We can all learn from the honey bees.
Worker bees--sisters--are like feeding machines. They not only feed each other, but feed the queen and their brothers, the drones.
It's a marvelous sight to see, nectar being passed from one bee to another.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a beekeeper for more than six decades, says it well in his newly published book: Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Gary points out that "efficient communication is the fabric of social behavior. It enables the thousands of bees in a colony to function almost as one organism--sometimes referred to as a super- or supra-organism, in which individual bees are compared to the individual cells of an organism."
Food sharing inside a hive, he writes, is "dynamic and continuous."
"A hungry bee says, in her own special way, Can you spare some food? If the behavioral answer is yes, the donor bee spreads her mandibles and discharges a droplet of honey or nectar from her honey stomach onto her mouthparts."
The hungry bee, Gary relates, "senses the food, extends her strawlike proboscis, and sucks up the food."
It's share and share alike.
Too bad the human race doesn't operate as a super organism.
Talk about aggression. Talk about bullying. Talk about power maneuvers.
Ever seen male European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicutum) defend their territory? Ever seen them chase away other pollinators while they're hunting for prospective mates?
We've seen them target and bodyslam carpenter bees, alfalfa butterflies, leafcutter bees, sweat bees and honey bees while they're nectaring such blossoms as catmint, salvia and lamb's ear.
"Indeed, male wool carder bees are pretty aggressive in their hunt for females and in defense of their territories," commented native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Once the male carder bee spots a female of his own species, he quickly races up to mate with her. He is aggressive with her, too.
The wool carder bee, so named because the female "cards" or removes plant fuzz to line her nest, is a native of Europe. The species was introduced to the United States (New York) in 1963, and was first identified in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
So, it's a relatively newcomer engaging in old ways.
Fact is, the European wool carder bee and the honey bee grew up together in the Old World and now they're realigning in the New World. (European colonists brought the honey bee to America--Jamestown colony--in 1662.)
Last weekend we watched a particularly aggresive male European wool carder bee target a honey bee while she was nectaring catmint (Nepeta). He hovered in mid-air like a helicopter and then suddenly attacked. The force of the impact toppled him over. Then, she, too, collapsed from the blow.
She dropped through the catmint leaves and lingered there for a moment before cautiously emerging. Whoa! What was that? Then she quickly buzzed off.
Undaunted, the male circled where she'd been, looking for any sign of movement.
There will be another time.
Our cat used to catch them.
She'd bring them into the house and watch them flutter at our feet.
The white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) flies during the day and at night. It's not a graceful flier. It bumbles along like Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose on empty.
With a wing span between 2.7 and 3.9 inches long, it's easy to notice as it nectars on salvia (sage), honeysuckle, larkspur, columbines and other flowers. Some folks know it by its nickname, "the hummingbird moth."
A member of the Sphingidae family, the white-lined sphinx moth is found throughout most of the United States, plus Mexico, Central America and Canada. It's also been found in other parts of the world, including the West Indies.
It's definitely a delight to see! (But preferably not in the cat's mouth.)
It's easily missed because it's only a fraction of an inch long.
But the color--a brilliant red--is right there. It's a little difficult to see on a red pomegranate, but it's there.
What's there? The nymph of a leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus zonatus).
The adults, or seed feeders, do what bugs do--eat and mate, mate and eat, and then eat and mate some more. They lay eggs that hatch into little red nymphs. The nymphs don't look at all like their parents, which are brown with a white zigzag across the back. Neither do the nymphs have flattened, leaflike tibias.
These red nymphs, however, probably don't get disturbed much. The color, red, is a warning color or aposematism, that is, it warns predators that "I'm dangerous," "I'm toxic," "I'm bitter-tasting" and "If you eat me, you'll be sorry." It's a defense mechanism found throughout the animal world.
Check out the warning coloration in ladybugs (aka lady beetles), scarlet lily beetles, redback spiders, red palm mites, chiggers, red velvet ants or red velvet wasps, milkweed bug nymphs and black widow spiders (the blood-red hourglass on its back).
Then look at the oh-so-tiny nymphs of the leaffooted bug.
Red as a sparkling ruby.
Many of us in California have never seen the Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis)
Many of us never will.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, worries about the declining population and fears it may go the way of Franklin's bumble bee, which he hasn't seen since 2006.
That's why he and his colleagues were so excited to find a male Bombus occidentalis on Mt. Shasta, above 5,000 feet, on Aug. 15. It was foraging on buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.).
Thorp was there with several local U.S. Forest Service employees: wildlife biologist Debbie Derby, who actually netted the bee; and biological technicians Susan Thomas, Kendra Bainbridge and Lauran Yerkes.
"Just as we were celebrating the find, we were joined by two other USFS personnel: Carolyn Napper, district ranger, and Johnny Dame, Panther Campground host," Thorp recalled. "So there were lots of witnesses to the rare find."
A rare find, indeed.
The Western bumble bee, a close relative of Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), "disappeared from the western part of its range at the same time as Franklin's bumble bee declined," said Thorp, who keeps an eye out for both species on his trips to southern Oregon and northern California.
The habitat of the Franklin's bumble bee, which many fear is extinct, is a 13,300-square-mile area of Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California, and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon.
"The Western bumble bee occurred throughout the range of Franklin’s, but apparently declined from central California to southern British Columbia west of the Sierra Cascade Range at the same time as the decline of Franklin's bumble bee, " Thorp said.
However, the Western bumble bee "seems to have persisted through most of the rest of its range from Alaska through areas east of the Sierra-Cascade to the Rocky Mountains and south to Arizona and New Mexico," Thorp pointed out. "We have no good idea what the population trends have been within this large area, since no one has been closely monitoring its populations there."
We're glad to see the increased interest in bumble bees. And especially glad to see that this week the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation announced the publication of Bumble Bees of the Western United States, co-authored by Jonathan Koch, James Strange and Paul Williams. You can order it online.
Bombus occidentalis and Bombus franklini are among the Bombus species represented.