We captured these photos today of a honey bee nectaring on catmint (genus Nepeta). The bee was moving fast. To blur the wings, we set the shutter speed at 1/640 of a second with an f-stop of 13 and IS0 of 800.
But just how fast can a honey bee fly?
Its wings beat 230 times every second, according to Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at California Institute of Technology who co-authored research, "Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight," published in December 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The honey bees have a rapid wing beat," he told LiveScience in an interview published in January 2006. "In contrast to the fruit fly that has one-eightieth the body size and flaps its wings 200 times each second, the much larger honeybee flaps its wings 230 times every second."
"And this was just for hovering," Altshuler said. "They also have to transfer pollen and nectar and carry large loads, sometimes as much as their body mass, for the rest of the colony."
The Hive and the Honey Bee, the "Bible" of beekeeping, indicates that a bee's flight speed averages about 15 miles per hour and they're capable of flying 20 miles per hour.
If they're not carrying nectar, pollen, water or propolis (plant resin), they'll fly much faster!
Lynn S. Kimsey is an entomologist, and has been one for most of her life.
It's an interesting piece. Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, traces her interest in entomology to age 5, when she received her first butterfly net.
"I've pretty much had a burning passion for insects ever since, except for a brief foray into marine biology as an undergraduate," she told LiveScience.
Kimsey recently drew international attention with her discovery of gigantic "warrior wasps" on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.(The male measures about two-and-a-half-inches long, Kimsey says. “Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs.)
And what is "the most important characteristic a researcher must demonstrate in order to be an effective researcher?"
"A burning curiosity and the need to know."
Kimsey is also quick to point out the societal benefits of her research. "Understanding insects, where they occur and the ecosystem services they provide, is critical for our how important insects are to us. They are our principal competitors — they feed on us and our animals, they make us sick and yet provide critical pollination, recycling and nutritional services."
We're glad to see LiveScience singling out scientists for a "behind-the-scenes" look. It humanizes the scientists who do such intriguing research.
We remember when apiculturist Marla Spivak, a 2010 MacArthur Foundation and Distinguished McKnight Professor and Extension entomologist with the University of Minnesota, shared some of her thoughts with LiveScience.
When asked "If you could only rescue one thing from your burning office or lab, what would it be?" Spivak answered "My students." Then, showing a trademark sense of humor, she added "If there were bees in the lab, I would grab them, too."
Kimsey, too, has a honed sense of humor. The Bohart Museum is the home of a global collection of seven million insect specimens and what she calls "the live petting zoo"--insects you can touch and handle. They include Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a rose-haired taranatula, and walking sticks.
We thought she might gleefully answer "walking sticks" when she was asked what she would RUN out of burning building with, but no.
Kimsey replied: "My external hard drive: My entire research life, my brain, is in that drive."
"One generation of monarch butterflies flutters some 2000 miles between southern Canada and central Mexico," writes LiveScience senior writer Wynne Parry in her piece, "Life's Little Mysteries" posted Nov. 4 on the LiveScience website.
And some other animal migrations are even more incredible.
Parry explores the topic, "Why Do Animals Migrate?" in her excellent article, and quotes Hugh Dingle (right), emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis and a noted authority on animal migration.
Why don't migratory animals select a "shorter, simpler journey or stop altogether?" Parry asks.
"The simple answer is that the benefits of long-distance migration outweigh its costs and the benefits of shorter distances," replies Dingle.
Indeed, the monarch butterfly's migratory efforts pale in comparison to the humpback whale and the shorebird, the bar-tailed gotwit.
Humpback whales travel as much as 5000 miles one way, Parry says. But the bar-tailed godwit, "holds the record for the longest nonstop flight: 6,835 miles in eight days."
Parry points out animal migrations take their toll. "Their journeys aren't easy: migrants fast, swim upstream, fly nonstop, and face hungry predators and barriers built by humans. The journeys may be fatal to some; however, mortality data is difficult to obtain, according to Dingle."
"My own suspicion is that it's a lot less than people think," Dingle told her. "They just seem able to do it well."
Human blood--it drives mosquitoes wild.
Today Marlene Cimmons of the National Science Foundation (NSF) spotlights chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology, University of California, Davis, on the LiveScience Web site.
This interesting feature takes a behind-the-scenes look at Leal, a Brazilian-born scientist trained in three countries: Brazil, Japan and the United States.
His research, partly funded by a NSF grant, has received international acclaim. Last year he was elected a Fellow of the 6000-member Entomological Society of America, a prestigious honor reserved for only 10 or fewer scientists a year.
Leal, who focuses his research on how insects detect smells, is not shy about being a human subject.
Or human pincushion.
Cimmons wrote about how Leal "rolled up his sleeves" when he and his colleagues were looking for the substance that would lure mosquitoes into a blood meal. "And they found it--nonanal, a substance made by humans and birds that creates a powerful scent that Culex mosquitoes find irresistible."
Leal also recalls the time when he was searching for beetles in Mexico and mosquitoes went after him with a vengeance.
"They'll go through anything, even jeans, as long as they know there is a blood vessel on the other side," Leal told Cimmons. "They can sense the heat."
Indeed, some folks just seem to attract more than their share of mosquitoes.
Only the female mosquitoes bite--they need a blood meal to develop their eggs.Related links:
UC Davis Researchers Identify Dominant Chemical That Attracts Mosquitoes to Humans
Groundbreaking Research on DEET