Posts Tagged 'bees'

Twofers and More

European Paperwasp and Two-spotted Scoliid Wasp.
Clouded Sulphur (or is there some orange in there?) and something something skipper.
Another skipper, in the background, along with an Common Eastern Bumblebee and a striped sweat bee.
Monarch and more Common Eastern BBs.
Two species of metallic sweat bees.
Monarch and skipper.
From the top clockwise: European Hornet, Cicada-killer Wasp, Eastern Yellowjacket, all slurping up lilac sap.

Good gravy!

Nectar “Robbing”

Bee species can be divided up by tongue-size. The Eastern Carpenter Bee, pictured here, is one of our largest bees. But it doesn’t have a big tongue to go with that body size.
They’re considered a medium-tongued species. They can’t reach into long flowers.
So they cut holes at the base of these flowers.
And suck out the nectar.
Thus they bypass the flowers’ “I give you nectar/you give me pollination” tit-for-tat.

Real Bees

The Common Eastern Bumblebee is, as the name suggests, our default bumblebee species. Bombus impatiens is found throughout the east-of-Mississippi River region, from FL to NS.

Bumble Bees of North America by Williams, Throp, Richardson, & Colla, lists only five color pattern forms (two queen, one worker, two male) for this species. That’s not a lot compared to some other Bombus species. They also note it looks like four other species (and say “see also” four other species.) The workers can range from 9-14mm in body length, which is a lot for mm. Queens up to 22mm. All this to suggest you really have to look at your bumblebees.

For instance, I saw this one moving amid the clover and assumed it was yet another impatiens.
Putting the stop action on (i.e. photographing) the creature, though: that’s a dark strip on the abdomen.
This is a Brown-belted Bumblebee. Bombus griseocollis has seventeen color patterns in the book previously noted.
This species is more widespread across the country than impatiens. Found across the east, through the Great Plains, and even including lower elevations of the Rockies. But we see less of them here in the city. Or are we not looking close enough? Nine of the seventeen color forms don’t have brown bands (!).

Anyway, just look at the pollen on this beauty! Veritable waterwings of protein-rich pollen for her young.
***

A Bee-y Slope

Now, I know some people will freak out over a lot of bees flying around at ankle-height in the spring sun, but if you make sure you don’t step on any of these mounds, you’ll be fine.
Not because they’re going to attack you, but because it’s quite rude to stomp on somebody’s nest. (More on ground-nesting bees.)
This male House Sparrow kept swooping in to grab bees. Possible feeding these Rufus-backed Cellophane bees to his young?
In the same patch, I found these Nomada genus cuckoo bees. Suspect they were looking to lay their eggs inside their cellophane bee host’s nests. First time I’ve ever seen these. Turns out the taxonomy of this genus is confusing. Genus level is the best even the bee mavens of iNaturalist can get to with a picture. They’re smaller than their honeybee-sized hosts.
There were also some flies hanging out here. This one is perched above a nest. Pretty suspicious; doing some further research to find out what they’re up to.
Not a typical bee fly, though.

Orange Pollen

Little flower, big bee.
Long tongue into the nectar, anther against the forehead. This Lamium isn’t letting the bee leave town without some pollen.

But wait just a minute. This bee has a white face. The only white-faced bee I know is the male Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica), but this one was rather too small for that. Or was it? There can be some serious size differences between males and females. Local conditions — food supply, weather — can also create a range of sizes among carpenter bees, as well as bumble bees.

Anyway, look at those tattered wings: I guess this one over-wintered?

11th Month Insecta

There are still a few insects in the cold.
On Friday, this wasp, bumble bee, and fly were active. There were other flies about, and other impossible-to-photograph diptera, and a lovely leaf-hopper or two.
Some kind of gall on a crab apple. Exit hole visible.
Remember last January when I found a large cocoon that I thought belonged to a Polyphemus moth? On Friday, at the same willow oak, I found another.

Paper wasp paper.
Saturday was much colder, but this Fall Armyworm was on the march.
Also on that cold and blustery Saturday, we found three different harvestmen, each one on lichen or moss. Of course, we were looking at lichen and moss, so…

The Case Against Honeybees

No other exploited farm worker has gotten the attention Apis mellifera has. Our urge to “save the bees” and “save the pollinators” has concentrated on the photogenic and familiar honeybee. They are, after all, a species with the publicity machinery of industrial farming behind them, and the romance of DIY rooftop farming.

But we should have been thinking of the thousands of wild bee species, not this one domesticated species. The evidence is quite clear from around the world: honeybees are a big problem. They undermine wild pollinator species via competition and disease transmission. Perhaps most disturbingly, they also disrupt pollination itself.

And yet this news hasn’t gotten through to the general public. And it certainly hasn’t gotten through to honeybee fans. Honeybee hives dot NYC and many other cities. European cities have gone honeybee-hive mad.

People who still think they are doing good with honeybee hives are actually doing just the opposite. Most recently, I heard about community gardeners in the Bronx eager to get two hives. I know that excitement personally. I took part in the campaign to legalize hives here in the city. I was very nearly involved in setting up some hives in a community garden in Brooklyn when it was still illegal. But knowing what I know now, I look back on that effort with regret.

***

Here’s bibliography of journal and news articles about the hazards of the invasive honeybee. Please share.

Science journal articles:

A study in Paris finds high-density honeybee colonies negatively impact wild pollinator species: Ropars L, Dajoz I, Fontaine C, Muratet A, Geslin B (2019) Wild pollinator activity negatively related to honey bee colony densities in urban context. PLoS ONE 14(9).

Honeybees spread pathogens to wild bees: Mallinger RE, Gaines-Day HR, Gratton C (2017) Do managed bees have negative effects on wild bees?: A systematic review of the literature. PLoS ONE 12(12).

More on disease transmission from honeybees to wild bumblebees: Alger SA, Burnham PA, Boncristiani HF, Brody AK (2019) RNA virus spillover from managed honeybees (Apis mellifera) to wild bumblebees (Bombus spp.). PLoS ONE 14(6).

Disrupting plant-pollination itself: Valido, Alfredo, C. Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Maria C., Pedro Jordano: Honeybees disrupt the structure and functionality of plant-pollinator networks. Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 4711 (2019).

In Toronto, honeybees are the dominant pollinator of native milkweed. JMacIvor, James Scott,corresponding author, Adriano N. Roberto, Darwin S. Sodhi, Thomas M. Onuferko, and Marc W. Cadotte.Ecology and Evolutino. 2017 Oct; 7(20): 8456–8462.

News items:

Honeybees help farmers, but not the environment. (NPR)

Three more studies… (JSTOR Daily)

Keeping honeybees doesn’t save bees or the environment. (Phys.org)

Conserving bees doesn’t help wildlife. (Science Magazine)

Diversity of bee species vital to the blueberry industry. (NC State Extension).

***

And here you can learn all about “bee-washing,” in which “companies mislead consumers to buy products or subscribe to services under the pretense of helping bees. Bee-washing is also used to improve the public image of companies and has become an increasingly common marketing spin.”

Flower Fiends

Bumble/Tiger Swallowtail.A true bug, meaning an insect that sucks its food, and an unknown bee.
Another bee I can’t identify.Don’t forget the butterflies, fools for flowers, too. One of the sulphurs, I’ve never been able to distinguish them.Whoa, Nelly! Look at the patterning on this Oblique Streaktail (Allograpta obliqua)! Going to work on getting a better picture of one of these.Another flower fly, which reminds me that there’s a new field guide to flower flies of the NE.The invasive Sculptured Resin Bee, trouble for carpenter bees, whose nest sites they grab. Also a pollinator for kudzu.An unknown bee, or is it a wasp? Speaking of wasps, I’ll have more this week…

The Bee’s Tongue

Never mind the knees, how about those tongues? Check out the tongue between the down-turned antennae. (Those antennae, by the way, are hugely important sensory organs: they can touch, taste, and smell.) There are short-tongued and long-tongued bee species.This leaf-cutter bee seems to be tasting this stem.This one explored numerous leaf edges. The tip of her tongue looks very rough… it’s hairy. I guess she’s looking for the right leaf to cut? She uses these pieces of leaf to line her nest. This Univ. of Florida site gives good information on leaf-cutters, but then says “Leafcutting bees can be considered a pest because of leaf cutting on ornamental plants.” No, no, no! Isn’t this infuriating? It’s nineteenth century gardening nonsense in the 21st century. Human aesthetics, another thing killing the planet. Wear those circular cuts in plants as badges of pride!This poor Bombus didn’t make it. She died with tongue out (unless it’s a male?). With some magnification, the tip of the tongue is seen in all its roughness. The flanking parts are mouth bits, maxilla perhaps, or palpi?

By the way, the wings are hairy too. Sparse, short black hairs.

The Membrane-Winged

An Eastern Carpenter Bee working the milkweed.This is one of our biggest bees, so note the tiny little critter to its right in both pictures above. Didn’t see this one while photographing. Not sure if its a bee or wasp.
One of the leaf-cutter bees stuck to a Drosera filiformis, thread-leaved sundew. This carnivorous plant is tiny and usually snags much smaller insects with its gooey droplets. The bee is visible mired in the filament-like mucus of the plant, but she struggled free. This particular drama was found amid cranberries in a saucer of boggy delights during the Flatbush Gardener’s urban safari. Most of the critters pictured here today were found there.Humped Beewolf, a wasp that preys on bees.Blue Mud-dauber Wasp working on her nest. She captures spiders to entomb as food for her young.Texas Leaf-cutter Bee, as IDed by iNaturalist, which records them in Texas, Louisana, NY and PA. Good rule of thumb is that bees are vegetarians and wasps carnivores (at some stage in their their life: some adult wasps will sup nectar).Look at these saddlebags of pollen on this Bombus bruiser’s legs! Bumblebees really shake down flowers for pollen — in fact, they and some other types of bees forcible release pollen by buzz pollination — the frequency of their buzzing wings. This pollen, by the way, is food for her and her babies. She’ll make a wax chamber for each egg, sealing it with a ball of pollen. Nectar will go in wax pots for herself and future daughters.
The word Hymenoptera, the order that includes wasps, bees, ants, and sawflies, means membrane-wing. They have four such wings (in the caste system of ants, it’s the reproductives who are winged). Flies, in the order Diptera, have two. I’m putting this Common Eastern Physocephala fly in here because it looks superficially like a wasp. BUT: note the little white tag that seems to be coming from the abdomen in the above picture. I’ve darkened this image to make it stand out a bit more. (Clicking on it will make it fill your window.) There’s one on each side of the back end of the thorax. These are halteres, essentially modified hindwings, which help balance these fliers. This fly, by the way, parasitizes bumblebees.


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