Posts Tagged 'honey bees'


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.”


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.

Field Notes: Green-Wood

Top: l-r, monk parakeet; red maple (?); dawn redwood cones. Middle: bald-faced hornet comb; honey bees; honey bee nest. Bottom: leeches on turtle plastron; live red sliders; witch hazel in bloom.

Took a walk through Green-Wood Cemetery today. This Victorian garden necropolis sits upon the flank of Brooklyn’s Harbor Hill Moraine, making it the highest place in the borough. The weather was close to perfect. A couple of trees and a lot more branches had been knocked down in the weekend storm and the sound of wood being ground up greeted me in what is usually the quietest place around. Some people were flying a kite that looked like an eagle to scare away the Canada geese. “Geesebusters,” according to their van. What fools these mortals be!

Highlights were a male belted kingfisher rattling at the Crescent Water; a feral honey-bee hive in an oak; one of the red-tailed hawks sitting on the edge of the nest; a Cooper’s hawk airborne and perched; a very big dawn redwood billowing with pollen. There were two dead turtles and what I took to be a dead raccoon in the Valley Water, but a half dozen live turtles were warming up after the long winter buried in the murk. Yes, it is most definitely springtime.

First Bees of 2010!

Yesterday, I went through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where things are still pretty quiet plant and arthropod-wise. There were, however and hallelujah, honey bees to be found in the crocuses. Apis mellifera is in the house!  These are the first bees I’ve seen this year. Nothing says “spring has begun” to me more than this. And some hive somewhere has made it through the winter, no small triumph in this day and age.
Note the pollen sticking to these worker bees. The hair on their bodies is statically charged, which helps the pollen attach. And when you see them bee-butt up in a tight flower bud, you can understand why they get doused with pollen.  Note also the delicate-looking but strong wings: each wing is actually made up of two parts that merge together for flight.
You can also see big gobs of pollen on their rear legs. They groom off the protein-rich pollen and pack it around structures called pollen baskets or corbicula. It’s “glued” together with bee spit. I always think the filled baskets — the color depends on the type of flower the bees are working — look like those water wings kids use in pools.
New York City seems poised to make beekeeping legal soon. It has been against the law, a violation of the health code, since the  reign of “nasty man” Rudy Giuliani (animal-haters are pretty much always pricks, aren’t they?), although plenty of people have ignored this inane law for the betterment of our environment.

And speaking of better for the environment, Gerry, one of my fellow Hymenoptera-philes, has some words, images, and bee-in links about her first bees of the year, so click over for a waggle-dance.

Honey Bee

ApisI spotted my first Honey Bee of the year yesterday around 1pm. On the sidewalk at the bus stop on 5th Avenue and Union St. Here she is, sticking to the sunny side in the 50 degree day. Daffodils are out; willows are unwrapping their furry buds. You don’t have to consult your Farmer’s Almanac to tell it’s an early spring. It was hardly winter, except for two cold snaps that lasted a couple days apiece.


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