Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bee Facts

I don't know about you, but I've learned a lot about bees and other pollinators over the past five or ten years. But I still learned a lot from Dorling Kindersley's new Bee Book.

  • Over 90 percent of all bee species are solitary rather than social, so honey bees and their coordinated hives are a misrepresentation of the full group. Also, only a small fraction of bee species can sting.
  • Honey bees have been around for 35 million years; bumblebees for 25 million; humans for only 250,000.
  • Flowers evolved to attract pollinators. There wouldn’t be attractive flowers if there weren’t insect pollinators, in fact.
  • Bees are drug addicts, just like humans. “…some plants have evolved a way of saving energy by drugging their nectar to trick bees into finding them more attractive. Caffeine, nicotine, and a host of other chemicals are found in small quantities in the nectar of certain plants, and the result is very similar to the human response to these substances: the bees…think they’re getting a bigger reward than they actually are” (page 17).
  • The idea that bees live in free-standing hives is based only on honeybees. Many more species dig into the ground, burrow into wood, or build clay walls inside hollow sticks and stems. Some people build bee hotels like the one shown here, which include a variety of tube sizes made from different materials.
  • Commercial beekeepers are turning to the solitary mason bees and bumblebees as honeybee populations struggle to thrive. Both of these types of bees are better pollinators than honeybees, pound for pound. But only honey bees make honey, of course.
  • The honey bees that forage for nectar and collect pollen are the oldest of the worker bees that are born each year in the hive. Before they are sent out, they spend time as guard bees at the hive entrance, and before that they take care of the hive or its young. There’s even an undertaker bee.

The book contains lots of plant advice for attracting bees, but this is my favorite fact: Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is not only a good source of nectar, but its fuzzy leaves, when shaved, provide nest material to wool-carder bees.

1 comment:

Gina said...

I wish you had a "like" button. I'd click on it several times for this post!