- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Might As Well Be Spring
"I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm
I'm as jumpy as puppet on a string
I'd say that I had spring fever
But I know it isn't spring."--Frank Sinatra
Wait, it is spring!
Today is the day we've all be waiting for--the first day of spring.
If you're lucky, you'll see bumble bees nectaring on spring flowers, including nectarine blossoms.
We spotted this bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, also known as a black-tailed bumble bee, heading toward our nectarine tree and foraging on the blossoms.
This is one of the 27 species of bumble bees in California. We frequently see the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and sometimes Bombus californicus, aka the California bumble bee.
Our little buddy, Bombus melanopygus, appears to be nesting nearby due to her frequent visits to the nectarine blossoms. Hmm, wonder if she is occupying a rodent hole or maybe an old birdhouse....
If you're interested in learning more about bumble bees, check out the book, California Bees and Blooms: a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, the work of UC Davis and UC Berkeley scientists, including Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, who is also the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Take a close look.
What's wrong with the first photo posted below this blog?
If you're a beekeeper or someone who's been around bees, you'll know immediately.
If not, you may look at the photo and say "Hmm, a honey bee. Yep, it's a honey bee, all right. It's on a what...nectarine blossom?"
Yes, it's a honey bee. Yes, it's on a nectarine blossom. But if you look at the huge eyes and the stout body, you'll know it doesn't belong on the blossom. It's a drone (male) and drones don't forage.
They have one responsibility and that's to mate with the queen. A virgin queen, on her maiden flight, leaves the hive and mates in the air with 12 to 25 males waiting for her in the drone congregation area.
After mating, the drones immediately fall to the ground and die. "They die happy," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Meanwhile, the queen bee returns to her hive and spends the rest of her life laying eggs. She's a veritable egg-laying machine. During the peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day. She will not mate again. She has enough stored sperm to last the rest of her life, which is usually one to two years.
UC Davis bee scientists got a kick out of the drone on the nectarine blossom. (If you watched the Jerry Seinfeld movie, "The Bee Movie," you probably heard Seinfeld erroneously referring to his fellow male bees as "pollen jocks." He also said males have stingers--they don't.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, said the photo would make "A great quiz material for beekeeping and pollination courses."
However, the best comment about the photo came from UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis:
"Silly drone--he has one function and that is not it!"