Posts Tagged 'honey bees'

Some Pollinators

p1p2p3p4It’s National Pollinator Week, but we should be thanking the bees — and other pollinators — every day for the work that they do. And fighting like the dickens the exterminationists of the agribusiness/pesticide complex.

Time bees

hiveIn August of 2010 I found a feral honeybee hive here. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t notice any activity here at all, although I have to say my checking in was sporadic at best — Green-Wood is a big place and my routes didn’t always go past this tree — but still, I don’t think that original colony made it. But there’s a colony here now.

First Honeybees

cherry and beeYesterday, I came upon the first honeybees I’ve seen this year. They were working the ornamental cherries at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park. honey beeOne landed on my shirt. Remember, bees are not aggressive unless you go after them, or their hive. So don’t panic. Close your eyes and think of England if you’re afraid… but you shouldn’t be. I just let her crawl around me for a bit before she was satisfied my linen was long past its flowering stage. honey beeNote those pollen bundles on her rear legs. She packs pollen — and a perhaps a little regurgitated honey to moisten it — into these little bundles which she sticks on her pollen baskets, or corbicula. The pollen, which collects on her hairs via static, is combed together before packing. Some of it nonetheless gets transfered to other flowers, of course, and thus the bee is a little vector of plant genetics, or, as the poets would have it — and where better to be a poet then under a flowering cherry tree in the spring? — a messenger of love…

Cherrybombs!

cherrybombIn honor of the rhetorical excess of Lil’ Kim Jong-un, I will bury you in cherry blossoms!cherrybomb Prospect Park will be a blazing pink sea of cherry blossoms!cherrybombbeeThe worker bees of the Democratic People’s Republic will sweep across the pole to conquer the cherry blossoms of Brooklyn!

Bee Wary

I’m as guilty as the next person: I’ve been reveling in this unseasonable weather. (It was 60 degrees here a few minutes ago.) But I’m reminded, by those canaries of the insect world, the honeybees, that something is amiss. You see, these warm days keep honeybees active. They’ve been flying out from the hive, but they aren’t finding much in bloom. Plants are still playing catch-up with our warmer autumns. So the bees return with little nectar and less pollen. But, working hard, they still need food. So they eat the honey they’ve produced earlier in the season. But this is the stuff that’s supposed to see them through the winter. I got an email yesterday from a local beekeeping group, noting that the city’s honeybees are diving into their winter supplies now. Beekeepers were being urged, if they needed the impetus, to add supplemental feeding to keep that honey stockpiled; since this is usually sugar water, even with added vitamins, it’s poor stuff compared to the wonders of nectar.

In winter, honeybees cluster in a dense clump inside the hive, surrounding the queen and vibrating to keep warm. Honey, essentially a super energy, is what gets the hive through the cold. Workers on the outside of the clump circulate towards the center to warm up, and vice versa. When temperatures rise above 60 or so in the early spring, they can fly out on cleansing runs, dropping all their stored wastes outside the hive. Life’s a balance between the amount of honey and the length of winter – complicated, of course, by the semi-domestication of this naturalized species, since an amount of honey has been harvested by the beekeeper – with disease, predators, etc. factors as well. The winter hive is an all-female operation: male bees, the drones, are driven out to die in the fall. Big eaters, but little contributors, male bees have no place in the political economy of the winter hive.

On State St.

There’s still a dearth of nectar & pollen bearing flowers, but a small plot of fancy tulips was being worked over by some bees Saturday. I’ve recently checked in with both the feral honey bee nests I know of in Brooklyn, and both show no signs of activity. I hope it’s just the cold.Further down State St., which has several times been awarded the best dressed, or “Greenest Block” plaque of honor. This pile looks like a real fixer-upper. Click on the image to get the big version. (You’ll notice I’m not posting any pictures of the wasteland that is the Back 40 right now.)

First Bees of 2011

I’ve seen my first bees of the year. I was in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where honey bees were working the crocuses:
and the pollen-saturated Rose-Gold Pussy Willow:No other species of bees were seen, but the bumblebees should be out and about soon. There were a few flies, including this:A drone fly, Eristalis tenax. It looks like a drone (male) honey bee, which is slightly larger than the worker (female) bee, but drones do not collect nectar, as this fly is doing. There are other differences as well. Flies have a single pair of wings instead of the bees’ two interlocking pair. Above all, look how clean this fly looks; it’s not covered in hair to attract pollen. But it’s subtle, and the mimicry of this species, which originates in Europe just like the honey bee, is probably to convince other animals that it might sting like a bee if you mess with it. It won’t.

CCD, Incorporated

Last week’s news about the discovery of a virus-bacteria link in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which has been wrecking havoc with honey bee populations, got a lot of excited play among those of us who love bees.

The story, however, turns out to come up a little short. Seems the lead researcher is in the pay of Bayer, the Big Pharma corporation that also makes neonicotinoids, that class of pesticides which attack insect nervous systems, and which some people think may be behind CCD.

In polite company, this researcher would be described as being grant-funded by Bayer Crop Science, but I prefer the more direct phrase “in the pay of” because it better gets to the point of the relationship. (The Times reporter didn’t ask, and the entomologist didn’t tell.) Science funded by for-profits, experts bought and paid for by private corporations, are both cause and symptom of wide-ranging corruption.

The creep factor increases when one considers that the virus-bacteria study was a team effort with researchers from the Pentagon, which has been looking for ways to exploit insects on the battlefield.


“The shit I have to put up with from you humans.”

Apis

Worker honey bee, Apis mellifera, at forage. All worker bees are female. Note the grey pollen all over the body, especially on the thorax. This big clump of showy flowers was positively vibrating with both honey and bumble bees. Anybody know these flowers?
I’m guessing the mottled pattern inside the flowers looks pretty intense to a bee, who see more of the UV side of the spectrum than we do, and says something to the effect of hey, baby, come on inside.

Pictures captured on the grounds of the Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover, MA.

Field Notes: Honey Bees


Gerry at Global Swarming has some wonderful shots of honey bees working the red-gold pussy willow (Salix gracilistyla) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I spent some time there on Saturday. (My camera battery passed away before I got any “action” shots.) This species of pussy willow, native to Japan & Korea, was one of the few things in bloom.
I find it very meditative to watch honey bees working. Often, during a lazy, hot, August afternoon, the buzz is hypnotic. BTW, you have nothing to fear from honey bees unless you go blundering into a hive, so you can stand up-close-and-personal to them as they slurp up nectar and collect pollen.

I watched as the bees, yellow-flecked with pollen, hung down by one forefoot and cleaned themselves, working the rest of their legs as they brushed the pollen off, packing it around their pollen baskets on their hind legs. Of all the times I’ve observed bees at work, I’d never seen this before. Bionic eyes would have been handy, not to mention slow-mo, but these weren’t necessary.


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