Wednesday, 27 July 2011

ABC Wednesday Round 9 B is for . . . Bee!

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!
Going in!
Nearly there!
I can't see you so you can't see me.
All done.
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:-)


  1. To BEE or not to BEE !! Wow that's quite close u got there. Hope the sting is still with the bee

    Pheno, ABC wednesday Team

  2. Great shots.

    Bees are SO important to the ecosystem!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  3. Kudos to you for not only getting some truly amazing photos and for your informative post, but for planting your garden with our bee (and other wild) friends in mind! That gladdens my heart! I was relieved to read that more bees have shown up to your garden as summer progressed, as I know their situation (colony collapse) is dire.

    These photos are just breathtaking, and I love your captions ("does my bum look big in this?" LOL!) I especially love the first photo (how did you do that?!) and "Nearly there!" - the way his legs are stretched out behind him reminds me of how some dogs I know like to stretch out and nap. :-)

    The quote at the beginning brought the Alice in Wonderland version immediately to mind ("how doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail...") and made me smile.

    What a wonderful post! I see you on Barbara's "Words, Words, Words" blog frequently but this is my first visit to yours. It sure won't be my last!

  4. Wonderful, Janice. I love to see bumblebees and honey bees on plants. They really are "busy as a bee" and they're so pretty, too.

    —Kay, Alberta, Canada

  5. These are very pretty shots of the bumble bee, Janice. I had to google bumble bee and honey bee to really appreciate the difference in their builds. The honey bee is more productive, as I learn from you, but not as cute as the bumble bee. This is an interesting B post!

  6. These are amazing shots! My daughter and I really enjoyed these this morning! Beautiful colors here too!

  7. Very interesting facts about bees. I love the photo where he is almost all the way in the flower. What a nice job they have!

  8. They do have ears? That's why they are so quick to fly when I want to take a photo of them lol!


  9. What stunning images, and such fascinating facts. I had no idea about the lack of ears! I was worried about the lack of bees last year but have definitely seen more in our garden this year, and I was really heartened to see how many there were at the lavender farm we visited last Sunday.

  10. Great photos. I have been paingint a bee, butterfly and ladybird today-all found dead. I shall go and look at the bee's nose in a minute. I have seen quite a lot of bees in the garden this week, including honey bees. I didn't know that they were the only bees to die after stinging, I thought they all did, and I also didn't know that they can sting other insects. Interesting!

  11. I know that bees are very necessary for our fruit trees etc, and I also love the honey, but besides that I could live without them, but your pictures are beautiful !

  12. If I lived on the land, I think I would like to be a beekeeper.
    Loved the commentary with your excellent photos!

  13. What fun captions you've added to each of your photos.

  14. Just stunning pictures! Wow, what a wealth of information.

    When we lived up North, among the almond and peach orchards, we really saw the bees working!

    Several farmers would sell honey, by two favorites Sage, Lavender.

    Sounds good right now on a piece of toast and cup of tea.

  15. I had no idea that bees have no ears. Does that mean they cannot hear? I suppose it does!

  16. Exquisite photos! And narrative. I learned a great deal about bees and I'm happy!

  17. Breathtaking photos! I enjoyed reading your facts, too!


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