Bees

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Bees, Pacific Northwest

Bees are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. They are capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover. Honey bees also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to others the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar bearing flowers.
Bees, Photo By Bud Logan

Bees are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. They are capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover. Honey bees also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to others the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar-bearing flowers.

They occur on all continents except Antarctica. They are most frequent in hot, arid habitats. There are about 3500 species in North America. All live on nectar and pollen. We need them, without them plant pollination would be difficult and time-consuming.  One-third of our food production directly depends on insect pollination, and they are our most productive pollinators. They have a long tongue called a proboscis that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms. Honeybees are social insects that live in hives. The hive consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of workers.

The workers are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive. From her birth to her death 45 days later, the worker is responsible for everything, feeding the larvae, tending to the queen, cleaning the hive, collecting food, guarding the colony and building honeycomb.

There are many types of bees, some live in large hives and others are more inclined to live solitary lives, some nest as individuals in a common nesting site like the digger bees. There are also many types of bumble bees, before the import of honey bees from Europe, the bumble bees were the best pollinators here.
Redtailed BumbleBee, Photo By Bud Logan

The males are drones and their only job is to mate with queens from other hives. After mating, they die. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days. You can tell which bees are drones by their bigger bodies and large eyes.

There is one queen per hive and she is the mom of all the others. She can lay about 1,500 eggs a day during spring and summer. Queens are distinguished from the other members of the hive by their long abdomens and small wings. Soon after birth, queens will go out and mate with as many drones as she can, then she returns to the hive and will not leave again. When the colony needs a new queen, the workers will choose a healthy larva and feed it royal jelly, royal jelly is produced in the heads of young workers, it helps this larva grow into a queen. Queens can live from 4 to 7 years.

There are many types of bees, some live in large hives and others are more inclined to live solitary lives, some nest as individuals in a common nesting site like the digger bees. There are also many types of bumblebees, before the import of honey bees from Europe, the bumblebees were the best pollinators here.

Male black bees (mason bees)will hover around nest entrances, chasing away intruders. They lack a sting, though, so just ignore them. Females do sting though, but only if you actively bother them.
Black Bee, photo by Bud Logan
Male black bees (mason bees)will hover around nest entrances, chasing away intruders. They lack a sting, though, so just ignore them. Females do sting though, but only if you actively bother them.

Black bees (mason bees) overwinter as adults, in vacant nest tunnels. In spring, when it begins to warm up, the adults emerge and mate, then the males die and the females begin working on new tunnels or enlarging tunnels from previous years. She will construct brood cells, load them with food, and then lays an egg in each cell.

Eggs hatch within a few days, and the young larvae feed on the food left by the queen. In 5 to 7 weeks, depending on weather conditions, the bee reaches adulthood and leaves the brood nest in late summer to feed on nectar before settling in for the winter.

This bee is a very useful pollinator and with a bit of help from you, it could help replace the beleaguered honey bee. All you need to do is provide them with nesting boxes. Take a block of wood and drill some 5/8 holes in it that are about 5 cm deeps, drill the holes about 2 cm apart and drill 3 sides of the block. Take another piece of wood that is about 10 cm wider on 3 sides and place on top as a roof. Place this out by your garden and let the bees fill it up.

In the fall after the bees have filled the holes, you can move the block to a dry place, carport, shed and let it sit until spring. Then when the weather begins to warm, move the block out into a warm and sunny place and the bees will emerge and go about pollinating your gardens. Build many boxes and get many bees. If you drill the holes less than 5 cm deep, the new bees will be males and if the holes are deeper than 5 cm the new bees will mostly be female, so drill about an even amount to ensure mating goes well after they emerge.

Honey Bees are social insects that live in colonies. The hive population consists of 1 queen, a small number of drones plus thousands of worker bees.The honeybees forage for nectar and pollen from flowering plants. They use the nectar they collect for food for themselves and to feed the young bees of the nest.
Honey Bee, photo by Bud Logan

Honey Bees are close relatives of wasps and ants. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They have been very common on the coast for as long as l can remember but in 2015, l was unable to find a single honey bee. This has got me quite nervous, to say the least. If you were able to observe them on the Island in 2015, please let me know about it. It is estimated that 1/3 of our food supply depends on insect pollination.

Honey Bees are social insects that live in colonies. The hive population consists of 1 queen, a small number of drones plus thousands of worker bees. The honeybees forage for nectar and pollen from flowering plants. They use the nectar they collect for food for themselves and to feed the young bees of the nest.

Worker bees are up to 99% of the population of each hive. These bees are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive.  Worker bees are responsible for feeding the young,  looking after the queen,  collecting food,  building honeycomb and defending the hive.

Male bees are the drones. Their only job is to mate with the queens of other hives. When they do mate, they die immediately afterward. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days. You can identify drones in the hive by their bigger bodies and large eyes. The drones have no stinger. The Queen is the only egg producer in the hive and can lay up to 1500 eggs a day, she can live for up to 7 years.

Update, this year, 2016, we have many honey bees showing up, it’s so good to see them return again. I was pretty nervous about it all.

Red Tailed Bumblebee, photo by Bud Logan

The red-tailed bumblebee is a very common bumblebee on Vancouver Island, emerging early in the spring and feeding on flowers right through to the fall.

It can be found in anywhere there are flowers to feed on. As with other bees, the queen emerges from hibernation in spring and starts a hive by laying eggs that hatch into workers, these workers tend the young and hive.

Males emerge later and mate with new females who are prospective queens. Both the males and old queen die in the autumn, but the new queens hibernate through the winter to emerge in the spring to start a new hive.

The female red-tailed bumblebee is a large, black bumblebee with a red butt patch. Males are smaller than the females and along with the red tail, have two yellow bands on the thorax and one at the base of the abdomen.

Bumblebees are very important as pollinators of plant species, including many food crops. But they are under threat from loss of habitat and the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides.  You can help to encourage bees and wasps to your garden by providing nectar-rich flower borders and fruit trees.

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