Urban Wildlife series
As I was bounding along in the park the other day where I run, I passed a patch of wildflowers in an open field. What a flurry of activity! There were dragonflies, aphids, ladybugs, stink bugs, insects of all kinds. Then I saw this lone honeybee, just working her little legs off. Just check out those pollen-laden legs! I ran back to the car as quickly as I could.
No, no… I did not run back to the car to get away from the bee. Instead, I grabbed my camera, and ran back so I could get a picture of her.
Not everyone is so happy when they see a honeybee flying around. However, these creatures serve a very important purpose in our ecosystem.
Bees are nature’s primary pollinator, making it possible for us to grow plants and vegetation of all kinds, and therefore food. Without bees, we would go hungry.
Bees are fascinating little creatures. No bigger than the end of your finger, this amazing little insect lives in an organized colony, working in cooperation with the many other bees in the hive in order to ensure their collective survival.
Bees in a hive fill many different roles. There are female worker bees, which gather pollen in special pouches on their legs and carry them back to the hive. Guard bees do as their name suggests and protect the hive from threats. Drones are male bees that exist solely to provide genetic diversity and reproduce with the the queen bee, the center of the hive.
Some bees collect water when the hive is in danger of overheating and spread them on the back of other bees, and then fan their wings over the water, cooling the hive and bringing the temperature down (natural air conditioning!).
Fanning behavior is also used in the production of honey. Bees fan the water to a level under 18% out of the nectar before the honey can be stored safely. When bees stand at the entrance of the hive with their back ends facing outwards and fanning over their Nasamov glands, they create a ‘homing’ signal. Fanning can also provide ventilation for the hive.
Honeybees are able to communicate with one another in detailed dances, leading other bees to the exact location of a new food source. They are hard workers. We can, and do, learn a lot from bees!
For information on the current ecological status of bees and some of the threats that they face, check out this interesting article by Dan Gunderson.