If you've been around honey bee hives much, you know what a smoker is.
It's a tool that beekeepers use to inspect, manipulate or handle a hive. They smoke a hive to check the health of the colony, to add a little food, and to take a little honey.
In a way, it's a form of "blowin' smoke" or a deception.
Moses Quinby of St. Johnsville, N.Y. invented the modern-day bee smoker in 1875. He created a firepot with bellows and a nozzle. Ancient Egyptians used pottery filled with smoldering cow dung to smoke the hives.
Why smoke? Smoke calms the bees. It masks the smell of the pheromone that the guard bees release to alert other bees of "trouble in River City." The bees smell the smoke and gorge on honey in preparation for The Big Move.
Pure and simple.
The result: mass confusion. And that leaves plenty of time for the beekeepers to go about their business.
As a child, I loved the old bee smoker that my father used to tend the hives. We marveled at the contraption that bellowed like an accordion and snorted puffs of smoke. Sometimes my father would pump the bellows and teasingly blow smoke toward us.
Today, over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, I watched bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and assistant Elizabeth Frost smoke the hives and feed pollen to the bees.
They placed the smoker on a table and it kept blowing smoke. It curled into clouds and swirled into stripes and all I could think of was one word.
Pure and simple.
You're sitting around discussing the importance of honey bees. The points include: they give us honey, they pollinate agricultural crops, and they serve as an example of a well-organized society.
But wait, there's more.
They scare off plant predators.
"Researchers in Germany discovered that the flapping of bees' wings scared off caterpillars, reducing leaf damage," writes BBC correspondent Richard Black in a Dec. 22 post.
"Many wasp species lay their eggs in caterpillars, and so caterpillars have evolved to avoid them. The sounds of bees' and wasps' wings are similar. Writing in the journal Current Biology, the scientists suggest this is an added bonus of having bees around, as well as the pollination they provide."
That makes sense. The sound of a bee buzzing can prompt a human or animal to leave the vicinity quite rapidly. Why wouldn't a caterpillar do so after "hearing" a buzz? Especially when it can't distinguish the sound of bee wings from wasp wings?
Lead researcher Jürgen Tautz of Wurzburg University says this is an unexpected advantage of why bees are important.
Look at it this way: our little honey bees are super heroes! They deserve to wear an "S" on their thorax.
Actually, they're "Super Girls" as the worker bees are all female. Worker bees are the ones that gather the nectar and pollinate the plants--and scare off those pesky caterpillars.
Superman, meet the "Super Girls!"
If you’ve ever visited the
It attracts honey bees and other beneficial insects like kids to a carnival.
It's sometimes called Texas sage, but it isn't a sage. It's in the plantago family and is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico.
Rain drops on the blossoms, bees in the blossoms, and all's right with the world.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here we go with three thousand!
They danced in it, rolled in it, and bathed in it.
The honey bees just couldn’t get enough of the rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora).
Last week when we visited
Nearby, two other bees, sisters in honeyhood, shared the same flower as another honey bee tumbled happily out of her flower and made a beeline for the next one.
Ernesto Sandoval, curator of the College of Biological Sciences Greenhouses at UC Davis and Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, say that bees love Calandrinia grandiflora. The plant, native to Chile, blooms here in late summer and early fall.
"It has has bright red-orange pollen that honey bees love," Thorp said.
They do, indeed.
If you love pomegranates, you can thank a honey bee.
If you love capturing images of pomegranates, you can thank a honey bee.
And, if you love juicing them and making pomegranate jelly—as I do—you can thank a honey bee.
The honey bee makes it all possible.
In mid-May, our 81-year old pomegranate tree blossomed. The silky red blossoms drew dozens of bees. On May 26, armed with a macro lens, I photographed them gathering nectar and pollen.
The blossoms, like the bees, quickly vanished. Worker bees live only four to six weeks during the busy season. The blossoms dropped and fruit formed. Today, four months later, the harvest-ready fruit glistens with red jewels. More photo ops!
The tree is truly amazing. It’s 81 years old and yields six to seven orchard boxes of fruit each year. How can we be certain of its age? It was planted in 1927, the same year our Spanish stucco home was built. The owners planted a pomegranate tree because “our daughter loved them.”
So do the bees./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>