Posted by: buzzybeegirl | April 3, 2011

Buzzy’s Guest Post

I am very excited. The bees are starting to emerge, flowers are blooming, and…I was asked to write a guest post about bees! How awesome is that!?? If there is one thing that I love, it’s working with other out there that share my passion for bees. I recommend you check out The Honeybee Conservancy website, they have lots of information about honey bees and are very passionate about helping increase their populations.

I would like to send a personal thanks to The Honeybee Conservancy for the great opportunity. Keep up the good work…the bees and all of us that like to eat are thankful for all your work.

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | April 3, 2011

Bee-estate

Hi fellow bee lovers!  I hope you all are well out there and enjoying the spring weather. It is starting to warm up in most places, which means the bees are starting to come out. This is the time when female native bees (non honey bees) will begin to emerge from hibernation and start looking for a place to build her nest. There is something that you can do to help these ladies…you can give her a bee condo. Yes…a bee condo. I had blogged about bee condos a while back and am re posting the directions again. This is the time to get them out and begin watching the magic while providing the valuable service of pollination to your garden flowers. Just remember…these will not attract honey bees, they will only attract solitary bees which are not aggressive.

 

So here is the low down on increasing the housing for bees:

Cut an angle at the top of the block because you will be putting a small roof on your bee house (see picture below). You can use a thinner piece of wood for the roof. Nail the roof on the top of the block making sure that the roof is long enough to protect the nest from rain and sun.

 

To make the actual cavities you can either use the same hole size for the entire block or you can use several different hole sizes to get different bees nesting in the same block. I tend to go for the second choice. You can use 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, and 3/8″ hole sizes. Take your pick.

 

Drill holes about 3 inches deep for the small (1/8″, 3/16″) diameter and about 6 inches deep for the larger (1/4″, 3/8″) diameters, either in rows or in any pattern you would like. The bees are not that picky, as long as the holes are deep enough.

 

Drill a hole through the back (width), one near the top & bottom (to loop wire through so you can hang your nest) or drill one hole in the back center to hang the nest on a nail. The best place to hang the bee nest is near flowers or trees. Just nail it about 5-15 feet above the ground on a post, tree, or somewhere on the side of your house. Just make sure the nest is stable.

Hang your nest somewhere facing south, the bees like sunny places.  Decorate the outside if you like!

Lastly…have fun bee-ing landlords!!!

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | December 20, 2010

Will work for mud

What do bees need to survive? What makes them stay in a given area? Most people know that they need food, which is what flowers are for. Flowers provide bees with pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrates) resources. But, is this it? Do they only need food? The answer is no…bee’s also need other resources, like materials for building and maintaining nests. There are several types of materials that bees use to coat the inside of the nest or cap off the entrance once they are done filling the nest with eggs. One common material that some bees use is mud.

 

Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria) gathering mud

 

The bees in the photo are blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria). They are cavity nesting bees, meaning that they nest in above ground cavities like dried stems or empty beetle holes in wood. They also use mud to create chambers between eggs, so each egg will have his or her own little compartment to develop in. You can see and example of the chambers here.

Female bees will gather in places where mud is abundant and dig and dig until they gather some mud and roll it into a nice ball.

 

Osmia lignaria female carrying mud

 

She will carry the mud ball in her mouth, fly back to her nest, and that is when the construction begins. She will stay at the nest molding the mud to place it where and how she wants it. She will fly back and forth as many times as she needs, until she is done. Once the nest is filled with eggs, the bee will need to close the entrance of her nest to keep intruders out. She will fly back and forth until the entrance is sealed to her liking.

I will post about the other types of materials that are used by bees in future posts. But, remember to keep some patches of mud in or near your yard. It does not have to be a big patch, but having some accessible mud will make your yard more attractive to native bees.

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | October 11, 2010

Boy, girl, boy, bee

In a previous post I had talked about how you can tell the difference between male and female bees. Yes, male and female bees look different from each other. There are certain physical characteristics that you can use to tell them apart.

One characteristic was a bee-rd (thanks Dennis!) or a bees version of facial hair. Bees that have hair on their clypeus are males. Here…I will show you what I mean.

 

Osmia lignaria males & females in nests (Photo by Ruben Alarcon)

 

Do you see the difference between the bees in the above photograph? They are the same species or type of bees, the Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria), only the males have tiny white beards. The females lack facial hair.

Another characteristic that can be used to tell males from females is size. With bees, the female is larger than the male. Even though males are smaller, they can still grab a female and take her down during mating. Here is a photo of a male and female bee mating. The larger female is on the bottom with the smaller male on top.

Blue Orchard Bees (Osmia lignaria) mating

So there you have it…co-ed bees.

 

 

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | July 29, 2010

Bees…on the small screen

This is a short video which follows bees as they visit flowers for pollen and nectar. Can you spot the native bees (non-honey bees)?

Thanks to Ken Kramm for filming and sharing this video. For more of Ken’s video on other natural wonders, check out his you tube page here.

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | July 5, 2010

Got B.O.B (Blue Orchard Bee)?

Well bee fanatics, I am back online! I also have a few photos to post, so there will be more posts. It has been too long of a break and I have to say…I miss writing about bees. I miss going out to take photos of them. Well, I miss everything about them. So, here it goes.

In May I went up to Kern County, CA to visit a friend who is currently working with one of the biggest Almond factories. His job? To start using native bees for almond pollination. His setup? It’s a secret. I don’t want the almond people to hate me, so I do have to keep that a secret. But, I can say that it is AMAZING!!!! When R and I pulled into the orchard my jaw dropped. My friend is working with a particular bee. Osmia lignaria, a.k.a. orchard mason bee or blue orchard bee (BOB).

Osmia lignaria

Aren’t they beautiful? These bees are cavity nesting bees, so they nest in above ground pre-made cavities(holes). This bee can be trap-nested in artificial nests, so you can start building a community of bees. This is what the orchards here in California’s central valley are trying to do. To help ease the work of honeybees (and costs), they are trying to raise hundreds of thousands of these little Osmia bees to pollinate their orchards. It’s a HUGE orchard, so thousands upon thousands of bees are needed to do the job.

Photo by Ruben Alarcon

When we were visiting the orchard, I was around over 350,000 of these bees. Some would land on my pants, my arm, and others just flew by me. Not a single sting or act of aggression from these ladies. Although this species of bee can sting, they only will if they feel threatened, i.e. if you grab them. But hey, if someone grabbed you wouldn’t you fight back and try to get away? They only use it when they have to.

These bees are very efficient pollinators. Even more so than honeybees. They are efficient because they tend to make numerous trips in order to gather enough pollen to feed their offspring (larvae). Because they make numerous trips, and because they have hairy little bodies, lots more pollen gets rubbed onto their body and they visit more flowers to gather pollen, and drop off more pollen.

So you may be wondering why orchards have not been using them instead of honeybees. Well, in other countries like Spain and Japan they do use them. The problem in the US is the size of the orchards and when they begin blooming. This orchard that I visited is the largest almond and pistachio orchard in California. I am talking about 50,000 plus acres (from that company alone!).  That’s a lot of trees, which means a lot more flowers that need to be pollinated. These native bees do not have hives and they are seasonal. So getting the bees up in the numbers and to emerge exactly when the trees bloom is very tricky. Since the bees are only live 4-6 weeks, you have to be very careful not to have them emerge too early or else they will not be alive for the entire or peak bloom, but if they emerge too late they can miss peak bloom. There lies the conundrum.

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | March 1, 2010

Anna’s Bee

My friend Maria Reed Griffin from Tucson, AZ created this very beautiful painting for me. She knows I love bees, and I know she is a great artist. Those two things mixed together make this…

"Anna's Bee" by Maria Griffin

Isn’t it great! To look at more of Maria’s great artwork or to get an original of your own, visit her website here.

Thanks Maria!! I love you girl!

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | February 18, 2010

Buzzy made the top 25!

How cool is this. Buzzy’s bee blog was listed as one of the top 25 entomology blogs by Anna Miller of OnlineDegree.com.

Anna wrote this short yet sweet description:

Professional, amateur, and hobbyist apiologists alike will find plenty to love about Anna’s Bee World. Anna Howell currently focuses her research on bee populations and how they come to be affected by urbanization and other disruptive factors. While she does discuss much of her findings, she also shares general interest stories related to her favorite fuzzy fliers. Photographs, news stories, and personal accounts of encounters and studies all imbue this blog with well-rounded, well-informed content on anything and everything about bees – their anatomy and physiology, behavior patterns, and the ways in which they react and adapt to the habitats around them.

Thanks for the praise Anna!

I would also like to thank the many bees who have made this site possible (like the cute male bee below).

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | February 15, 2010

She’s got legs…she knows how to use them.

Ah, ZZ-Top summed it so nicely.  Have you ever noticed that some of the bees you see flying around have these orange or yellow clumps on their hind legs?  If you haven’t, they look like this.

No, this bee is not wearing small bee weights. That orange mass on her leg is pollen that she has gathered from flowers. Female bees provision their offspring with pollen (mixed with a little nectar), which means they have to visit numerous flowers to gather enough pollen for each offspring.  It would be incredibly inefficient for them to have to travel back to their nest after visiting each flower.  Can you imagine having to go home to drop off each item that you buy at the grocery store? What a pain in the butt it would be to go shopping. Well, these ladies feel the same way. So, to be more efficient female bees have special hairs called scopae for holding and transporting pollen.  It’s like a shopping cart.  Although pollen tends to stick on various parts of a bees fuzzy body, the scopae are the brushes that are used to transport pollen to the nest.  Female bees can’t get some of the pollen that gets stuck onto their body, so when they visit a flower and gather pollen they pack it into the scopae and go onto the next flower.  The pollen that sticks onto various parts may rub off on another flowers stigma and pollinate that flower.

Only female bees have scopae…an exception are parasitic female bees who do not have these hairs since they steal food from other female bees. Most female bees have the scopae on their hind legs.

Check out these furry drumsticks…

Oh yeah, work those legs!

This bumblebee has been working hard. Check out the pollen loads on her legs.

Now that spring is around the corner, go out and check out the bees and look at their hind legs. If you see large pollen loads like these, you know she has been working hard!

Posted by: buzzybeegirl | January 20, 2010

SCUBees

Hi again bee friends. I am still here. Sorry about not blogging about bees for over a month. I have been buzzy (needed to throw that in). I have a new job studying squid in California, so much of my time has been devoted to learning all about them and other sea critters…the things I know nothing about. You see, this is called Anna’s Bee World and bees do not live in the ocean. They wind up there at times, but not intentionally. And the results are never good. So, I have devoted time to the ocean, but still looking for bees when walking around the campus.

I have also been busy with SCUBA certification because these squid creatures live in the ocean. I can’t use a net on land like I do with bees. I have to go into the ocean to find the sea critters. Anyways, I will get back on track with blogging about bees. I do love the ocean critters that I have seen, but I still love my bees. Here is a photo of my new found love of bee/ocean critter hybrid:

I can’t identify the species, but I think it may be some sort of bumblebee. It also comes complete…with a SCUBA tank…

Wow. These bees are just amazing.

Even though the bees really are not flying right now (they are either laying low and others are in hibernation), I will post past photos from the wonderful and beautiful bees in Tucson and any from California that I was able to catch during their fall decline.

As for now I will leave you with a link to a new friends blog: Pencil and Leaf

Val had contacted me last fall requesting bee samples. You see, she has also found bees to be absolutely fascinating and beautiful (I mean who wouldn’t, right?), and decided to use her awesome illustration skills to draw bees. You have to check out her pages. The pictures are absolutely amazing (scroll through and go to older posts). The nice thing is she sent me a copy of 2 of the bee samples I had sent her.

The first was a cute “sassy” Megahilidae and the second was an Anthidium (those bees that look like wasps).

How cool and sweet of her. I just love them. I am currently searching for a frame to put the pictures in. So, go and check out her art and let her know what you think. And again…the bees will be out again this spring…and I will be ready with my camera.

Hope the new year has been treating you all well. See you again soon.

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