree (Nicotiana glauca)," wrote communications specialist Rachel Feldman of the University of Haita in her news release. "Caffeine is found at concentration levels of 11-17.5 milligrams per liter, mostly in citrus flowers. In the nectar of grapefruit flowers, however, caffeine is present in much higher concentrations, reaching 94.2 milligrams per liter."
What the researchers did was offer "clean" nectar (comprised of just sugars) and artificial nectar (comprised of various natural sugar levels, coupled with various levels of caffeine and nicotine).
The bees honed in on the spiked nectar.
It's important to point out, however, that the study proved a preference, not an addiction.
And yes, the next step is to study whether the bees can become addicted to the substances.
Honey, would you like a little sugar in your coffee, or a little coffee in your sugar?
Honey bees and ants belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, and occasionally you see them together.
Such was the case today in the Storer Garden, UC Davis Aboretum, as the closely related honey bees and ants foraged in the red-hot poker (Kniphofia galpinii or "Christmas cheer").
These ants? Argentine ants (Linepithema humile). "The Argentine ant is a non-native and a notorious pest," says UC Davis ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is also a non-native (it came over with the European colonists in the 1600s), but oh, what a non-native. We're so accustomed to it being a beneficial insect that we consider it a native.
Hymenoptera ("membrane wing") originated in the Triassic period, a geologic period that existed some 251 to 199 million years ago.
And today in a tiny thimble of time, they shared a red hot poker.
Honey Bee and an Ant
Nectaring on Lavender