Thursday, July 1, 2010

honey bee ~ 07/01/10 ~ J's place

Cordovan Italian honey bee and/or Minnesota hygienic Italian honey bee
Apis mellifera ligustica

Finally, after a bit of delay (I'm posting 07/09/10), here are my friend's honey bee hives. Aren't they cool!?! She started with single boxes of frames with a sugar water tray on top of each at the beginning of May, after a couple beekeeping classes in San Jose. They seem to be doing really well as she's been checking them regularly and adding more boxes. She hopes to avoid a swarm since that would be quite a loss. Her only complaint is the bee poop is difficult to wash off her truck, which is parked on the other side of the fence on the north side.

With the pretty paint jobs, they look like something out of Martha Stewart or Home and Garden magazines. Apparently, she's not the only young, hip beekeeper out there - Myrmecos posted a fun collection of decorated hives. Check it out!

Additionally, you may have noticed my close-up shot doesn't look like your typical European honey bee. Most Italian honey bees have black bands towards the tapered end of the abdomen. There are different traits that can be bred into honey bees, such as light color (Cordovan) or hygienic behavior (Minnesota). She got 2 queens which had been open mated, so, interestingly, not all the workers are light in color. Apparently the lighter color is a recessive genetic trait, so I'm guessing you must have a queen with the Cordovan gene (expressed or not) to ever see the lighter color in the workers. I'm not sure what the other mixes would be. We started joking about who had the job to artificially inseminate queens for pure stocks. I think in beekeeping terminology this is called "instrumentally inseminated." Seriously, how would one do that?... and this is coming from someone who has performed surgery on male sabethine mosquitoes over cold tables.

For a completely related link, but not, check out this odd story of how bee hive declines are being blamed on cell phones. My personal belief is that there are not enough new beekeepers who know what they're doing and fewer sources of genetically variable stock bees available. No offense to my friend! Our neighbors had a bee hive last year and it died over the winter. Bless their hearts, they're trying again this year. I love peeking over their fence to see how their hive is faring.

ps 07/14/10 - I found this beekeeper's blog post incredibly fascinating from Fox Haven Journal.

ps 06/17/11 - My friend says she didn't purposely order Cordovan queens but rather Minnesota hygienic queens, so I've made slight corrections in the ID above and in the text. I found this Wikibooks article to be informative about the different races and traits. Since she had open mated Italian queens, her worker bees were of mixed traits and possibly mixed races.

bumble bee ~ 07/01/10 ~ J's place

yellow-faced bumble bee
Bombus vosnesenskii

Ménage à quatre? I was visiting a friend to check out her newly expanded honey bee hives and while we were talking we noticed this pile of bumble bees on the fence. This hefty female had 3 males on her, with one actively doing the deed. I don't know, but it seems a little early in the year for bumble bees to be mating.

Click to see the orange-rumped bumble bee, my only other bumble bee post so far. These two species both have yellow faces. The orange-rumped (not always orange in color) has additional yellow bands of fuzz where the thorax meets the abdomen. In contrast, notice above the yellow-faced has black around its midsection. It's funny how the common names refer to the color of faces or rumps.