Yes my friends, it’s here. This first step back is a humble little episode, hosted by yours truly. There are plans to make this more…companionable as it picks up steam again.
You will be able to listen to the full episode here on the embedded player in this post and you can listen through the whole lineup of Bee Smart podcasts on the Podcast Page of this website. (eventually they’ll all bee there, I am still adding them in one at a time).
This episode discusses the return of the podcast and the timely topic of Honey Bee Taxonomy.
This is honey bee taxonomy week. As an interesting sideroad for All Hallow’s Eve I thought we’d visit the Smithsonian Institute taxonomy page on the “Killer Bees”. (Click on the photo to visit their page and read the very interesting article.)
Africanized honeybees are descended from stocks that evolved in the tropics and, as such, are ill-equipped to withstand prolonged cold winters. They are believed to be limited to tropical and subtropical habitats.
This week, our general topic will center on the taxonomy of honey bees. what is taxonomy you ask? No, it’s not having to pay a fine to the government for having bees.
Taxonomy is the scientific classification of living things in order to identify and organize where they fit in related to other creatures.
Why is taxonomy important to those involved in apicultural pursuits? Beecause we are often very concerned about genealogical traits of colonies that will have the most success in the places we keep them.
Knowing where bees are originally from, the traits and genetic lines they descend from and how any and all of that relates to their success in various other locations is important to everything from pollination traits, defensive traits foraging and honey production traits and the types of pests and illnesses they have been adapted to as they evolved in the place they originate. Queen rearing is very much affected by knowing what bees are and from whence they came.
Scientific research that is always ongoing makes great use of taxonomy to locate and identify new species and sub-species of bees all the time.
It’s always a good thing to learn and know about taxonomy where bees and beekeeping are involved. Check out the new puzzles coming up this week that focus on honey bee taxonomy. The Crossword puzzle will post on Wednesday and will have the downloadable PDF with a wordlist on it. The answer sheet to the Crossword and the Wordsearch versions are already available for our supporters on our Patreon supporter webpage
The next episode of the Bee Smart beekeeping podcast featuring those Beehooligans will also talk some about taxonomy and how it is useful for beekeepers of all levels of experience.
Of course, we’ll bee sure to get some posts up with even more useful information along this line as well as we get through the week. The objective here is always to help folks Bee Smart.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.