A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘bumble bee’

Macro Monday 5.9.11

Here are a few selections for this week’s Macro Monday meme.  For more Macro Monday photos, click on the link at the bottom of the page:

Argiope trifasciata a.k.a. banded garden spider

lady beetle on gaura stem

bumble bee on Indigo Spires

Fall aster in spring

crab spider inside zucchini flower


Insect Life in the Garden

We are thankful for the bit of rain we received!  I must admit, however, that the prediction of large hail and super strong winds had me just a tad bit worried.  I was awakened at 4:15 Monday morning by thunder and wind.  As I lay in bed, I thought about my poor plants  and imagined them being shredded by hail.  Luckily, we didn’t get any hail.  I still kept myself awake for about forty-five minutes worrying about them, though!  The plants will just be stronger for all the wind, I concluded.  In the morning, I did a quick check of the garden plants and everything looked alright.  I was relieved.

Now let me go back a few days.

My milkweed cuttings arrived last Thursday and I put them in the ground Saturday morning.  I was so busy working in the garden that I entirely forgot an appointment I had scheduled at 9AM.  Oh well, it was more important to get those cuttings in some dirt, right?  Besides, I was able to reschedule the appointment, so no harm done.  🙂   Back to the milkweed.  I have ten plants (of thirty-two) that made it through the winter.   With these new cuttings, I have thirty plants that are well on their way.  In addition to these plants, I have eighteen of nineteen milkweed seeds that germinated, so I have almost fifty milkweed plants this year for the monarchs in my butterfly garden.  Most of the seedlings I germinated have at least two true leaves right now, but I’ll let them mature another couple of weeks before putting them into the ground.  I doubt anyone can say that I’m not doing my part to help the monarch population back from their severe loss in 2002!  (80% of the monarchs overwintering in Mexico died that year due to freezing temperatures.)

Milkweed cuttings awaiting transplant

While I haven’t seen any monarchs yet, I did see quite a few pearl crescent, cloudless sulphur, skipper and buckeye butterflies over the weekend.  The pearl crescent butterflies seemed to enjoy the yellow flowers of wild oxalis that I dodged with my mower.  I’m glad that I left them.  (As an aside, yellow oxalis is an edible, herbaceous plant that is very high in Vitamin C and has tangy flavor.)  The sulphur and skipper butterflies danced through the yard, landing on the Four Nerve Daisies and verbena.   The buckeye was content just to warm itself on the rocks.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get any good photos.  It was also VERY windy, so the few that I did take just didn’t come out sharp enough for my liking.   In addition to these guests, an unseen visitor left her traces for me on the dill plants.  I found a couple of first or second instar Black Swallowtail caterpillars feasting away, as well as a couple of unhatched eggs.

I was successful taking photos of honey bees, flies, bumble bees and even a lady beetle.  The honey bees were really loving the thyme flowers, while the bumble bees seemed to dine exclusively on the salvia greggii.  I chased a honey bee to the gaura bushes before it flew off.  At that precise moment, however, lady beetle flew by and landed on the gaura bush.  She kept me distracted for awhile.  I watched her feed on the nectar of the gaura flowers.  Then she hunted down and devoured several aphids before she suddenly became aware of me and darted down into the dense leaves at the base of the plant.  Here are some of those photos.

Click on the photos to view them in a larger size (1500×1000 pixels):

fly on Four-Nerve daisy

baby Black Swallowtail caterpillar

Black Swallowtail butterfly egg on dill plant

European honey bee on thyme

bumble bee on salvia greggii - love his eyes!!

Lady Beetle on faded bloom of Whirling Butterfly gaura

suckin' down some aphid

holding an aphid corpse in her legs

death comes swiftly to these little aphids

a second after the previous shot - walking over the aphids lifeless body

It was a beautiful weekend – even despite the high winds – and I not only got a lot of work done in the garden, I actually had time to sit down and enjoy it for awhile, too.  That’s something I don’t do often enough.  I’m too busy working and running around with a camera!  🙂   My wife, daughter and dog joined me and we sat out there until the sun went down.  It was very relaxing.

my dog soaking up the last rays of Saturday

sunset through the fence

Garden Life at Morning Light

I spent some time Saturday and Sunday mornings photographing our garden’s visitors.  The Honey Bees and Bumble Bees were very active this weekend, while the Monarch cats were busy munching almost all day long.  Here they are with a few other guests (click on any pic to view a larger, more detailed photo):

Honey bee on Indigo Spires salvia

Monarch caterpillar munching on Butterfly Weed

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

Honey bee on Whirling Butterflies gaura

Grasshoppers "playing piggyback"

Monarch caterpillar resting on underside of milkweed leaf

Serphid fly nectaring on milkweed flower

Green Anole catching some rays

Monarch caterpillar looking for breakfast

Bumble Bee on Indigo Spires salvia - disturbing something else!

Quarter-sized green Lynx Spider - yes they do kill and eat Bumble Bees

Beneficial Insect Files: Bumble Bee

Beneficial Insect Spotlight: Bumble Bee

Indigo Spires salvia

Like the honey bee, the bumble bee is an important pollinator as it goes about collecting pollen for its young and feeding upon nectar, a role that has become increasingly beneficial as communities of honey bee  have vanished worldwide.  The bumble bee is also a social insect, divided similarly into three groups:  the queen, the workers and the males.   Beyond these similarities, however, bumble bees are very different from honey bees, both socially-speaking as well as anatomically.

Bumble bees are larger, hairy versions of their cousin the honey bee.  They are often striped yellow and black along the abdomen, but they may be completely black.   Nevertheless, they are distinctive in that they are covered with thick dark hairs called pile.  While honey bees fly quickly and gracefully, bumble bees have a more lumbering and clumsy flight, with a loud and low buzz.  Bumble bees also do not have barbed stingers, meaning their stingers do not remain in the flesh of its target.  As such, the bumble bee can sting repeatedly.  A bumble bee sting is an extremely painful sting with pain and swelling often lasting days.  Yet, bumble bee are relatively harmless unless provoked, or in defense of a nest in close proximity.

Bumble bees also do not overwinter as honey bees do in a colony.  One bumble bee queen overwinters herself and emerges in the spring to begin forming waxy “jars” to store pollen and nectar.  These are soon turned into cells for raising developing bees after the queen lays her eggs.  She continues to be the sole provider for the developing brood until a couple of groups of workers are ready, then they take over the duties  of foraging and building upon the nest, while she focuses on expanding the population of the colony throughout the season.  Unlike honey bees, worker bumble bees are not sterile.  They can and do reproduce to make additional males to support the colony as well as future queens which will later venture out to develop their own colonies.    The original queen tries to suppress the reproduction of her workers early in the season by show of brute force and/or pheromones.   This usually ensures that the first queen will be the mother of the first group of males.

Throughout the season, new queens and males are continually driven out of the nest.  Unlike honey bees, male bumble bees are capable of foraging for pollen and nectar.  They mate with new queens before the queens hibernate for the winter.

Bumble bees have a crop, which is an expanded part of their digestive system, which is used to store nectar prior to digesting it.  They fill this crop as they visit each flower, using their long tongues to suck out the nectar.  They return to the nest and deposit the collection in waxy jars or inject it into larvae cells to feed their young.  Unlike honey bees, bumble bees do not hoard large amounts of honey, seeming content only to save a little for their immediate needs.

As pollinators, bumble bees are being utilized more by man.  Unlike other pollinators, bumble bees are able to pollinate through an additional process called buzz pollination.  In commercial tomato greenhouses, for example, buzz pollination increases pollen release in tomato crops.

Bumble bees are native to the United States and almost exclusive to the northern hemisphere.  Habitat destruction has caused the endangerment of  many species of bumble bee worldwide.  In Britain, for example, nearly two dozen species have become endangered, with several extinct and more vulnerable to extinction.  With the disappearance of honey bee populations worldwide, the need to develop ecologically friendly and habitat conserving practices is underscored.

Did you know?

The familiar buzz of a bumble bee is not caused by the vibration of its wings, but by the vibration of their flight muscles.

Bee’s wings move 200 beats per second, which is up to twenty times faster than our brain’s nerve impulses fire.  Their flight muscles vibrate like a plucked guitar string and do not expand and contract like our muscles.