Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Bumblebee's Tongue

This is a queen bumblebee that was in my back yard.  I had some sugar water made up for honey bees and I offered her some.

Watch as her long tongue comes out to lick it up.  And if you watch carefully you'll see a little inner tongue that comes out of the big tongue and sweeps up the nectar.

Now you can see exactly what a bumblebee does when she puts her tongue into a flower.

Not even honey bees can reach as far into a flower as a bumblebee can.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bumblebees Play Soccer

In the last post we saw how researchers taught bumblebees how to pull string to reach a flower for food.  That was pretty cool.

This is pretty amazing.  They've taught bees how to play soccer.  First a fake bee was used to teach a bee how to move a ball into a circle to get a reward of sugar water.  After the bee figured out how to get the reward she could do it all on her own.

Then she taught other bees how to do it.  Watch this video to see for yourself:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Have you ever heard the saying monkey see, monkey do?  Or the saying copy cat?  These are examples taken from animals where one monkey watches another and then learns something and does it.  Cats learn by watching other cats.  This is where the saying copy cat comes from.  If you watch kittens you will see they copy what their mother does.

Below are videos where researchers at a university in England did an experiment with Bumblebees.

First they taught one bee in a step by step way how to get sugar water out of a fake flower.  The next thing they did was put the taught bee with an untaught bee.  Can you guess what happened?  The bee that knew how to pull get the sugar water taught the other bee to do it too.  This is called social learning. Watch this video on how the bees were taught:

We already knew animals were smart and could teach each other but now we know that insects can too.  I guess we can't ever call an insect dumb.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's No Zoo - Queens in Cages

Yes, these queen bees are in cages but it's not at the zoo.

I bet you're wondering why someone would put queen bees in cages. There's a really good reason.

In early spring in Canada (April and May) the bees are slowly getting busy as the weather gets warm.

Many beekeepers have hives with so many bees that they want to divide the hive. Beekeepers call it splitting or making splits. When they take the bees from one hive and separate them into two there's a small problem. There's only one queen.

Bees can make a new queen (I'll tell you how they do that another time) but it takes over a month for a queen to grow up, hatch and mate.

During that time the hive can't do very much. So many beekeepers purchase queens from Australia. In Australia the weather has been warmer and their queens are already grown up.

Australian beekeepers put a queen in each cage to send to Canada.

The queen can't travel alone, she's too important. The Australian beekeeper puts some ladies in waiting into the cage as well.

The ladies will feed the queen, give her a drink of water, and will groom her fur. She can't arrive in Canada looking anything less than beautiful and nicely groomed.

The cage has a small hole in one end. The beekeeper puts them into the cage and then plugs the hole with a cork plug. There's a hole in the other end too and it's plugged up with candy.

The ladies in waiting will feed the candy to the queen while they wait to arrive at their new home.

The bees will fly... but on a plane! Hundreds of queen cages are carefully packed in cardboard boxes for their trip.

When they arrive they are tired and thirsty. At the airport the beekeeper puts droplets of warm water on a small square of cloth so the bees can sip it and quench their thirst.

At the bee yard the queen can't just be put into the new hive in Canada. The bees don't know her or her special scent. If she was just placed in the hive, they might think she's an intruder and sting her.

The cage is put into the new hive and the queen is safe in her cage. The bees will chew and chew on the candy to open the hole and let the queen out. By the time they finish eating the candy they will know the new queen and her special smell (call pheromones) and they will happily accept her in their hive as their queen.

Do you think Australian queens buzz with an accent? Listen to the video of the bees in their cages (below).

(Thanks to John at Oxford Honey & Supplies in Burgessville, Ontario for allowing me to photograph the queens).


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wash Day

Do you ever have to help out at home? Would your parents ask you to help them clean?

Bees like to keep their house (hive) clean.

There are bees inside that are assigned the job to clean.

These photos and video show bees cleaning outside the hive.

They use their tongues like brooms and they sweep back and forth.

If you watch the video you'll see it's almost like a dance as they move their heads back and forth in a steady rhythm.

There's a saying: Many hands make light work. It's true that when more people help out the job gets done much faster.

I guess the bees' saying would be that many tongues make light work.

They understand the power of working together to get big jobs done.

That's probably why your parents ask if you can help out to. It makes everyone's job easier.

It's more fun to work when others are with you too.

See the bees sweeping with their tongues in the video below.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Karate Bee

Have you seen the Karate Kid movie? Karate has some really cool moves and so does this bee.

She's a guard bee and she's striking her karate pose.

What do you think she's saying? "Don't mess with me I'm protecting my hive." That's what she's saying.

Compare the first photo to the second one of a standing bee pictured below.

See the difference? The second bee is relaxed and just hanging around. She's not a guard bee.

Guard bees have the job of protecting the the hive. They're like security guards.

They have to check the ID of every bee that wants to come in the hive. They check ID by scent.

Bees from the same hive all have the same smell. If you smell right then you can come in.

When field bees fly back to the hive they'll go close to the guard bee. She'll turn her head, her antennae can sniff them.

But if there's a problem and the hive has strangers coming by, maybe bees from other hives, a hornet or a wasp, the guards will stand back on their legs in an attack mode.

If there's an emergency or danger from a bear, skunk, raccoon or some other creature the guard bees will release a chemical scent that tells the hive to attack. That's when more bees will come out and sting the intruder.

The bees know that they make precious golden honey that many creatures want to eat.

They guard their gold very well.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Undertaker Bees

Bees and people aren't too much different.

When a person dies there are people who have the special job of taking care of the dead body.

When a bee dies there are workers who have the special job of taking care of the dead body.

See? Bees are like people... or maybe people are like bees.

Nature is marvelously designed so that each little bit and piece is not wasted. When we see a dead animal on the side of the road it can be sad. But nature will take care of these corpses by helping to remove them. Little beetles and flies that specialize with dead animals will come and do their job.

If a bee dies outside in the field, she'll fall to the ground. Her body will most likely become a meal for a foraging mouse, a bird, wasps or ants.

Where my bee hives are I've watched as a bird flew down to pick up dead bees to eat.

Inside the hive, if the bodies of dead bees can't be left to pile up otherwise there would be a crowded mess. And it wouldn't be clean.

Have you ever picked up a dead fly and found it to be very lightweight? That's because it's body has dried out over a few days.

Undertaker bees will sometimes wait a few days so a dead bee body will dry out. Then it won't be so heavy to carry.

They grab the body and half fly and half drag it out of the hive. Sometimes the bee will be heavy and big like the drone in these photos and video. Then another undertaker bee will come and help.
They'll pull and yank the dead bee across the platform outside the hive. At the edge they'll actually fly off, carrying the body and then they'll drop it.

It's all in a day's work for the undertaker bees.