Posts Tagged: bumble bees
The three queen bumble bees (Bombus melanopygus) we found buzzing around our porch light the night of Jan. 9 are still very much alive.
Who would have "thunk?"
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, is caring for them at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
Thorp, who officially retired in 1994, maintains an active research and bee monitoring/identification program based as the Laidlaw facility. He recently co-authored a book on Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press), to be released in March.
So yesterday photographer/artist Allan Jones of Davis and I checked out "The Lovely Ladies at the Laidlaw." Yes, they're very much alive.
But it sure was strange on Jan. 9 to see them as as night fliers, or porch-light bumble bees. I figured they were parasitized. I figured that a florid fly, Apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in such insects as bumble bees, wasps and honey bees, had nailed them. I figured they'd be goners within a few days.
I hope I'm wrong.
It's long been known that Apocephalus borealis infests bumble bees. However, Professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University and his colleagues caused quite a media stir when they discovered that this fly infests honey bees as well. They published their work, "A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly, Apocephalus borealis," in PLOS ONE back in January 2012. They revealed that the parasitized, disoriented honey bees (which they nicknamed "Zombies" or "ZomBees") leave their hives at night and head for the lights.
"After being parasitized by the fly, the bees abandon their hives in what is literally a flight of the living dead to congregate near lights," said Andrew Core of the Hafernik lab. 'When we observed the bees for some time—the ones that were alive—we found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction."
Fingers crossed that the three queen bumble bees aren't parasitized. Fingers crossed that they will survive. Fingers crossed that they will continue to be "The Lovely Ladies at the Laidlaw."/span>
The three queen bumble bees (Bombus melanopygus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bumble bee expert and UC Davis emeritus professor Robbin Thorp checks the trio. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Billed as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century," it allows readers, both amateurs and professionals, to identify all 46 bumble bee species found in North America and learn about their ecology, changing geographic distributions, and the endangered and threatened species.
Bumble bees, you know, are among the most recognizable of the world's 20,000 species of bees. The genus, Bombus, has only 250 species. A small number, indeed.
A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee sharing a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're on your way to Bodega Bay in Sonoma County, stop at Bodega Head and see all the yellow-faced bumble bees on a yellow coastal plant, Eriophyllum, commonly known as the woolly sunflower.
The bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii, are back and they particularly like the Eriophyllum. It's probably Eriophyllum staechadifolium, agreed Ellen Dean, curator of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity, and Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture at the UC Davis Arboretum.
According to Calflora, it's also called lizard tail andseaside golden yarrow as well as seaside woolly sunflower.
We spotted a huge orange pollen load on one yellow-faced bumble bee. Saddle bags!
Bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, on woolly sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bumble bee, vosnesenski. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This yellow-faced bumble bee is packing red pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
So says David Goulson, professor at the University of Stirling, U.K., who will speak on “The Ecology and Conservation of Bumble Bees” on Wednesday, April 24 at a UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar.
His seminar, set from 12:05 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives, promises to be well attended. It is scheduled to be videotaped and broadcast at a later date on UCTV.
UC Davis pollination ecologist/assistant professor Neal Williams will host him.
"I will discuss the main causes of their declines, which probably vary between regions," said Goulson, who founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2006.
"In Europe, the primary driver is thought to be habitat loss and other changes associated with intensive farming," Goulson said. "In the Americas, declines of some species are likely to be due to impacts of non-native diseases.
“I will then turn to possible links between poor bee health and pesticides, particularly a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. A controversy is currently raging on both sides of the Atlantic; I will give my view on the evidence for environmental impacts of these pesticides.”
Goulson works mainly on the ecology and conservation of bumble bees. He has published more than 200 scientific articles on the ecology and conservation of insects, with a particular focus on bumble bees. He is the author of Bumblebees: Their Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation, published in 2010 by Oxford University Press, and of A Sting in the Tale, a popular science book about bumble bees, published in 2013 by Jonathan Cape.
Goulson received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Oxford University, followed by a doctorate on butterfly ecology at Oxford Brookes University. Subsequently, he lectured in biology for 11 years at the University of Southampton, before moving to Stirling in 2006, and then to Sussex in 2013.
Meanwhile, what's not to like about bumble bees? The dwindling population of many species...
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on Scabiosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's sad to see and say, but like honey bees, the bumble bee population is declining, and that decline is alarming. Public awareness can help turn this around.
That's why we're glad to see that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, based in Portland, Ore., has just published a free downloadable booklet titled Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators.
The booklet outlines "the important role bumble bees play in both agricultural and wild plant pollination, details the threats they face, and provides information on how land managers can create, restore, and enhance high quality habitat," the authors said. "Importantly, these guidelines describe how land managers can adapt current practices to be more in sync with the needs and lifec ycle of bumble bees."
The booklet also includes bumble bee identification guides to both common and imperiled species in each region and lists important bumble bee plants.
One of the many plants they go for is lavender. In our yard we see as many as 10 yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging at one time. The bumble bees share the lavender with honey bees, syrphid flies, drone flies, blue and green bottle flies, carpenter bees, ladybugs, spotted cucumber beetles, butterflies, katydids, grasshoppers and a few predators, including crab spiders and jumping spiders.
Yellow-faced bumble bee nectaring lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)