I think everyone has been scared half to death by a Bumblebee. It's the middle of summer and you are out in the yard and out of nowhere, you get buzzed by a honey bee on steroids-a black widow with wings. How does something so big and so loud sneak up on anything? They sound like a crop duster is landing in the yard. I used to think you would die a horrible, ghastly death if stung by one. And we all know-they aren't supposed to be able to fly, but they do. And quite fast, I might add. A foraging bumblebee can hit speeds up to 15 miles per hour. If they hit you in the forehead at that speed, they wouldn't have to sting you, they would knock your lights out. The reason they buzz you so closely is they are trying to smell you to see if you are a flower. Teach me to wear my sweet night blooming jasmine cologne before I go out gardening. Actually, La Bombus isn't aggressive at all. They will only attack if they feel their life or hive is threatened.
Another thing, most drones born in the summer have no stingers at all. So they would have to hit you in the forehead at full throttle to hurt you. Back to the flying thing. That they can't fly is a myth born of a study done eons ago by some aerodylamo engineer applying fixed wing dynamics to a helicopter model. Sheeesh! Engineers. The fact of the matter is that Bumblebees have four wings that can be disengaged in order to flap at 200 beats per second to warm up their body to flight temperature. It's somewhat like revving your car engine in neutral to warm it up. The only time Bumblebees can't fly is when they are too cold. How ironic-not only can they fly, but their wings warm them up so they can fly when it is too cold for other bees to fly. Hence, they get out earlier to pollinate and forage for nectar. They are ambitious pollinators but only gather enough nectar to feed the hive. Unlike honey bees, they cannot survive on their honey combs, as they only store a few days worth at any given time. So they are not real big on hibernating over winter. They are just your average here today- gone tomorrow, great big furry, loud, hard working, misunderstood creatures that carry a heavy load in nature's work force.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
It turns out that there is really no such thing as a lazy bee. My perception was just skewered by ignorance. What I thought were flighty, gad-about beeboppers were actually doing an entirely different job than the girls I perceived to be doing all the heavy lifting. While all bees gather nectar, some seek out nectar only and others gather both nectar and pollen. The dual purpose gatherers use only enough nectar to make the pollen sticky. They knead the sticky pollen into tiny clumps with their front legs and place them into what are know as 'pollen baskets' located on their rear legs. When these baskets get full the bees navigate back to the hive and deposit the pollen into pollen combs. Bees use the pollen as a source of protein. Humans harvest the pollen for a vast array of nutritional supplements. The study of bee pollen is known as Palynology. The more I learn about these amazing little creatures, the more I realize how integral they are to the survival of our entire world.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
After a couple of years of bee stalking, I noticed a characteristic I thought was peculiar only in humans. A work ethic, or lack of, is apparently evident in nature's other creatures as well. While some bees flit from flower to flower, looking for all the world to be busy at work, they never seem to gather much pollen. Meanwhile, others spend more time on individual tasks, seemingly oblivious to what or who is around them while they pack on the honey dust. Some get so loaded up that you have to wonder how they get airborne to fly back to the hive, which might be a considerable distance from the work zone. It made me wonder if some bees have different jobs, such as scout or watchmen or some kind of markers. After checking it out, I am still left wondering if there isn't such a thing as simply lazy bees. Worker bees are always female and do all the gathering, pollinating and loading of nectar into the hive. Drones or male bees, have no other purpose than to mate with the queen in order to propagate the colony. Now if that doesn't sound like a cake job, I don't know what does. Guard bees are just that. They guard the hive against intruders. Every bee must come to the aid of the hive if called but the guards are the primary line of defense. Sniffer bees are like radar or sonar, in that they can smell out predators or bees from another colony. But out in the field, the difference in work habits is still a mystery to me. I'll keep watching and reading and maybe someday it will all become clear to me. In the meantime, I've got to go tape some grass to my head and get some pics.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
It's been a while since I've posted anything but I'm going to try and be a little more regular about it. I'm starting out with a few pics of the granddudes while they are here on vacation. It's been really great having them for a couple of weeks, but as always, it's just not enough time. So we just make the most of it. We have been focusing on sharpening our skills at pool, golf and video games, while keeping our attitudes right by watching as many movies as time allows and making every effort to eat all the ice cream and cookies in Carson City. The video is of Waterfall Trailhead, a little creek we hiked to not far outside of town.