Posts Tagged 'bees'

To Bee Or Not To Bee

When Europeans brought their domesticated honeybees to the New World, they joined the 4000 other species of bees all ready here. That’s a lot of different kinds of bees, but the invasive honeybees, the cattle of insects, the serfs of industry, get virtually all the attention. This is a shame. Honeybees are problematic, to say the least. (I was once a big advocate, but I’ve revised my thinking, not that I don’t think they’re fascinating.)

“The honeybees from a single domestic hive consume pollen and nectar that might otherwise provision 100,000 nest cells for diggers, masons, leaf cutters, and other native bees,” writes Thor Hanson in Buzz. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, the link above goes to the article he cites on this. The most significant effects of industrial honeybee colonies are in wild areas, not agricultural ones. It certainly makes you think about the explosion of bee-keeping, as here in New York City.

Green-Wood Cemetery, for instance, has hives in the Dell Water, which they want to revert to a more nature-friendly section. They have another batch of hives near the pollinator dream-world of their new native plant hillside. Are they undermining their own best efforts?

Hanson’s concise but comprehensive new book raises such questions. It should broaden everybody’s bee horizons. Like other insects, bees are disappearing in our lifetime. (Because, it might be argued, of our lifetimes). As noted here and many other places, this disappearance is two-fold: species are winking out, and the numbers within surviving species are shrinking. The causes are all anthropogenic and interconnected: toxins, imported pathogens, habitat destruction, climate change, industrial monocropping to feed the locust-expansion of human beings. One study found residue from 118 different pesticides in hives from around the country; these included poisons long since banned, like DDT, which persist in the environment. The synergistic interactions of all these chemical weapons are a whole other front in the war against life.
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The author suggests you read the end notes. Duh! Here you’ll find much else that just couldn’t fit into the narrative. (Boy, do I know that feeling!) Like, for instance, the number of specimens Darwin sent home (8,000) and the number Wallace, who earned his living doing this, did (125,000; 83,200 of which were beetles).

These Eyes

From a distance, I thought this was a wasp. Look at that patterning!But then, those eyes…This is a wasp-mimicking fly of the Spilomyia genus, perhaps S. longicornis.Now here’s a bee, one of the Agapostemon sweat bees. Note how the eyes are on the side of the animal. Flies have front-facing eyes that often meet near the middle. In this image you can also see the two pairs of wings that bees and the other Hymenoptera (wasps, reproductive ants) have. Flies, Diptera, have only two wings.

Autumnal Flowers And Their Familiars

There’s only so much in bloom now.But there are still hungry insects.And insects that eat insects.The goldenrod smorgasbord.

Busy as…

“Moral anger against oppression needed to be matched by an understanding of how economic systems create and sustain that oppression” Two interesting historical takes at Little Sis (vs. Big Brother) on the importance of connecting the dots. On the military-industrial system, which of course never went away. And at SNCC, on the front line of battling white supremacy.

This Used To Be Lawn

“Now it’s all covered in flowers.”And grasses. Good riddance! This hillside in Green-Wood, near the 5th Avenue entrance, has been converted into meadow. From turf, fertilizer- and chemical- warfare dependent turf, nasty turf, to this riot of life. Yes, it’s “messy,” gloriously so! It’s only a tiny portion of the cemetery, of course. Too many people still want sterility around their dead, on the theory, I guess, that death is best for the dead?I hope that when they see this, pulsing with life, they’ll start thinking about remembering their loved ones with thoughts of life, of the future.

Great Golden Sand-digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) here on Spotted Beebalm Monarda punctata, a plant a-riot right now with pollinators. Some adult wasps, like this one, eat nectar.

Note, by the way, how heavily this Golden Sand-digger is pollen-dusted. Most wasps are hairless, or nearly so, but this species has golden hairs on the thorax.

Leaf-cutters

Here’s a Megachilidae family leaf-cutter bee. Even if you’ve never seen one, you may very well have seen their sign.These solitary nesting bees gather pollen on the underside of their abdomens, unlike bumblebee and honey bees who pack it around their hind legs. They are fabulous pollinators and generally quite uninterested in you. They’re too busy working to care much for us.

As their name suggests, they chew out rather roundish pieces of leaves. Here’s a willow oak (Quercus phellos) I passed recently on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. (Hmm, but what’s that uneven cut on the other side?)I’ve never actually seen the cutting itself. Something to look forward to. (You know, when you pay attention to the wild you will never stop being amazed, never lose the excitement of novelty.) I’ve only seen a bee with a piece of leaf once or twice, and only photographed it once, a few years ago.

The females line their nests with these leaf pieces. Shall we theorize that some species of plants are better for counteracting parasites? Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a pretty reliable plant for these circular cuts.

Gardeners and tree shepards, rejoice that you have these cut leaves! Check out this site for some notes on how to encourage these amazing animals, how to set up solitary bee “hotels,” and video of a leaf cutter building out her brood cell.

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Trump’s looters and polluters (and western militia extremists) are now attempting to roll back the Endangered Species Act. No end to the abominations of these fuckers.

City Bounty





(Not nearly enough, of course.)


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