‘Tis A Season of Rescues

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Above is me with the swarm I helped rescue from a tree.  It was the size of a soccer ball! They are now two brood boxes deep, and I’ll be looking to add a super soon.

I have had a fun season of bee rescues this year! It all began with a swarm of honeybees early June.  These ladies are enjoying their new home, and I am enjoying watching them make “bee lines” to and from the hive.  

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Above is the first bumblebee colony I rescued.  There are currently six young sisters in this colony.  It was a very small colony to begin with (2-3″ in diameter).

July brought two bumblebee colony rescues. One colony thought it appropriate to set up shop inside a chicken coop, and the queen paid the price for that choice, but the small colony is happily residing in a small breadbox in my backyard!

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Above is the second bumblebee colony I rescued; a much larger colony than the first (14″ long x 6″ wide).  The box is the new luxury apartment we built for them the night we rescued them. 

The second bumblebee rescue was from the crawlspace of a townhouse! It was dark, and riddled with spiders, some of which had bumblebees entangled in their webs! This colony was often lost trying to find their way to the outdoors to forage, and would end up inside the townhouse, destined to starve to death, very sad.  It easily has 100 bumblebees!  This colony is now in a luxury apartment in my backyard, surrounded by lots of different types of flowers. They seem quite happy, and I am happy to have them in a safer place! I know I will have tomatoes this year thanks to these buzz pollinating geniuses!  Here’s a link to the video of the latest bumblebee colony I rescued.

Thank you for joining the movement to learn more about bees!

 

 

 

How are bumblebees preparing for the cold weather?

As fall approaches temperatures begin to drop significantly at night, and the daytime highs become lower. Plants begin to go dormant, producing less and less flowers in the landscape. The buzz of bees also becomes quiet as we enter the winter months. Where are they going, and do they all do the same thing for the winter? Different species of bees do different things throughout the seasonal changes, and today I am going to talk about the bumblebees.

IMG_1765IMG_1621Unlike honeybees, bumblebees do not overwinter.  Most of the colony dies off by fall, with exception to the new queens who have mated.  From spring to late summer, all of the foraging bumblebees consist of female worker bees.  Late in the summer most of the foraging bumblebees are new queens or males. 

In preparation for the fall, and passing the baton onto the next generation of queens, the existing bumblebee queen will…

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How are bumblebees preparing for the cold weather?

As fall approaches temperatures begin to drop significantly at night, and the daytime highs become lower. Plants begin to go dormant, producing less and less flowers in the landscape. The buzz of bees also becomes quiet as we enter the winter months. Where are they going, and do they all do the same thing for the winter? Different species of bees do different things throughout the seasonal changes, and today I am going to talk about the bumblebees.

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IMG_1621Unlike honeybees, bumblebees do not overwinter.  Most of the colony dies off by fall, with exception to the new queens who have mated.  From spring to late summer, all of the foraging bumblebees consist of female worker bees.  Late in the summer most of the foraging bumblebees are new queens or males. 

In preparation for the fall, and passing the baton onto the next generation of queens, the existing bumblebee queen will begin laying eggs destined to become queens and males late in the summer.  Bumblebees, unlike solitary bees, mate in the late summer months.

Once the new queens and males emerge as adults, they seek mates, and once mated, a new queen will forage and build her fat stores until it is time to hibernate.  She will reside in her natal nest until temperatures drop.  When temperatures signal that winter is approaching, she finds a place to hibernate for the season. She will either dig a small cavern underground or seek shelter under a pile of leaves, and remain in hibernation until Spring, when she will awake and set up her own colony of worker bees.

The complexities of the life cycle of bees, and differences from one species to another  makes me appreciate their presence evermore! We may have the selfish and necessary motivation of food to convince us of a bee’s worth, but I think the more we understand these little creatures, the more reasons we’ll have to appreciate them and want them around simply for the sake of observation.

Bombus Griseocollis: strategies of bee combat

I had the pleasure of witnessing this show of defensive warfare at a friend’s house two weeks ago!  A friend of mine called me wondering whether this group of bees would be a worry to her children, so I went to check it out.

When I showed up it appeared to be a display of defensive parameters, as six bees were stationed between 13-16 paces from a giant tree with one on the tree, which sat at the center of this circular front. I tested this parameter preference by removing a play structure one bee had been stationed on for quite some time, and replaced it with a chair. The bee finally returned to the same position, perching itself on the chair! And before I placed the chair she was perched on a small flowering plant, which was also the same distance from the center!  Pretty fascinating that they were all fixed at equal distances from the center; just another mathematical habit bees have. And we thought humans were the only ones capable of mathematical tactics!

Bumble bees do this because they have something to protect, a queen and a small hive, including between 50-200 bees in the colony. They all work together to provide for the queen and the brood (developing young).  This instance shows signs of the nest being inside the tree or underground below the tree. I searched for signs, but wasn’t able to locate the nest, but all signs pointed to the tree. 

I watched this situation for a while and noticed these bees would all go after another flying intruder every so often, which appeared to be another bee. They wouldn’t allow that bee near the tree.  They were all on high alert, but my presence didn’t seem to bother them, even when I was standing right next to the tree.  The trouble was the other bee, which I wasn’t able to identify and capture with my camera.

This species of bumble bee is Bombus Griseocollis, and has an orange belt at the top of the abdomen. They are rather large, but not aggressive toward people, just territorial toward other bees and potential honey and brood robbers (skunks, badgers, etc).  They don’t seek out warfare, but rather form defensive tactics.

If you see this in your own yard, consider yourself lucky and enjoy the free show provided by nature. They won’t hurt you, please let them nest and feed in your yard, as their environmental choices are shrinking as we develop more and more. Create a complete habitat for them by planting a host of flowers and place a watering hole for them too! Do not spray them with pesticides! We need our bees!

Bombus Ternarius

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I think it’s safe to assume the nectar in these penstemon blooms is very tasty….take it from the little bumble bee who frequents them! My backyard is so entertaining when I am watching!

OH the bees we will see!

Here’s one more bee we have covered, and what a great species it is.  These ladies look like flying teddy bears!

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Bumble Bees

Solitary

Friendly

Excellent buzz pollinators

Make some honey for immediate consumption.

Nest underground or in empty bird nests.

Egg cells are made up of wax and pollen.

You can be a great host to these bees by leaving some soil bare in your yard, so they can nest.  Of course, always avoid using pesticides and herbicides.  Plant lots of flowers for them to collect pollen and nectar.  They will not sting you unless you are invading their nest, and they can sting multiple times, if that is the case.  Enjoy their presence and take care to keep them present!

Thank you for joining the movement!

Jess

Pollination is all the buzz!

Bumble bees, as well as some other solitary species of bees, use rapid vibration to remove pollen from deep seated flowers.  This is referred to as buzz pollination, and is responsible for pollinating blueberries, cranberries, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes!  The bee vibrates the flower and catches the pollen as it falls from the inside of the bloom.  As the pollen falls, the flower is fertilized! This technique makes these bees the best at pollinating tubular flower structures!

Disney Nature’s, “Wings of Life” provides a very brief showing of this in the preview below.  This is a fantastic movie; beautiful footage and a great message. I recommend this for family movie night, or movie night for anyone! Enjoy!