The wildflowers in my yard have been blooming. They have been blooming all around town. This is a penstemon. Parry’s Penstemon to be exact. I think they are gorgeous plants. They also attract bees. They attract bees like this one.
This is a bee in the genus Anthophora. I don’t know the exact species (I think it may be Anthophora californica…or maybe A. urbana). You have to love the beautiful stripes on her abdomen. They are distinct. I really like the flight of these bees. They are fast. Very very fast. They are the superman’s of bees. Faster than a speeding bullet…well, maybe not that fast, but fast for a bee. Just look at how fast her wings are moving. They have this distinct flight. Fast and jerky. They go to one flower, very quickly gather nectar, then off to another. Their body is also distinct. They have robust bodies. They do not have the long and slender abdomen. Their abdomen is large and round. The J-Lo’s of bees if you will.
All Anthophorids are solitary bees, which means they nest alone. They do not have hives nor is there any caste system. It’s them. Alone. They nest in the ground and sometimes you can see aggregations. But they all gather food and nesting material for their own offspring (babies). They are cool little bees. Now that spring is here, look out for these bees in your garden.
This is a video that goodbear and I found during one of our crazy nights at her place…after watching the video you can imagine what our definition of ‘crazy night out’ is.
Anyways, I thought this was a catchy video by Haagen-Dazs.
Have a great bee boy weekend!
I received this link from one of my readers that I would love to share with you all. I went to google to get it translated, so there may be words that it could not translate, but you get the gist. Check out these bee hotels…they are massive! Thanks for the wonderful link norwegica!
Some readers have brought up some good questions that I had forgotten to address in my last post. Goodbear had asked what the importance of the bee condos are…I know she knows the answer, but others may not know why. So here it is.
Do you like to eat (models need not answer)?
I am a big food fan. I love it. All sorts of food. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats. Well, if I want to keep food coming my way I need to support the bees. Many of the worlds major crops that require pollination to reproduce, use bees. They mainly use honeybees because it is easy to get thousands of them at once. But, many crops are also pollinated by native bees. About 35% of the world crops depend upon bees for pollination. Many fruits and nuts are bee pollinated, by both honeybees and native bees. Alfalfa, which is fed to cattle, also requires bee pollination. They only use native bees for this. Right now, the Almonds are just finishing up. At California’s almond orchards (which I think are the largest in the world), hundreds of thousands of bees were busy buzzing around the orchard to pollinate the almond flowers. These bees will begin moving eastward to pollinate other types of fruits and nuts.
As for the wild bees that you see flying around your house. What may they do for you? Well, those plants or tress that surround your landscape may need pollinators. And they do the job. For free!!! Anything free during a recession is good, right.
About 85% of ALL flowering plants require animal pollinators to reproduce. Bees are the largest and usually the best pollinators. So many plants rely on them. I rely on them to pollinate the flowers in my front yard, and to pollinate my citrus trees when they bloom.
So, putting up the bee condo can help the bees by giving them more places to nest and make more bees.
The second question was whether the bees can be near loud noises and if they will become aggressive or mad.
Not these bees. The bee condos will ONLY attract solitary (they live alone…one female per nest) bees. They are non aggressive. You can mow, yell at the box, stare at them with an otoscope and they just don’t care. That is what I love about them. You can watch them leave their nest or come back and they will not bother you. They will sting you if you grab them, but hey, your grabbing them. You would deserve it. Mow all you want, your dogs can bark. They won’t hurt you.
Now that it’s Spring (at least here in southern Arizona), the bees are starting to come out. The natives are starting to fly and will be looking for homes. For some of the bees this may be a daunting and time consuming task. For you see, some places have sooo much development around that there may not be many places for the bees that nest above ground to nest. These bees usually nest in old beetle holes (or just old holes) in trees, in the holes of wooden carports, old logs, etc. But, if these things are not around, where will they nest? This is where we come in. You can help the bees by building a ‘bee condo’ for them. In this economy you can’t afford to not have a bee condo. It can increase the value of your home (in the eyes of the bees).
They are easy and fun to make.Yes, fun. No craftsmanship required. Even I can build one (which says a lot). Below is a photo of my friend Leif’s “Tucson Bee Condo” as he calls it.
It’s nothing fancy people. The bees don’t need the bling-bling, a doorman, or room service. It’s just a piece of wood with different sized holes, attached to a tree. For more info on how to make one click here.
Don’t do it for me…do it for the bees. Okay, really, it’s also for me.
What this? Just a pile of landscaping rocks in my backyard. They are about 1/4 inch in size. Big deal. Landscaping rocks. What’s special about that.
Wait. What the??? Oh, oh my. Is it that time again? IT IS!! The bees are back.
Why was she landing on these rocks? Why is she hoovering around them?
Because her nest is under these rocks. She just got back from gathering food for her offspring (babies) and she is returing home. I moved the rocks and found the entrance.
How clever. She has a nest under my rocks. It’s protected from my 4 dogs. Even they run like crazy over the rocks, it won’t damage the nest.
But what can damage the nest is me. When I Tried to move the rocks back into place I accidentally filled the entrance with dirt. Darn you buzzy!!!!
It’s okay though. This bee is tough. They have to be in order to survive. So what did the bee do after she saw that I covered the entrance? She began digging it out again.
Later that day she had dug out the entrance. And I learned not to mess with their architecture. Leave the nest alone if you know it’s there. If you accidentally cover it, they can dig it out again. Tough and smart ladies these bees are.
The subject of today’s post may be incredibly uncomfortable for many of you. Especially those of you that may be afraid of bees. But, I have to talk about it. I really do. I promise that you will learn something that many of you may not have known. Here it goes…
The photo below is what you think it is. A closeup of a bees stinger. OUCH!
There it is. The main reason why many people fear bees. It is scary, I mean look at it! Think of the damage and pain. But, here are a few facts that many may not know about “The Stinger.” (I wanted to make it sound like one of those 1950′s scary movies).
First, the stinger is a modified ovipositor (egg laying tube). As bees evolved, they lost the egg laying function of the tube. Now their egg comes out directly from the body at the base of the stinger. So the long ovipositor was no longer needed for egg laying and it was modified to become the stinger, which female bees use for defense.
This brings us to our second fact. Since it is a modified ovipositor and male bees do not lay eggs, male bees do not have stingers. Yup, defenseless. You can grab em and they can’t sting you. It’s a cool trick if you can tell males apart from females…painful if you can’t!
Third fact. The bee above is a honeybee. Most people know that when these bees sting you they die. They sting you, the bottom part of their abdomen (butt) falls off and the stinger stays on your skin pumping venom. But they die. Well, natives (non honeybees) are different. Their abdomen doesn’t come off. They can retract their stinger and jab you several times. Oh yeah, and let me tell you, if a bumblebee stings you she will go after you. I have never been stung by one, but my friend has. 3 times by the same one. In the back. She got stung in the back by the same bumblebee 3 times! I have been stung by a native bee (Osmia sp.) and it hurt. But, I did not swell up like I do when I get stung by honeybees.
Fourth fact. The reason I didn’t swell up is because many native bees have lost the valve that pumps venom into the wound. So even if they sting you, your not getting pumped with venom.
Fifth fact. This will make many of you happy. Although the stinger looks scary, you should know that a majority of the native bees out there can’t sting. The loss of the stinger is pretty common among many bees. A lot of them have a reduced stinger, which feels like a pinch and others have lost their stinger completely. There are stingless bees in the tropics that have lost their stinger. I heard they bite though. Still have mandibles, so they are not completely defenseless.
So what’s the best way to avoid being stung? Let them be. Throwing rocks at a honeybee hive-bad idea. Smacking it-bad idea. The exception are the Africanized honeybees. They are like those grumpy people that are irritated by everything. Be cautious around them. Aside from Africanized honeybees, other bees are easy going. You leave them alone and they will leave you alone.