Bee Calm & Buzz On… 🐝🐝🐝
Bees, as well as other pollinators (bats, hummingbirds, butterflies/moths, etc.) are in serious peril these days as a result of the many compounding issues challenging their survival. Every year, we bolster our garden with pollen-producing, nectar-rich plants to ensure our local pollinators remain fortified, fat and happy! (Honestly, there is nothing better than smiling little bees with their legs packed with pollen, buzzing about the yard in bliss!)
Ever since I was a child I have held an untamed fascinated with bees. As a little kid, I had the unfortunate genetics for an allergic reaction to bee stings. At the bright age of five, I decided to apply catholic school-yard rationale to my negative ‘issues’ with bees. So, one sunny morning during the summer, I went out into the backyard of my parent’s home and embarked on a no-nonsense-approach to making my peace with bees forever.
Subsequently, in the following days, I was stung by justifiably terrified bees on 3-separate occasions. Each sting directly on the palm of my left hand. Upon the third trip to our pediatrician’s office, my Mother asked me why I thought I was getting stung so many times in the last week on my little palm…? I answered her in my ‘big-girl-voice’ and announced that I just loved bees and no longer wished to be allergic to them! 🐝 😊
After the words left my mouth, my Mother began to laugh so uncontrollably that she was forced to pullover our metallic blue Ford ‘Country Squire’ because she literally was blinded by tears of laughter. It was on that day she bestowed upon me the title of both ‘Beecharmer’ and ‘Queen-Bee-of-the-Universe’.
Apparently, those words were quite impactful because to this day I make it a point to live up to both of my fabulous titles with passion and sweetness, just like bees!
When asked why I am so enthralled with these little, buzzy, winged pollinators, I’ve always answered ‘I just feel/hear their song as music to my soul…’
My affection for these winged marvels inspired me to create ‘Bee Cause…!’ on my blog. At Le Voov! we will keep you abreast of the fabulous botanical options, research, and developments supporting our local pollinators. Brian and I took bee-keeping (apiary) classes with the hopes of putting forth our best effort to support the dwindling honeybee population in the world. Unfortunately, we discovered that our rescue dog Otter-Pop likes to eat flies, bees, an occasional, unsuspecting wasp, butterflies and dragonflies as if they were simple window candy. So, we may need to rethink our hives for the time being…. Please stay tuned!!!
With the heavy rains early in 2016, spring came a bit early to Northern California this year. We had heavy, wild, idiot-winds, we had a deluge of rains, but then, sadly, it all stopped and we are now back in drought-mode for the 5th year in a row. This means we return to Navy-style showers, no flushing unless there is a ‘Tootsie-Roll’ in the bowl, and abandoning our brand-new, beautiful washer & dryer for the coin laundry again for the next 6-months. Yuck!
Bee Cause…! February🐝
Rainy Day Bees
Northern California has been a very wet, soggy place this winter. However, we are loving all the rain since our region has been in a severe drought for the last 5-years. ☔️
The winter months pose a tough time for honeybees due to the impact of cold & rain on foraging and the availability of pollen. During a break from a recent rainy deluge, I came across this busy bee gathering pollen for her hive mates. Working with great vigilance, she moved from flower to flower on our Camellia bush. If you look closely, you can see the rain drops on the top of the petals… 🌺
On another day, after a five day downpour, I decided to literally seize the moment to head out with our dog Otter-Pop to get a wee bit of exercise in the canyon behind our home. 🐾👣
Along the trail we noticed a large rosemary bush, blooming in all its glory with bright periwinkle blue flowers. As we got closer, we heard the familiar warm buzz of dozens of little honeybees, busily gathering food & water for their sisters back at the hive. They moved quickly, methodically filling their tiny pollen purses before returning back home.
Rosemary is a wonderful source of year-around food for all our local pollinators!
Bee Cause…! January🐝
Winter Bee Food
Yesterday after the rain stopped, I ventured through the garden to document the blooming plants producing food for our local & migratory pollinators. I photo document this seasonal bloom-cycle twice a month throughout the year to make sure our little nectar-loving friends are always ensured a veritable smorgasbord in our garden.
The hummingbirds were floating on the breeze, stopping at every flower like teenagers at their first kegger party. Meanwhile the honeybees were methodically making their way into the deep, cavernous foyer of the colorful Foxgloves and nasturtiums.
First Bumblebee Of The Season In Our Garden!
The most notable event of the day was the confirmation of a bumblebee nest in the ground of the northern garden area! Hooray, the gregarious, fuzzy, black winged B-52 bombers, with their sweet little yellow stoles wrapped around their shoulders created their home in our yard. What an absolute honor!
Yesterday, along with the sunshine came the very first bumblebee sighting in our garden. Yahoooo, they’re back! Well over 90% of the bumblebee population will not survive the winter, so this fury gal must be a strong one…
Bee Cause…! December 🐝
The Little Bee That Saved Christmas
In the queendom of beedom, there is known to be a small bee from the genus Hylaeus sp. that has been credited with saving Christmas by researchers in New Zealand. This sweet little bee formed a much needed, yet mysterious symbiotic relationship with a very rare form of mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala).
Now this is not your average, run-of-the-mill mistletoe. Rather, a single Peraxilla plant can live for more than a century, producing a cluster of spectacular crimson buds each year around the time of the Winter Solstice.
Strangely, the flower of this mistletoe species cannot open by itself, rather it relies upon a couple of birds in the honeyeater species to pry their buds open to pollinate. While this arrangement is convenient, it leaves the Peraxilla vulnerable, with it’s basic survival reliant upon another species. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, this shouldn’t be a problem. Sadly, the birds have fallen victim to several non-native species that have decimated the honeyeater bird population in New Zealand. (Thanks to the illegal introduction of opossums, rats, domestic cats and ferrets!) Thus, leaving the Peraxilla seeds unable to pollinate and multiply.
With a mighty drum roll please, enters this cute little bee into our story. With a gallant effort to get to the golden nectar of the Peraxilla, the bee works tirelessly to open some of the crimson buds. And while it may take an immense effort for the Hylaeus bee to gain access to the flower’s stigma to pollinate, in recent years their herculean efforts have nearly doubled the number of fertilized seeds. Hence, providing New Zealanders with their beloved vibrant red Christmas flowers and mistletoe, while feeding a hungry bee population.
So, here is a big shout out to all the teeny-tiny, itty-bitty Hylaeus bees for their altruistic, sweet effort to assist in saving the nearly extinct Peraxilla tetrapetala in New Zealand. Well done ladies!!!!!
*Photo by Pixabay
Bee Cause…! November 🐝
Nectar Sweet Victory Against Monsanto!
A district judge in the state of Yucatán, Mexico has overturned a permit that would have allowed Monsanto to commercially plant hundreds of thousands of hectares of soybeans genetically modified to resist the company’s infamous pesticide Roundup. The new ruling stated that introducing GM crops to the region would most certainly threaten the established and highly lucrative honey production.
The initial permit was issued to Monsanto in June 2012 by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, despite protests from 25,000 Mayan farmers and beekeepers, as well as powerful groups such as Greenpeace, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.
At the center of the new ruling lies a stipulation within the Mexican constitution compelling the government to ‘fully consult’ indigenous communities prior to any decisions being made regarding individual territories. The judge ruled that the Mexican government violated the constitutional rights of the individual communities making up the Yucatán peninsula when they issued the original permit to Monsanto in 2012.
Further, after reviewing the scientific evidence present against Monsanto, the judge declared that it would be reckless to introduce GM crops to the area because, based upon longstanding research, the honey bees cannot co-exist with GM crops.
Current research indicates Glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup, could pose serious health threats to groundwater supplies, soil, microorganisms, humans, tropical flora, indigenous & migratory animals, as well as pollinators such a bees, moths/butterflies, birds, and bats. It should be noted, Monsanto firmly rejects these claims.
The richly forested tropical climate of the Yucatán peninsula has been at the center of Mexico’s honey export industry, generating over 40% of the countries honey production over the last decade. The majority of the honey produced in this region is exported to Europe with an annual revenue of $54 million (£32m), making it a highly valuable industry to preserve.
In 2011, the EU Court of Justice passed a landmark decision restricting any products derived from GM crops throughout Europe. Commercial planting of GM crops on the Yucatán peninsula would essentially devastate the much needed European export market for Mexican beekeepers.
Monsanto, a powerful multi-national company, has vowed to appeal the new ruling. Big surprise…
Bee Cause…! October 🐝
‘Big-Brained’ Bumblebees Access Tools!
Bumblebees may have small brains, but there’s significantly more happening beneath those exoskeletons than previously thought. Over the last decade bumblebees have proven themselves to be quite remarkable little beings with complex navigational and communication skills, emotions, and even facial recognition.
Now a study at Queen Mary University of London has successfully challenged the long held notion that only ‘large-brained’ beings can maneuver with tools. Cognitive scientist Lars Chittka and his team found that bumblebees could solve tasks and use tools to gain access to nectar. But better yet, they’ve shown bumblebees can learn this task from other bees and hive mates, without ever experiencing these tasks in nature.
Bees watched the research bees perform tasks and get rewarded with nectar through a clear piece of Plexiglas. More than 60% of the observing bees correctly performed the tasks when their turn presented. Most importantly, even after the trained bee died, knowledge of the task continued to spread within the colony’s younger worker bees. This single act meets the requirement of a ‘culture’, which is usually reserved for larger, ‘big brained’ beings such as apes.
Ivo Jacobs, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden commented; “The fact that bumblebees could learn to do so shows their unexpected behavioral flexibility...”
This level of mental flexibility could help bumblebees across the globe respond quickly to emerging problems within their environment. Displaying an innovative thought process is critical in addressing issues such as human-caused environmental changes. For example, the loss of familiar flowering native plants due to the introduction of crops or other new food sources.
Thank you to Chittka and his team for their dedication to better understanding the complex nature of bumblebee culture. Stay calm and buzz on!!!
*Photo by Pixabay
Bee Cause…! September 🐝
I Absolutely Love This Quote!
‘Unique among all creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species…’
– Royden Brown
Ten Fun Facts About Honeybees!
- Honeybees, scientifically known as Apis mellifera (meaning honey-carrying bee), have been buzzing around on earth for over 30-million years. Humans and honeybees have had a long and loyal relationship for thousands of years. Honeybees are the only insect that create/produce food we eat. 🐝
- Honey is the only food that contains everything necessary to sustain life, including water, enzymes, minerals and vitamins. Honey also contains a very powerful antioxidant called pinocembrin, which is associated with improving brain function. 🐝
- Honey is a substance that never spoils. Of the many large containers of honey found in Egyptian tombs, all is still edible, even after thousands of years…! 🐝
- There are more than 20,000 species of bees on earth, yet only 4 of those species make honey… 🐝
- A honeybee’s teeny tiny wings beat over 190 times per second or approximately 12,000 time in a given minute. 🐝
- An average active beehive will produce close to 400 lbs. of honey per year. 🐝
- Honeybees access one of the most complex languages of any species on earth. They dance, they sing (buzz), and they produce pheromones (scents) to communicate with each other. 🐝
- A single hive has three types of bees, a queen, workers and drones. An industrious worker bee will visit up to 2000 flowers between sunrise and sunset. However, since she can’t carry all that pollen at once on her tiny little body, she’ll visit 75 – 100 flowers before returning to the hive. She will forage within 2 – 3 miles of her home, repeating these round trip flights all day long. Sadly, a diligent, hard-working forager will work herself to death in approximately 21-days. 🐝
- Honeybees never sleep! 🐝
- Honeybees are credited with pollinating more than 80% of all the vegetable, fruit and seed crops produced within the United States. That’s a huge responsibility and absolutely vital to our very existence. 🐝
So, as I understand it, a honeybee hive is similar to a rave party, Burning Man, or a Grateful Dead concert in that you have thousands of cooperative members working towards a common cause of nurturing sweetness, communicating by dancing, singing and pheromones, and they’re all buzzed…. 🙂
Stay Calm & Buzz On….!
Bee Cause…! August 🐝
Most flowering plants have their pollen readily available for any and all pollinators to gather. But some plants are a bit more selective, prudish, even somewhat stubborn about whom they will share their nutritious golden treasure.
We’ve just learned about a pollinating technique called ‘Buzz Pollination’ from a video series produced by PBS called ‘Deep Look’. Chances are good that you have personally benefited from buzz-pollination through enjoying tomatoes, blue berries, cranberries, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and thousands of other food producing plants.
Discovered by Dr. Anne Leonard at University of Nevada, Reno, Biology Department, this bizarre method of pollination is exclusive to the mighty bumblebee. Interestingly, our beloved honeybees can’t do it!
Certain plants do not attract pollinators with the gift of nectar, rather they hide their pollen deep inside their anthers, holding out until a suitable partner, a bumblebee, courts and forces it’s release. The bumblebee shakes the flower violently with her powerful vibration, until the anther opens, surrendering the prized golden pollen. Dr. Leonard’s research has documented that the harder the bumblebee buzzes, the more pollen she is granted from the plant.
This unlikely evolutionary strategy is accessed by over 20,000 unrelated species of flowering plants, all dependent upon a healthy population of wild bumblebees for pollination. Le Voov! would like to thank Dr. Leonard and her team for their dedication and effort to finding ways to maintain healthy bee populations around the globe.
For more information on this topic, click on this YouTube link to see for yourself the truly fascinating dynamics of buzz pollination.
Live long & buzz on bumblebees!
Special Note: Our resident bumblebees have been less than cooperative in allowing me to photograph them in the garden. This little fury bumblebee said ‘cheese’ via Pixabay 🐝
Bee Cause…! July 🐝
San Francisco Botanical Garden ‘Flower Piano’
The San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is in full bloom this summer with pollinators going wild! Look at this fabulous honeybee gathering pollen from a huge Matillija Poppy. Her little pollen purses are just teaming with food for her hive-mates.
We attended the annual ‘Flower Piano’ event this month. During our visit, strolling through the 55-acre San Francisco gem in Golden Gate Park, we saw over 5 different species of hummingbirds, fury bumble bees, honeybees, wild bees, along with numerous species of butterflies, not to mention a huge variety of botanical wonders from all over the world.
While wandering through the gardens I heard the familiar hum of a hive emanating from the center of a huge shade tree. As I walked towards the tree, I could feel the excitement of a wild bee hive permeating the air. What was amazing to me, was with all the thousands of people attending this wonderful event at the gardens, it would seem no one else in the vicinity had even noticed the liveliness of hundreds of bees coming and going from the large crack in the side of that big tree.
As a fifth generation San Franciscan, I am so proud our city has maintained such a lovely collection of plants from around the globe. If you haven’t been to the San Francisco Botanical Garden lately, you’re most certainly due for a visit! 🌺 🐝 🌳
Bee Cause…! June 🐝
Ah, the gentle hum of the blooming privet trees filled with happy bees!
Every summer our Privet trees create a wondrous foraging ground for our local pollinators. (Yep, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and moths of all kinds & sizes!) I enjoy sitting in the garden, sipping my tea, and listening to the concert of deep buzzing produced by all the happy bees. It’s amazing to see the variety of winged beings these trees attract with their sweet scent. We see a dynamic blend of wild bees, bumblebees and various honeybees all happily humming away the day with their legs loaded heavy with pollen. During this time of year, our yard is alive with activity from sun up to sun down!
During the hot, summer months bees gather the pollen they will need to survive through the cold winter months. In our garden, we have planted trees and plants that flower throughout the year to supplement the seasonal needs of our pollinators. We also keep several shallow saucers filled with tiny rocks and fresh water for our thirsty little bees to access when water is scarce. We all need to set our struggling bees up to thrive! 🐝🐝🐝
Bee Cause…! May 🐝
This month the lavender, verbena, and bottle brush are sustaining our resident flutter-bye populations. Just last weekend the Rhododendrons began to bloom, which attracted an incredible, visually dynamic, early morning brunch-fest. I just smiled as I observed their pleasant hum from my big, old, teak garden chair, sipped my first hot cup-oh-joe…
What a treat…! 🐝🐝🐝
Bee Cause…! April 🐝
We visited the Gallery of California Natural Sciences in Oakland to see the Honeybee exhibit and learned about the 1,600 species of bees that live in California. Bees help produce our food and keep our ecosystem buzzing. There are many things we can all do to better support our local pollinators. It begins with creating a healthy and reliable food source for them, free of dangerous pesticides. Many people are unaware of the devastating effects systemic fertilizers, RoundUp, and neonicotinoids have on our wonderful pollinator communities. These chemicals contaminate the pollen and nectar bees feed upon, which in turn wipes out entire colonies.
Miracle Gro/Ortho announced last week they will begin phasing out some of the dangerous chemicals proven to be negatively impacting the pollinator populations. Yay, this is progress! 🐝🐝🐝
Bees need biodiversity to thrive. Having many different plants blooming throughout the year will ensure a steady food source for the hive. Our datura (Angel’s Trumpet), daphne, daisies, foxglove, camellia and azaleas keep our resident bees busy during the winter months. Please come back to learn more about bees soon!
Until then, bee well! 🐝
🐝 Bee Well! 🐝
This is Otter-Pop searching for bees among the flowers. Silly girl!!! 🌻 🐝
I just love this little honeybee’s fat pollen purses! She’s soooo happy in our garden!!!! 🙂 🐝
🐝 More content coming soon. Please bee patient! Thanks. 🐝 🙂