Saturday, January 29, 2011

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)



Although our winter is far from over, we've experience a couple of those unseasonably warm days. Friday the temperature made it up to 70°F. I saw several honey bees, especially in our compost. I suppose the bees (like humans) are drawn out of their hive by this warm weather, and are searching for flowers which they will not find. I don't know if our compost contains sugars the bees can actually use, but the bees are especially attracted to the citrus peels it contains.

(Editors Note:  A reader explained these bees are out of their hive on a cleansing flight.   When the weather is cold, bees "huddle together around the queen (and the honey.)  They slowly rotate from the outside to the center so that no one gets too cold.  At the core of this cluster of bees, workers shiver their bodies and raise the temperature of the cluster as high as 95 Fahrenheit, but just outside the cluster, the unheated portion of the hive may drop below freezing."  When the weather warms the bees "make a cleansing flight to eliminate their body wastes. Honey bees never defecate inside their hive. This is one of their behavioral traits that serve to help prevent disease from spreading through the colony. "  Bees also perform a variety of routine maintenance and housekeeping tasks on the hive on warmer days.  Please check out the two sites I've linked above for more information.  Thanks for cluing me in about cleansing flights , Sue!)




The photo above shows three of the characteristics that help identify this insect as a female (worker) honey bee. One of these is a pollen basket.  Female bees (queens and workers) in family Apidae (honey bees, carpenter bees, bumblebees and several lesser known groups) have specialized structures called pollen baskets (corbicula) used for temporarily storing collected pollen so it can be transported back to the nest/colony. The pollen basket is a smooth, concave structure surrounded by long, stiff hairs located on the tibia of the bee's two rear legs. As the bee visits flowers, she accumulates pollen all over her body. She uses her legs to aggregate the pollen and transfer it to her pollen basket. It may look as if a bee simply has hairy legs, but some of those hairs (setae) are actually combs and brushes used for transferring pollen. The pollen is combed, pressed, compacted, and transferred to her pollen basket. Honey and/or nectar is used to moisten the dry pollen so it will stay in place.  In this photo, her pollen baskets are empty because there are no blooming flowers for her to visit.  A photo of a honey bee with a full pollen basket is here.




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13 comments:

Abraham Lincoln said...

I look forward to seeing more honeybees this summer. We didn't see many here last summer. We have been covered up with snow most of this winter and it has not been very warm for a long time. Nothing close to 70 but maybe closer to 50º now and then. Mostly then,

TSannie said...

That's a sight for sore eyes! At the rate we're going, there's still going to be snow here and no flowers until at least May! I've never seen a winter like this! And we're going to get more on Wednesday, and as Joe Bastardi says: "And if the stars and planets line up, New England could expect up to 2 more feet of snow."
I do not like Joe Bastardi.

John S. Mead said...

Thanks for labeling the second image...nice to learn a bit more about the details of these "ladies" :)

chubskulit said...

Very nice information you shared!

Three Horses, have a great weekend!

NicoleB said...

Ah, they should stay asleep. Got fooled.

jabblog said...

It's so good to see honey bees. It hasn't been warm enough here for them to emerge.

Gary said...

Great post I never knew any of these facts. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River.

Marie said...

I learned a lot about honey bees just from your post -- thank you! It's funny but I just read about cleansing flights the other day in a book and then a new friend who is setting up an apiary mentioned it -- I seem to be coming across it everywhere lately :-)

Wonderful photos, I especially liked the one that explained the part of the female worker bee -- since it's not likely I'll get that close to a live one anytime soon.

Visiting via Camera Critters.

Marie
bonkersinbarnhart.com

Kay said...

What an interesting post! Honey bees here in south Texas probably don't have to worry about staying warm. They seem to be buzzing around all year long. I've had to take down my owl boxes because of them! The little screech-owls have had to look elsewhere for a home. I do love bees, however, and your post taught me several things I did not know. Thanks!
Kay

D.B. Echo said...

Beautiful as always! We've had a shortage of honey bees here in Northeastern Pennsylvania the past few years, but I have been able to observe bumblebees up close as they tend to the rhododendron by our back steps.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Love your posts Marvin! For whatever reason the bees were out, it must have been wonderful to see them. Are they not little marvels of efficiency?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a very informative post Marvin. I sure miss these little critters. 70F. Not fair. I thought it was lovely having 43F. Still no bugs here.

Rambling Woods said...

What an interesting post Marvin.. I have not seen any honey bees in my area at all and I have been trying to learn more about pollinators in general. A cleansing flight..how amazing they are...Michelle