Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pollinate, Bay-bee!

Here are some photos of the bees doing what they do the best. It's amazing how well suited they are to their job.
Contrary to popular belief, bees are necessarily single-minded and the girl in the photo has been focusing on collecting pollen from the cornstalks in our garden since she decided it was worth her time. She has not been collecting nectar, nor has she visited any other plants since beginning work on this corn. Bees don't go from corn to sunflowers to marigolds on the same trip, and they won't collect nectar and pollen on the same trip.
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Note the pollen packed onto her back legs. Bees have "pouches" that they pack the pollen onto. This all goes back to the hive to be stored as food. Bees mix pollen with honey to make "bee bread" to feed to larvae after their third day. For the first three days they eat royal jelly.
Sadly, if this bee were to lose her pollen between the corn and the hive, she would still go through the motion of unpacking it into a cell. This shows that bees don't have the higher thought processes that we so willingly ascribe to them. They are purely instinctual, which is why they are so successful, but that instinct can also lead to their destruction. For example, if a bee brings home toxins in nectar and pollen, the rest of the hive is in danger, often bees will collect nectar from fields of weeds that when evaporated turns to near cement texture. This makes it impossible for them to eat and therefore worthless when they need it to winter and feed the larvae. All they see is pollen and nectar. They don't realize it's bad for them.
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