Not all bumble bees are primarily black.
Take the Bombus flavifrons.
We spotted a male Bombus flavifrons nectaring on Centaurea montana, aka perennial cornflower or mountain cornflower, recently in Mill Valley. It didn't look like many of the other common bumble bees, such as the yellow-faced bumble bee and the black-tailed bumble bee.
It was as yellow as a baby chick.
It's just one of 20,000 species of bees found globally, and one of 49 bumble bee (Bombus) species found in the United States and one of more than 250 species of bumble bees found worldwide.
Sometimes we overlook something we're not ready to see.
Have you ever stopped to admire a blossom and seen forceps protruding?
We were walking near Mrak Hall, UC Davis, on a hot summery afternoon and spotted a tell-tale sign: abdominal forceps, aka pinchers or pincers.
In a male earwig, the forceps are more widely spaced.
The most abundant earwig in California is the European eartwig, Forficula auricularia (family Forficulidae), according to entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects. However, it was not known in the state until 1923.
They describe the adult as about 12 to 22mm long, mostly brown with pale forewings and antennae. "The immatures and adults feed on a wide variety of substances, from flowers and green foliage near the ground to living and dead insects, including aphids."
This one seemed to be escaping from the heat.
Honey bee foragers collect nectar, pollen, water and propolis.
Propolis? What's propolis?
It's that sticky plant resin or "goo" that the bees use to seal small spaces in the hive. It's also known as "bee glue." When you see beekeepers using their hive tools to pry apart the frames, they're confronting that glue.
Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and author of the newly published Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees, writes: "Bees use it as a caulking material to seal small cracks and crevices inside the hive, especially at the joints between chambers, making it difficult to separate hive chambers that are glued tightly together. In warm weather, propolis is sticky and pliable. In cold weather, it’s hard and brittle.”
“A few bees in each colony collect propolis during warm weather when it is pliable enough to manipulate," Gary continues. "This natural bee glue is so sticky that other bees need to assist the propolis forager during the unloading process. It’s amazing how they can manipulate it without becoming hopelessly entangled and stuck together, but they seem to manager just fine."
Bees also use propolis to narrow the entrance to their hive, or encase a large, immovable object in their colony--such as a dead mouse or lizard. Basically, they remove the smell by covering it up.
Humans also use it; it's highly marketable.
In Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees by Malcom T. Sanford and Richard E. Bonney, the authors write: “Research in human medicine has shown propolis to be an antimicrobial agent, an emollient, immunomodulator, dental anti-plaque agent and anti-tumor growth agent. Studies also indicate that it may be effective in treating skin burns.”
It's also used for such products as vehicles waxes and musical instrument varnishes. Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) reportedly favored it for the instruments he crafted.
But have you ever seen a bee carrying a load of propolis?
Sticky, sticky stuff! Especially when temperatures hit 100 degrees.
That they're Public Enemy No. 1?
According to a recent Nature journal essay, non-natives are so vilified today that a “pervasive bias” exists against non-native species, a bias embraced by “the public, conservationists, and managers and policy-makers, as well by as many scientists, throughout the world.”
The native-vs.-non-native species distinction appears to be the “guiding principle” in today’s conservation and restoration management, say 19 ecologists in their essay, “Don’t Judge Species on Their Origins.”
Mark Davis, a biology professor at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn., is the lead author. The other co-authors include Scott Carroll of UC Davis.
Carroll, an ecologist in professor Sharon Lawler’s lab, and the founding director of the Davis-based Institute for Contemporary Evolution, contributed his work on conciliation biology to the thought-provoking essay. He holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Utah.
“Global change alters conditions for all species, and from a practical perspective, origin can be only one of many criteria we consider,” Carroll told us. “Appraising non-native organisms more openly invites us to more seriously contemplate our aims when managing novel communities of mixed origin.”
Carroll is often out chasing soapberry bugs (a key research interest), writing research papers and delivering presentations. He considers soapberry bugs "wondrous examples of evolution happening right now--as we change the world, these beautiful insects are quickly adapting, and in the process directly revealing how evolution works."
You can't miss his presence. At 6 foot-10 inches, he towers over his colleagues.
And the soapberry bugs!
Department of Entomology website
Conciliation Biology: the Eco-Evolutionary Management of Permanently Invaded Biotic Systems by Scott Carroll, published in 2011 in Evolutionary Applications.
Soapberry Bugs of the World Website (Scott Carroll)
Scott Carroll Website
Scott Carroll: Curriculum Vitae
Have you hugged your favorite pollinator today?
It's National Pollinator Week, and you're allowed to do that this week. Actually, any time you feel the inclination.
Honey bees, bumble bees, wool carder bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees--they're all out there, ready for a hug.
'Course, they may misinterpret your actions.
This is the fifth annual Pollinator Week, when we pay tribute to bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles--and flies, too. Don't forget the flies. And all the other pollinators out there.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging us to celebrate pollinators June 20-26. Perhaps what we should do, along with celebrating them, is vow to save them.