If honey bees could talk, they would be "BEE-wildered" at all the bee emojis out there that don't resemble them.
"Hey, buddy! That's not me! That's not what I look like! You sketched my anatomy all wrong!"
Should we BEE alarmed at the taxonomy fail of one of the world's most recognizable insects?
A honey bee, as bee scientists and beekeepers will tell you, is a winged insect with three body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen. The head has two antennae and the thorax has six legs. There are two pairs of wings. Only females have stingers. The stingers do NOT resemble hypodermic needles.
So, honey bee enthusiasts, if you've ever thought about what bee emoji to use, not to worry. You're now "BEE-holden" to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and Dr. Helen Taylor, the RZSS's highly talented conservation programme manager.
Dr. Taylor has analyzed the emojis being used in social media. And the results are not only buzzworthy but un-BEE-lievably funny.
The project originated when RZSS related the difficulty of finding the most anatomically correct bee emoji, and asked Dr. Taylor to "tell us which one is the bees knees."
RZSS, known as the wildlife conservation charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, tweeted the results in a graphic on Aug. 16.
Some of the Dr. Taylor's responses:
The Apple bee emoji? "Floats like a butterfly, stings like a...dagger-wielding stripy ninja? Heavily armed or not, with only one set of wings instead of the normal two, it's not going to get very far. Bonus points for segmented legs. 6/10."
The Google emoji? "Cute, but obviously been in a tragic accident leaving it with only one set of wings and missing a pair of legs. Still had time to apply stylish lippy tho. 4/10" (Note: "lippy" is lipstick)
Twitter? "It's official--Twitter pulls the legs off insects. All. The. Legs. This rotund bee is doomed to fly around forever (or roll--only one pair of wings...) never putting its non-existent feet on the ground... 3/10"
WhatsApp? "Another tragically injured bee with only four legs, two wings and a hypodermic needle lodged in its butt. What can't these apps just give bees a chance? 5/10."
Read more of her get-to-the-point analysis in the graphic below and the comments on the RZSS Twitter feed that include:
- "Oh, no, I'm going to have to cancel my Twitter account now for offences to invertebrates."
Dr. Taylor, a self-described conservation field scientist and geneticist and outdoors adventurer, joined RZSS in April 2019. "I am currently responsible for managing the conservation breeding programmes for pine hoverflies and pond mud snails, the native biodiversity programme at Highland Wildlife Park and our relationship with the Institute for the Conservation of Wild Animals in Brazil," she writes on her website.
"I also managed the reintroduced population of beavers in Knapdale Forest up to completion of the Scottish Beavers project at the end of 2020. I continue to remain involved in beaver conservation in Scotland via the Scottish Beaver Forum."
Helen holds a bachelor's degree, with honors, in natural sciences (2003) from Clare College, Cambridge University, UK; a master's degree in conservation, with distinction (2011), from the Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and a doctorate in ecology and biodiversity (2014) from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
"I love getting out in the field and working with wildlife, conducting research that is useful for conservation management and that moves the field forwards," she adds.
BEE-lieve it. Dr. Helen Taylor could also launch a side career in comedy that would move that field forward, too.
Have you ever seen a green-legged praying mantis on a green leaf?
Praying mantis expert Lohitashwa "Lohit" Garikipati, identified this species as a subadult male, Stagmomantis limbata, perched in a patch of African blue basil in our family's pollinator garden. When the temperature soared to 105 degrees, Mr. Mantis escaped the heat by slipping beneath the leaf. Mantids are not only great ambush predators but they know how to keep cool!
But the green legs?
We asked Garikipati, a UC Davis entomology graduate now studying for his master's degree with biologist Christopher Oufiero, an associate professor at Towson University, Towson, MD. While a UC Davis student, he showed mantids at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open houses.
"Your observation is interesting and it's a rather interesting phenomenon tha'ts often noticed by mantis researchers observing wild specimens," Garikipati said. "I've found numerous individuals on foliage that is more or less the same color as they are--they could easily choose to sit somewhere else, yet they choose to sit on that particular color of foliage. How much of this is color matching is hard to say--some species can alter their coloration within an instar, others take multiple molts to do so."
Through his personal observations in rearing S. limbata, Garikipati said "they only seem to be able to drastically change over multiple instars. It's possible that this individual has lived on that plant for a period of time. Even if that is the case, its absolutely incredible that they are able to color match to their surroundings--how the mechanism works I have no idea. Probably unsurprisingly, they are much more complex than we ever give them credit for."
Epilogue: As bees buzzed over and around his head, Mr. Mantis never resorted to "Green Legs and Bam!" (See YouTube video and hear the bees buzzing)
Me thinks Mr. Mantis wasn't all that hungry or maybe he was just too heat-tired to reach out and nab a bee with his spiked forelegs.
It's a gathering of folks from both the almond and bee industries and beyond. See the agenda overview.
The late UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (1944-2022), based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was heavily involved in honey bee health issues in the almond industry even after he retired as emeritus in 2014. He shared his expertise with the almond industry, spoke at their conferences and always looked forward to almond pollination season, which usually begins around Feb. 14.
ABC is a self-described "leader in the honey bee health conversation, partnering with more than 20 organizations to support bee health including universities, government agencies, nonprofits and beekeeping groups." That includes the University of California, Davis.
It's not just bees--or the lack of bees--that ABC worries about. Pests such as leaffooted bugs and brown marmorated stink bugs draw their ire. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jhalendra Rijal and two colleagues, writing in a 2021 edition of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, wrote about the "Biology, Ecology and Management of Hemipteran Pests in Almond Orchards in the United States."
Scores of university scientists work with ABC on various pests, including UC Davis distinguished professor and researcher Frank Zalom of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's an Honorary Member of the Entomological Association of America, (the highest ESA honor), and a past president of the 7000-member organization.
Regarding honey bees, ABC engages with universities, government agencies, nonprofits, and others "to ensure that honey bees are happy, healthy, and safe while they visit almond orchards," according to its website. The organization posted this in 2018: "Since honey bee health was made a strategic research priority of Almond Board of California (ABC) in 1995, the California Almond community has committed $2.6 million through 113 research projects to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health--varroa mites, pest and disease management, genetic diversity, pesticide exposure, and access to forage and nutrition. The California Almond community has funded more honey bee health research than any other crop group, and in 2017, six new bee research studies were funded, with a commitment of nearly $300,000 to improving honey bee health."
ABC established Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds to "provide key recommendations to everyone involved in the pollination process, from the beekeeper to the almond farmer and everyone in between, to make the orchard a safe and welcoming place for honey bees, while balancing the need to protect the developing crop."
"The Bee BMPs have garnered praise from leading bee health experts such as University of California, Davis Apiculturist Emeritus Dr. Eric Mussen and been held up as an example for other crops to follow."
In 2014, Mussen received a plaque, with an engraved clock, from ABC for 38 years of service. In presenting him with the coveted award, Robert "Bob" Curtis, then associate director of Agricultural Affairs, ABC, said: "Eric, we honor your service as a Cooperative Extension Apicultural Specialist. Your leadership has been invaluable to both the almond and beekeeping communities as the authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries. Even now in your retirement you have been instrumental in the development of Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds and extending this information to all pollination stakeholders."
During his years as a Extension apiculturist, Mussen served as a university liaison, Scientific Advisory Board member, reviewer of research proposals and a designated speaker (representative).
A Celebration of Life is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 in the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis campus. The registration has closed, but a live webinar will be produced by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the Department of Entomology. Registration is underway here at https://bit.ly/3czl5Am. It also will be on YouTube.
Family and friends suggest memorial contributions be made to the California State 4-H Beekeeping Program, with a note, "Eric Mussen Memorial Fund." Mary Ciriceillo, director of development for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, said checks may be made out to the California 4-H Foundation and mailed to:
Honey bees and native bees love capeweed, Arctotheca calendula, also called South African capeweed, cape dandelion and cape marigold or cape gold.
It's an invasive plant originating from the Cape Province in South Africa (Here's what the California Invasive Council says about it:
"Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) is an annual or perennial evergreen herb that, when young, forms a low-growing rosette of heavily pinnately lobed leaves, with undersides covered by woolly down. With age, it forms an extensive, dense, mat-like groundcover by proliferation of rooting stems (stolons) from rosettes. Leaves are pinnately lobed; fine, dense hairs cause stems and leaves to appear silvery. Flowers are approximately two inches in diameter, lemon yellow, and daisy-like with yellow centers. The plant is conspicuous in late spring and early summer due to its increase in size and the profusion of large yellow daisies. Plants are seldom solitary, and they spread vigorously by creeping stems (Lasca Leaves 1968)."
Capeweed may have arrived in California in a shipment of grass seed from Australia, where it is a common weed, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The invasive species compendium (CABI) listed it as a noxious weed in 2010 in California.
However, it's cultivated as an ornamental ground cover and has both "fertile" and "sterile" forms.
We've seen lawnmowers run over the the weed in City of Benicia parks (yes, it grows back), we've seen it thriving in a gold carpet along coastal California, and we've seen bees foraging on it.
It's a pollinator paradise, of sorts, but it's also invasive.
It's Friday Fly Day!
And what better day than a Friday to post an image of a syrphid fly nectaring on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii? We all need "pretty" in our lives.
Syrphid flies, also known as "flower flies" and "hover flies," are pollinators that hover over a blossom before touching down.
"Most species are predaceous, most commonly on aphids or mealybugs," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. "Some syrphids prey on ants, caterpillars, froghoppers, psyllids, scales, other insects, or mites. About 100 to 400 aphids can be fed upon by each aphid-feeding larva before it pupates, but this varies by the mature size of the syrphid relative to the aphids' size."
Folks who assume that every critter they see in, on, or around a flower is a honey bee should know a couple of distinguishing features: bees don't hover, and syrphids have only one pair of wings, while bees have two. "Their large eyes and short antenna also give them away," notes Kelly Rourke in her U.S. Forest Service article on "Syrphid Fly (Sphaerophoria philanthus). "The absence of pollinium, or pollen sacs, is more difficult to see, but is another difference from a bee. Of the nearly 900 species of flower flies (family Syrphidae) in North America, most have yellow and black stripes."
Happy Friday Fly Day!