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Posts Tagged: honey bees

Why Spring Doesn't Seem So Distant

The honey bees are hungry.

Those venturing out from their colonies as the temperatures edge toward 55 degrees or more aren't finding much. It's the dead of winter. Spring seems so distant.

But wait, the flowering quince is blooming.

The flowering quince (genus Chaenomeles) from the rose family (Rosaceae) is among the first flowers of the new year to bloom.  The soft pinks loaded with gold--yellow pollen--are the best!

There's no argument from the honey bees.

Somehow or another, spring doesn't seem so distant.

Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging in a flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee on a sea of pink: flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue skies, an early blooming quince, a honey bee and all's right with the world. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 9:44 PM
Tags: Chaenomeles (2), flowering quince (4), honey bees (223), Rosaceae (1)

Umm, Where's the Bee?

If there's one thing that entomologists hate, it's journalists who mistake a fly for a bee.

To entomologists, it's like mistaking a referee for a football player (well, they are on the same playing field) or a model airplane for a Lear jet (well, they do share the same sky) or a Volkswagen for a Ferrari (well, they do share the same road).

No. No. No.

Fact is, some journalists are so busy meeting deadlines that they don't stop and smell the flowers--or see what's foraging on them.

It's not just the news media. Lately we've been seeing dozens of drone flies (Eristalis tenax) masquerading as honey bees (Apis mellifera) in stock photo catalogs, on Facebook and Flickr pages, and on honey bee websites.  Last week an environmental friendly organization attacked a pesticide company for killing bees but posted a photo of a fly instead of a bee on its website. Another faux pas: a fly showed up on the cover of the celebrated book, Bees of the World.

Gee, if it visits flowers, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Not all floral visitors are bees.

If it's a pollinator, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Flies can be pollinators, too.

If it visits flowers, pollinates flowers, and is about the size of a honey bee, it's a honey bee, right? Wrong. Those three descriptions fit drone flies, too.

Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:

  • A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
  • A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
  • A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does. 

Bottom line: if you're not sure if it's a fly or a bee, contact an entomologist near you.

A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left),  and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae, and are often mistaken for honey bees.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left), and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae, and are often mistaken for honey bees.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left), and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae and are often mistaken for honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy  Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly.  Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly. Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly. Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 5:49 PM
Tags: drone flies (1), honey bees (223), hover flies (1)

C'mon In, the Pollen's Fine!

It's a cold spell.

As temperatures dip throughout much of California, and honey bees snuggle inside their hives, it's "bees-ness" in southern California this week.

Everything's abuzz as two national bee organizations host their annual conventions: The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) is meeting for its 46th annual convention Jan. 6-10 in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. And the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show is underway Jan. 6-10 in the Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Orange County.

The topics will encompass bee health, including pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Everything about the bee-leagured bees.

Meanwhile, a few almond trees are blooming (one in the Benicia State Recreation Area burst into bloom before Christmas Day) and more and more bees are venturing out as the temperatures hit 55.

If you have winter blossoms, odds are you're getting bee visits during the sun breaks. In our yard, the bees love the Bacopa, a groundcover that fought--and won--the battle with Jack Frost. Strong winds and rain storms hammered and stripped some of the blossoms, but the bees don't care. The pollen is there.

A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A pollen-covered honey bee heading toward Bacopa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

C'mon in, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 5:38 PM

The Almonds Are Blooming! The Almonds Are Blooming!

The almonds are blooming! The almonds are blooming!

Well, at least one almond tree in the Benicia State Recreation Area is blooming. On a drive to Benicia on Christmas Day, we spotted several blooms on an almond tree. The tree, a foot from the parking lot, was getting a little southern exposure--and soaking in the warmth of the sun bouncing off the asphalt.

California almonds don't usually bloom 'til around Feb. 14--Valentine's Day--but this tree has always been an early bloomer. It was blooming on New Year's Day in 2014.

Unfortunately, the honey bees hadn't found it yet.

But they did find the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, where jade and oxalis have burst into bloom, and they also found the winter vegetables in the Avant Community Park in downtown Benicia. The bees were working the broccoli blossoms, two bees at a time.

Who says broccoli isn't good for you?

An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

An almond tree at the Benicia State Recreation Area was blooming on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees working the broccoli blossoms in the Avant Community Garden, Benicia, on Christmas Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee forages on an oxalis blossom on Christmas Day at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, December 29, 2014 at 8:32 PM
Tags: almonds (10), Benicia (4), honey bees (223)

The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony

Professor Clement Clarke Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family in 1822. It later became known as "The Night Before Christmas."  Fast forward, 92 years later. With apologies to the good professor, we took pen in hand and thought about what "The Night Before Christmas" might be like in a honey bee colony.

The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the bee yard
Not a creature was stirring, not even a guard
The honey was packed in the hive with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The larvae were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of royal jelly danced in their heads
The workers, drones and queen were all a'fling
To await what trouble next spring will bring.

It's a dangerous world out there, the queen said
Life on the wing can leave you dead
Spiders, dragonflies, yellowjackets and birds
Assassin bugs, mantids and wasps, it's absurd.

Then there are pesticides, parasites and pests
And viruses, diseases, malnutrition and stress
It's a dangerous world everywhere, the queen said
A little of that can leave us all dead.

For years, we put out the "unwelcome mat"
For there are bears, skunks and raccoons about
And ‘possums, badgers, ‘jackets, and mice
'Scuse me! Why can't everyone just be nice?

Santa, you didn't listen to us bees
When we sat down upon your knees
You called us by name, that is true
But you left us all feeling quite blue.

Hi, honey! Hi, sweetie! Hi, sugar! Hi, dear!
You said we had nothing to fear.
Hi, darling! Hi, precious! Hi, baby! Hi, love!
And with that, you gave us a shove.

You didn't ask what kills us, St. Nick
You didn't ask what makes us sick
You didn't ask us about our clan
Do you care that we're in a jam?

There's just one thing we want, that's it
Something that will make us fit
Just two little words, please answer our call
We want to “bee healthy,” for once and for all!
(c) Kathy Keatley Keatley December 24, 2014

 

Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 12:12 PM

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