How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) ‘Against Idleness and Mischief’
We were concerned earlier in the year when there didn’t seem to be many bees in the garden. When I look back at photographs from other years I can see that we had cause to be alarmed. There were bees flying in April and May but not very many.
Now though, in high summer, the bees are busy enjoying the plants we have grown specifically for them.J (That is actually quite accurate – our garden has been planted with wildlife in mind.)
The nectar that honey bees (Apis mellifera) collect is stored in their stomachs to be transported to the hive. While in the stomach it is converted into honey by proteins and enzymes produced by the bee. This takes about thirty minutes.
Honey bees store the honey in the hexagonal wax cells of the honeycomb and fan the thin honey with their wings to evaporate the water and thicken it. (The nectar from which honey is produced is about 80% water. Honey has about 16% water.) When a comb is full it is sealed with wax and the bees start to fill the next empty comb.
Bumble bees also make honey, though not in sufficient quantities for it to be a commercially viable proposition. They produce only enough to feed their young. They are larger, slower, gentler than honey bees.
The bumble bees Barry photographed on Monday I have identified, probably erroneously, as Bombus hortorum, the Garden bumblebee. We think they were queens since they were very large and lovely and bumbling. The Garden bumblebee has a very long tongue and likes to collect from trumpet-shaped flowers, like honeysuckle, foxgloves – and nasturtiums! It has a much longer face than other bumble bees when seen from the front.
In general, honey bees sting only when protecting the hive or if stepped on or roughly handled. Bees evolved the ability to sting other insects whose external surface is not elastic like the skin of mammals. Thus, a honey bee may sting an insect and live to tell the tale, or, if the sting is broken off, she may continue to exist without it. When a honey bee stings a person, the barbs are caught in flexible flesh and she cannot pull her sting out. In this case, still affixed to her victim, she may be swatted and killed or she may pull so hard that the sting, poison sac and some of the contents of her abdomen will be dragged from her body and she will fly away to die. Honey bees are the only bees to die after stinging.
Interestingly, the poison-pumping muscles will also probably still be attached and can continue to operate for a short while. You may choose to pull out the sting or scrape it off. Either way, the sting will hurt for a considerable time.
Whether I have named them correctly or not, the pleasure we get from watching and photographing them is not diminished. I don’t think they would mind if they’ve been misnamed – they enjoy the flowers, I’m sure.
Incidentally, did you know that bees haven’t got ears? No, neither did I!
I can't see you so you can't see me.
I'm off - and yes, I have got wings. They're moving so fast you can't see them.
Does my bum look big in this?
. . . and away I go, too!
See more Bs here:-)