Beau July 8th, 2008
The month of July in Missouri is a lot of things. Good things like tomatoes, barbeques, cooler mornings and maybe a few rainstorms if we’re lucky. And then there’s the other things… the heat and humidity, weeds and trimming, and tons of insect critters that find their way into everything, usually leaving us itchy reminders to deal with.
I guess the bees fit that insect category, but they’re pretty neat to have around. Unlike a few other critters such as ticks and chiggers. Now I’m sure the peskier bugs serve some functional purpose for the web of life in our evironment. But there’s times I wish they would serve that purpose somewhere else! If you’re going to live in the country however, you have to take the good with the bad, and I’m learning that the good far outweighs the bad over the course of time.
It’s not hard to appreciate our pollinators though. Those amazing bees that go buzzing around and help us grow our fruits and vegetables. Isn’t this a cool looking bumblebee? This one is working a lavender plant, darting from flower to flower.
And did you know that bumblebees are the primary pollinators of our tomato plants? I’ve seen them all over our tomatoes, but I didn’t realize until recently that the way bumblebees pollinate tomato plants is through sonification. The bumblebee pulls the tomato flower down to a vertical position, and vibrates their wing muscles at a certain frequency after which the tomato flower pollen falls out of pores in the anthers. When the pollen falls down, it sticks to the bumblebees fuzzy body and, oh by the way, the bumble just happens to be rubbing that same fuzzy pollinated body against the tomato flower stigma, and because of his fuzzy little travels, voila! pollination from one flower to another occurs. I think of bumblebees with appreciation every time I eat a tomato!
Here’s another important pollinator below, but it’s not a bumblebee. Instead this is a Carpenter bee about to dive headfirst into a hydrangea flower head. Carpenter bees are not thought of very highly because of the tunneling damage they can do to wooden beams, decking and the wood in houses and barns. Yes, they actually bore holes and tunnels in wood! We see them around here, but I’m not sure where they are nesting. Sometimes you see the male buzzing up and down in a certain area, seemingly harassing you if you try to walk by. That’s just his way of protecting his territory or a nest nearby, but he’s actually harmless and can’t sting. Not very fun to have a big buzzing critter zoom at you however.
But our other favorite pollinators are the honeybees of course. Our two hives appear to be doing just fine, although one is a lot stronger than the other in terms of the number of bees around the hive. And yesterday there were hundreds of bees clustered outside the hive. Are they getting ready to swarm? Fanning to cool the hive? Just new bees getting outside for some fresh air!? I don’t really know, but with lots of space in two relatively new hive body supers, I think they’re just staying cool. They have quite a bit of shade under some oak trees, but it has been very hot and humid lately.
The other hive which is weaker didn’t have many bees hanging around outside however. In both hives, the bees were coming and going just the same, and working flowers around the property. It’s interesting to see the differences though, and I’ll be opening the hives up sometime the next week to see what else I can find out.