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The Bees Stay Busy

This article first appeared in the 5/15/20 edition of the Davis Enterprsie.

The Bees Stay Busy

A European honey bee extracts nectar from an Aster flower. Tiny hairs covering the bee's body collect pollen from the flowers, allowing for pollination when the bee moves on to another flower. Photo by John Severns.

The Bees Stay Busy

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

 

Spring is in full swing!  With the weather warming up, flowers are blooming, and insects are waking up as well.  One of the most commonly seen insect, and one of the most important, are bees.  Honey bees are the most well known, and are an important part to our local ecosystem.

Honey bee hives consist of three different individuals: workers, drones, and queens.  Workers are the ones who do all the work in the hive.  They are the ones who collect nectar from flowers, care for all the developing bees within the hive, and do all of the work to make honey.  Workers make up the majority of the members of the hive because they do the most work to keep the hive alive and running.  Where worker bees are all non-egg laying females, all drones are males.  The only purpose of a drone is to mate with a queen of another hive, and will die shorly thereafter.  Queens are the only egg-laying female in a hive.  They are highly cared for and protected, but do not help with collecting nectar or the production of honey, their only job is to lay eggs and keep the hive growing.

Queen bees actually have an interesting development process.  They begin life as any other female bee, but are selected by the worker bees to be fed a special, protein-rich food called "royal jelly" instead of the pollen-nectar mixture called "bee bread" which is given to the develping workers.  Workers will also make special, elongated cells for the queen to grow and develop.  When a queen emerges she will seek out any other new or developing queens and fight until only one remains.  They will go so far as even open up cells of other potential queens and kill them before they emerge.  After a single queen remains, she will leave the hive to mate with up to 15 male drones.

When honey bees collect nectar for their honeymaking, they pick up pollen from the stames of flowers.  The pollen sticks to their legs and will be rubbed off onto the stigma of another flower, resuling in pollination.  This helps the flower life cycle and keeps them growing and thriving.  Many of our fruits and vegetables start out as flowering plants, so this pollination process also ensures our food grows.  Without bees and other pollinators, many of our fruits and vegetables may stop growing, which is why farms and orchards have bee hives dotted around their properties.  Honey bees use the nectar collected from flowers and take it back to their hives where it is mixed with a "bee enzyme" which turns it to honey.

Explorit is continuing work on our backyard pollinator garden.  We are spreading mulch which will help with retaining moisture, put nutrients back in the soil, and help with weed control.  After al the mulch is spread, we will be planting more native plants to help keep our local pollinators happy and healthy in the surrounding parks.

We still have a lot of work to do on our pollinator garden.  If you would like to volunteer to help spread mulch or to help with planting when the time comes, please fill out our online application at http://www.explorit.org/support/volunteer and write "Garden Volunteer" under Other when selecting area of interest.  You will be contacted by our Volunteer Coordinator about availability.

 

Explorit's coming events:

 

  • Do you value science education for children in our community?  Explorit Science Center has been providing hands- on science opportunities in Davis for 38 years!  Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income.  Now is a great time to consider a donation to help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: http://www.explorit.org/support/make-a-donation 

 

  • Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member.  Membership grants you free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visit www.explorit.org/join/membership-levels or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.

 

  • We are monitoring the situation surrounding COVID-19 and recommendations for health and safety.  We are still taking Summer Science Camp registrations, and have several spaces still available.  Modifications to space and class size may occur to ensure the health and safety of campers.  Any changes to camp information will be sent out to current registrants and posted on our website before the end of May.  Registration available online at http://www.explorit.org/programs/summer-camp/summer-and-vacation-classes.

 

  • To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Explorit will be closed until public health restrictions have been lifted or eased.  Our staff is working remotely and will be answering emails, please contact us at explorit@explorit.org with any questions.  We are not currently accepting recycled material donations.
 
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