Friday, April 13, 2012

All Abuzz


Amazingly, our wild plum trees did not get zapped by the recent frost that killed so many of our other blooms. Maybe it's because they're one of the few things blooming right now, but during yesterday's warm afternoon the trees were filled with the buzzing of bees.

I counted at least six different types of bees and tried to get photos of most of them. Interestingly, there were only two big fat bumblebees mixed in the group and they never wandered down from the topmost branches. I did not see any of the metallic green bees that we have on the property. Maybe they've not emerged yet?

There were several butterflies, too, but the bees were what amazed me. Must have been nearly 1,000 of them moving from blossom to blossom. You could hear the buzzing from 25' away.

There were three types of teeny, tiny bees that made up the majority percentage. Here's one of them:


The other ones were the sharply lined black and yellow bees that I grew up calling "sweat bees," and these odd little ones that I never saw land on a flower. It seemed their number one task was attacking the few wasps that were also buzzing around:


As frightening as wasps look while flying, their markings are amazingly beautiful. I love the copper wings and the designs on its body, the construction of its eye and the bright red at the base of its antennae.


On all the wasps I noticed a small divot with a little raised bump right on the top of its head. You can see it in the photo below, right in the center of its head. Looks like a little push button. (I didn't try pushing it.)

Using da Google, I learned that this is called a dorsal ocellus (ocelli, plural) and is a "simple eye." Turns out that there should be three of them (and I'm assuming there are, just not visible in photos). The central one and two lateral ones above the regular compound eyes.


Much of this was far beyond my understanding, but basically these three eyes, being simple in their design, don't actually transmit images to the brain but rather are highly evolved light meters used to detect shadows created by movement, etc. The cool thing about these tiny eyes? They are much more sensitive to light (and changes in it) than the compound eyes, and due to their simple design they function much faster than the compound eyes. Who would've thought I'd learn all that simply by watching bees buzz around my plum trees? One of the great benefits of writing a blog: You learn something new every time.

Getting back to the bees... I love this bee. Completely covered in bright yellow pollen, I originally thought it was part of its markings.


These black bees had a solid black butt, but looked like they were wearing a wooly golden shrug:


And this honey bee looks like it's up on the latest fashion trends, wearing large sunglasses:


I think this is the same bee, but from different angles the eyes look completely different.


Thanks for sharing in my bee adventure!

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