Bees’ favourite plants revealed by Botanic Garden study – BBC News

We know honey bees show preference to flowers with higher sugar content in the nectar and with the pollen that has particular nutrients such as proteins, amino acids, etc.. they need for brood rearing and such.  The Botanic Garden of Wales says they have been able to pin down the most preferred flowers by honey bees.

It might inspire your garden and beekeeping related planting plans.

National Botanic Garden of Wales research reveals which plants bees choose their pollen from.

Source: Bees’ favourite plants revealed by Botanic Garden study – BBC News

Honey Bees May Be Harmed By Crop-Protecting Fungicides

While I won’t say if this is a “thing” yet, I will admit that I won’t bee surprised.  Bees are such complex creatures not only because of each one’s physiology, but the very nature of the super-organism we know as the colony.

This describes sub-lethal effects that don’t get looked for in regular testing most of the time.  Until a few years ago, even the EPA wasn’t thinking about sub-lethal effects on pesticides being submitted for use in the U.S. and didn’t include testing for it.

It certainly gives us something else to add to the discussion when discussing bee nutrition and environments.   

Farmers rely on fungicides to prevent those brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple. But, it turns out, those fungicides could be hurting honey bees.

Source: Honey Bees May Be Harmed By Crop-Protecting Fungicides

Lost colonies: How bee rustling works

Hive stealing has been around for a very long time.  While this article discusses pretty well how “bee rustling” is impacted by almond season, it doesn’t go quite into the history of the malpractice.

Also, I’d like to add that the estimable gentleman from Bee Culture magazine that was quoted in this article is Kim Flottum (NOT Flossum).  As always, excellent input Kim.

When $90,000 worth of bee colonies were stolen recently in Manvel, it raised one question among those outside the industry: Why? Why steal bees?

Source: Lost colonies: How bee rustling works

Seeing is bee-lieving

Honey bees are extra-ordinary creatures.  There are so many interesting things to know about them that set them apart from every other creature in the world you could write every day in a lifetime and still not cover it all.

One of the fascinating things about bees is their vision.  The anatomy and physiology of what they eyes are and how they work to help bees do what the do is phenomenal!

First of all, bees have two sets of eyes.  There are the “simple eyes” technically called “ocelli” and there are the “complex” eyes which are the “Compound” eyes.  Except for bee larvae, they don’t have any eyes at that stage.

Bees live in a world of almost complete and total darkness when they are inside a hive.  Just like you and I, they need to find their way around in the dark.  The bigger eyes, the compound eyes, aren’t the best for that.  The ocelli are their answer to how to “see” in the dark.

There are three (3) small spots on the top of a honey bee’s head, between their antennae in a triangular layout.  Those are the ocelli.  Ocelli are only able to observe changes in light intensity, but that ability helps them do so much.

Apis mellifera, F, face, Maryland, Beltsville 2013-04-25-16.35.09 ZS PMax (8682047014)
By Sam Droege from Beltsville, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Honey bees have two (2) large compound eyes.  These are the eyes we can see on the bees head on either side.  The compound eyes have multiple tiny facets with lenses (ommatidia) covering each eye.  Each of the three castes of bees has a different number of ommatidia.  For example, Queens have about 4,000, Workers have about 5,000 and Drones have around 8,000 of them.

The compound eyes do more than just “see things” for the bees.  Compound eyes are capable of forming images (seeing things), seeing in color (except red) including the ultra-violet spectrum, detecting movement, identify shapes and patterns, initiate head turning response, and seeing polarized light.

Not only that, but there are little hairs growing from the surface of the compound eyes and the bees use those hairs to detect air motion.  That is how we figure bees to be such interesting pilots because it allows them to gauge airflow speed and direction.

Whew! Those are some kind of eyes.

This is what some researchers tell us bee see things as…

image from http://www.neurobiologie.fu-berlin.de/Gumbert-Kunze.html

The biology of honey bees is a thing of technological wonder and artistic wonder.  The more we learn about these incredible little critters, the more we realize we have so much more to learn.

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Diapause, Do Honey Bees Do It?

One of the most common questions beekeepers are asked is what happens to the bees when it gets cold outside.  Usually sung to the tune of, “Do bees hibernate?”

When it comes to insects, like honey bees, IF they did any such thing, it would probably be “diapause” and not “hibernation”.  To be real loose and cavalier with explanations, “Hibernation” is like taking a very long nap and all the vitals become depressed and slow down.  Think of it kind of like being in a coma.

“Diapause” is more of a state in which development in something like an insect, say… a honey bee, seems to nearly stop cold while bad and ugly things in the environment around them happen.  Again, playing loosely with descriptions, think of it sort of like going into suspended animation when the weather gets too rough to find food or water, etc…

I have had more than one person ask if “diapause” was “The Change” for bees since they were all girls just getting older over the Winter.  No, bees have plenty of other reasons to be cranky, they don’t need another one.  Though in the Winter, they might actually appreciate hot flashes.

As for honey bees though, they do neither in the cold of Winter.    Honey bees are awake and active the whole time.  When temps hit somewhere around 57-ish degrees F or lower, the colony will cluster.

Honey bees survive Winter in their nest by “Clustering”.  That is, they group together in a ball style shape in and around the wax cells in the combs and as a group, shiver their wing muscles to generate heat.  By being clumped so closely together, they keep themselves and each other warm through the Winter.  The colder it gets, the tighter they cluster together.

Winter cluster image courtesy of Randy Oliver at scientificbeekeeping.com

How do they keep up the heat?  By eating honey.  The bees forage for, make and store honey primarily for times like Winter, so that they will have a full pantry and not have to go outside to get more food.  It’s already in the hive.  The more they generate heat, the more honey they have to consume to maintain the energy to do it.  The faster they go through the honey stores, the more likely it is that bees will starve out in the late Winter or early Spring because the food didn’t outlast the weather.

The closeness of their bodies and even the beeswax combs themselves also help to act as some bit of insulation so as to help keep some of the heat they generate hanging around and keeps them, in however little or greater effect, from using too much energy to soon.

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Rumpelstiltskins In Miniature

It is an old tale indeed that let us know about the little man who could spin straw into gold.  We have some interesting little creatures who are able to turn “liquid gold” (Honey) into wax.

As a matter of fact, through evolution, bees have actually been built to turn honey into beeswax.  Parts of their body designed seemingly for specifically that purpose.

Only worker bees have the ability and the parts necessary to accomplish this remarkable feat.  Even more interesting is that only bees in a certain age range are able to do it.  When honey bee workers are 12 days old until they are 18 days old, they are best able to convert excess honey in the Honey Stomach (also known as the “Crop”) into beeswax.  Of course, besides having excess honey or nectar in them, they must also have an active need for wax in the nest to either build the nest or to expand it.

Honey bees can also work minor miracles in regard to making wax.  They can turn back their biological clocks in certain instances such as starting a new nest after leaving the old hive with a Queen bee.)  Once in the new hive and with an immediate and emergency level need for new comb, the “old” workers bees that make up the majority of the swarm can make their bodies sort of go back to the physical condition at which the could make beeswax when they were younger in order to get the new nest started right away.

Anatomically, the honey and nectar bees gorge on to begin making wax is converted into a complex of substances like fatty acids, proteins and Hydrocarbons.  Once the “mixture” is ready, it is secreted from the wax glands in the bee’s  last four visible ventral abdominal segments which are covered by the “Wax Mirrors”, those being essentially little plate-like areas that the wax comes through in the form of little flat flake sort of shapes.

All in all, worker bees have eight (8) wax glands in four (4) pairs on the dorsal (bottom) side of the abdomen.

Flakes of wax on a wax builder. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Once the wax is secreted the bees can then put it to good use in building their nest.

For the scientifically inclined, a great, in-depth article on the physiology of beeswax by Clarence Collison is at Bee Culture Magazine.

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Bee Smart Quiz B1

Question #1: The scent or Nassanoff Gland is found in the worker’s:

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #2: Nassanoff glands or scent glands are found in all honey bee castes.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #3: The crop (honey stomach) is located in the abdomen.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #4: Honey bees have two types of eyes.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #5: The honey bee has ________eyes.

BUZZ! Sorry.

Question #6: Honey bees survive the winter by becoming inactive and going into diapause.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #7: Wax glands are located within the thorax.

Buzz!  Sorry.

Question #8: Honey bees cannot perceive airborne sound.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #9: The simple eyes (ocelli) analyze polarized light, thus permitting the bee to use the sun’s position as a compass during flight.

BUZZ!  Sorry.

Question #10: The front and hind wings on each side of the bee are coupled together during flight.

BUZZ!  Sorry.