Sunday

New research reveals how climate change and bee declines could be linked


Bumblebee

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has published an article this month - October 2017 - with the headline 'Longer Springs Might Hurt Bees, Not Help Them.'

This article is based on a study that was conducted using climate and floral data from over 40 years. 
a long-term project of David Inouye, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park—and eight years of bumblebee monitoring, focused on three common bee species.
The long-term data suggest that the mountain snow may be melting slightly earlier than it used to, meaning the spring season is starting sooner and the flower season is lengthening. On the other hand, the abundance of flowers available in the meadows can fluctuate through the season, and the data also suggest there’s been an increase in the total number of days with low numbers of flowers available. 
“Years that have a lot of days with low floral abundance seem to be years that have really low snowfall and early snowmelt,” said study co-author Rebecca Irwin of North Carolina State University. And there could be several reasons for this phenomenon, she added. 
All of these factors can lead to temporary troughs or dips in flower resources throughout the springtime—and these fluctuations can have consequences for bee populations. 
Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
The research was conducted in the flower meadows of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

Read the rest of Chelsea Harvey's indepth article here at Scientific American 
Chelsea is a climate science reporter who you can follow on twitter @chelseaeharvey



Bee facts - appearance


Bees have:

  • 6 legs 
  • 3 body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen
  • 4 wings - 2 forewings and 2 hindwings
  • 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses
  • 3 simple eyes on the top of the head
  • 2 antenna
  • The mandibles or jaws that are used for chewing. 
  • The proboscis: a straw-like tongue used for sucking liquids and for tasting
  • 1 stinger
honey bee diagram

Honey Bee diagram click on it to see enlarged versionby crazyhobo



Monday

Bee Quote of the Month - August

bee quote

Veiled in this fragile filigree of wax is the essence of sunshine, golden and limpid, tasting of grassy meadows, mountain wildflowers, lavishly blooming orange trees, or scrubby desert weeds. Honey, even more than wine, is a reflection of place. If the process of grape to glass is alchemy, then the trail from blossom to bottle is one of reflection. The nectar collected by the bee is the spirit and sap of the plant, its sweetest juice. Honey is the flower transmuted, its scent and beauty transformed into aroma and taste.  

Stephanie Rosenbaum

Bee Quotes

Get more bee quotes

Thursday

Solitary bees need places to nest. Here's how to make them a home

Click on this image to get an enlarged version you can read more easily
Solitary bees, as the name implies, nest by themselves and not in a hive with thousands of other bees. Solitary bees are gentle and very good pollinators. There is often a shortage of suitable "housing" for these bees and they happily move into the hotels that people have created for them.

SOME TIPS FOR YOUR BEE HOTEL:
  • place your bee house in a position to catch the morning sun as solitary bees love the sun to get them active in the mornings 
  • bees prefer a stable house - not a swinging house
  • bees prefer one entrance so provide a backing to your hotel - look at how most of the example pictures below place their hotel against a wall which creates a backing

BEE HOTEL INSPIRATION
Bamboo bee house from Infinity Gardening

house for solitary bee
IMAGE: Storage Geek 
DIY bee hotel
Giant Bee Hotel found on Green Bean Connection
DIY bee hotel


how to make an insect home DIY

Tuesday

One of the best plants for attracting bees according to scientific study

You can attract bees and other pollinators to your garden by planting certain flowering plants.  This can help save the bees by providing the nectar and pollen that they need.

best plants for attracting bees
Bombus Lucorum, White tailed bumble bee. A queen on Marjoram.
PHOTO: Honey-oak blog
One of the best plants I have found for attracting bees is the common herb wild marjoram which is better known as oregano or by the scientific name origanum vulgare. The added bonus for you is that oregano is a herb that's leaves can be used in the kitchen in Italian, Turkish and Greek cuisines.

best plant for attracting bees
Honey Bee on Marjoram.
PHOTO: Honey-oak blog
Wild marjoram, comes from the mint family and is a perennial plant growing from 20–80 cm high. It's flowers are ranging from white to pink to purple in hue. It is a great bee atrracting plant to grow in a sunny and dry position.

In the scientific study, described in this video, below, Wild Majoram/ Origanum was the most attractive plant to honey bees, bumble bees, other bees, butterflies and hover flies.


This video describes the research project "Quantifying variation among garden plants in attractiveness to bees and other flower-visiting insects" carried out by Mihail Garbuzov and Francis Ratnieks at the Laboratory of Apiculture; Social Insects in the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, UK in 2011 and 2012, and published in the scientific journal Functional Ecology in 2013. 

The project, which is part of the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health & Well Being, aimed at helping bees and other pollinating insects by putting the process of recommending "bee friendly" flowers onto a firmer scientific footing. 

The project counted and identified insects visiting 32 varieties of summer-flowering garden plants in an experimental garden at the University of Sussex. The results show that the best plants attracted 100 times as many insects. This shows that, by selecting plants carefully, gardeners and park managers can be much more helpful to bees, which were 87% of the insects seen. 

Flowers that attract bees and other insects such as butterflies and hover flies are just as pretty to look at, and no more expensive or difficult to grow.

Origanum attractied 100 times more insects than some of the other plants tested.

Find out more about Origanum at KewScience: Plants of the World online

Wednesday

Honey collection is an ancient activity.

ancient honey collection
Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin proves ancient honey collection


Humans apparently began hunting for honey at least 8,000 years ago, as evidenced by this cave painting showing a honey hunter collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild bee nest. The figure carries a basket or gourd, and uses ropes to reach the wild nest.

There has been much debate over the dating of a variety of prehistoric rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin, also known as Levantine art  and whether they belong to the Mesolithic, the end of the Paleolithic, or the Neolithic. This painting has been dated at around 8000 to 6000 BC and is at Cuevas de la Araña en Bicorp, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The caves are called the Araña Caves or the Spider Caves, in English, and are a group of caves in Bicorp in Valencia, eastern Spain. The caves are in the valley of the river Escalona and were used by prehistoric people. They are known for painted rock art images including this honey-gathering painting which is believed to be epipaleolithic.  a term used for the "final Upper Palaeolithic industries occurring at the end of the final glaciation which appear to merge technologically into the Mesolithic". (Bahn, Paul, The Penguin Archaeology Guide, Penguin, London.)

Drawing of a painting from the caves of Cueva de la Araña by fr:Utilisateur:Achillea

Monday

The bee in Aegean culture.

winged bee goddesses from Rhodes
Gold plaques embossed with winged bee goddesses
The bee, in Aegean civilization, was believed to be the sacred insect that connected the natural world to the underworld. Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea.

These gold plaques (above) were found at Camiros on Rhodes, which is a large island in the Aegean Sea south east of Athens ,and are dated to 7th century BCE (British Museum). These Bee-goddess were perhaps associated with Artemis or perhaps the Thriai, nymphs, virginal sisters, in Greek mythology. Artemis was the patron of the Bee in all of Greece. Artemis was the goddess of nature and the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo.

In classical Greece the title potnia meaning "Mistress, Lady" is usually applied to the goddesses Artemis, Athena, Demeter and Persephone. The bee was an emblem of the Potnia, also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee".  Her priestesses were called "Melissa" which means honey bee. 

READ MORE about the honey bee in ancient Greece here.

REFERENCES:
Scheinberg, Susan 1979. "The Bee Maidens of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology.
G.W. Elderkin (1939) "The Bee of Artemis" The American Journal of Philology
Neustadt, Ernst 1906. De Jove cretico, (dissertation, Berlin). Chapter III "de Melissa dea" discusses bee-goddesses and bee-priestesses in Crete.
Harrison, Jane Ellen, (1903) 1922. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek religion, third edition

Friday

Bees in art

1917 illustration of bees in a garden and hive
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This beautiful illustration shows the different types of bees that work for a hive at the top of the image, (left to right: worker, queen and drone) and some bees at work collecting pollen in a garden full of flowers and butterflies.

This illustration is from "The Home and School Reference Work, Volume I"
The book was published in 1917 by The Home and School Education Society

Thursday

Beekeeping in Malta

Beekeeping in Malta
Bees in a baked clay jar in Malta
This is the traditional way of bee keeping in Malta - in a clay pot! 

Clay pots were the customary homes of domesticated bees in ancient Malta and in the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Long cylinders of baked clay were used. They were usually stacked to provide shade except for those on top of the stack. Sometimes the pots were used were used singly, but more often stacked in rows to provide some shade, at least for those not on top. Beekeepers would smoke one end of the cylinder to drive the bees to the other end while they harvested honey.

After the arrival of the varroa mite many beekeepers changed to the movable frame system.

SOURCE: This image was taken in 2008 in Malta.

Beekeeping in schools

Amanda Lengnick-Hall, a teacher, is teaching elementary school age children about beekeeping at the Shadow Glen Elementary School in Manor, Texas, USA.

"Beekeeping isn’t very common, especially in schools, so I like that they push themselves, even if they’re scared,” Amanda told myStatesman. "But once they get into the suits and get closer to the bees and they start learning more about them, they start becoming really protective of them. It’s really exciting to see them go from scared … to being advocates and getting an opportunity to try something they probably haven’t thought they wanted to try.

The school has six beehives as of December, 2015.  The students are learning about all aspects of beekeeping in an after-school club. They will sell the honey from their bees and use the money to continue funding the program.

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In the video you can see Walter Schumacher, otherwise known as the bee czar, founder of the American Honey Bee Protection Agency. He came to the school to check on the health of the hives.