Monday, September 3, 2012

I Know What Bees Like, Bees Like, Bees Like Blooms

The other day when I arrived at my Mom and Dad's house, I noticed the three rather large sedum in the front bed were covered with honeybees.
It's very exciting to see, as hive collapses across the country continues to be a problem, and for the past few Summers honeybees really were a rare sight in the Garden. It makes me happy to see that they seem to have made a comeback. The only question now is if we should be worried about an early Winter? I mean, they seem to be frantic...even for busy bees.

The red sedum seemed to be their favorite. There were probably thirty all around this one largish plant. Notice the bright yellow pollen in the pollen baskets (corbicula) on their hind legs? The pollen is then carried back to the hive to feed the developing brood.

Did you know that all worker bees are females? The Queen decides as she lays eggs whether or not to fertilize it? Worker bees are the result of fertilized eggs, whereas drones (male bees) are the result of unfertilized eggs. 

An egg laying worker bee is a rare part of the hive (usually about 1% of the hive is made up of laying worker bees) and can only lay unfertilized eggs, resulting in drones. This usually only occurs when a failing Queen dies, or decides to swarm. Before the Queen swarms, she begins laying eggs in the Queen Cups the worker bees create throughout the year, and these eggs hatch into larvae that are fed nothing but Royal Jelly-a protein rich secretion from glands on the heads of young worker bees. If they are not fed Royal Jelly exclusively, they would just turn into regular worker bee. The egg laying worker lays eggs to supply the Virgin Queen with drones.

This worker really enjoyed the sunflowers that have really begun to bloom. In an emergency (if a Queen dies) worker bees will flood several cells where worker bee larvae have just emerged with Royal Jelly, and then begin constructing Queen cones in which to rear the new Queens. The first Queen to emerge will then kill the other Queens. (Bloody Mary, indeed!)
The Autumn clematis is quite stunning this year. And the bees LOVE it!
The worker bees remove the pollen that collects on their fronts and packs it into the pollen baskets. However, plenty of pollen they miss is moved from flower to flower, rubbed onto the pistil, and thus cross pollination occurs. 

Almost all of the world's food supply relies on cross pollination by honey bees, corn being the main exception. 

The flower nectar is sucked out of the flower through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes within their stomachs, and then put into cells (after being regurgitated several times) back at the hive. Then most water is evaporated by workers fanning their wings across the comb. Once the honey is finished, the cell is capped.

Who knew these ladies were so interesting?