Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jelly Belly Bees in Vancouver

 I perceive that we are in the middle of what beekeepers would call a high summer nectar flow. The honeybees are really ramping up their foraging and some late season native bees are also highly active. This is a tiny native bee in a thread leaf coreopsis flower at 9:45 am. It has a really big head in proportion to its body and I think it's scopa is located soley on the abdomen, making it a member of the megalachidae family. It was a very methodical bee, circling around from floret to floret sipping nectar, with a bit of wiggling up and down in the abdomen. I find that the megalachide tend to have very mobile abdomens, which makes sense as it is their means of gathering pollen. Megachilidae have been nicknamed "jelly belly" bees because of the bright patches of pollen on their bellies. In my little one foot diameter patch of coreopsis there were at least two of these bees.

You can see here her legs are quite thin-looking and not fluffy and coated with pollen as is the case with some small native bees. Her antennae are down and she is incredibly focused.

 I have been researching European wool carder bees, since they have moved in to my garden and monopolized the wooly lamb's ear plant (Stachys Byzantina). You can see it here in a dry, sunny spot behind my rhubarb.

 I watched the bees in the morning and when the plant was in the shade they hung out on the neighboring borage leaves to catch the sun, but as soon as the sun warmed the lamb's ear they were in like Flynn. Honey bees and bumble bees tend to go around and pollinate all the flowers on one plant but these carder bees would take a sip from one flower and then fly up over my roof and away. Males would hang out on the leaves and wait to defend their territory. They will bump other bees out of the flowers. Meanwhile the much smaller female bees were quietly rubbing the fur off the stems. You can see in this photo of the leaf patterns of fluff removal. You may even find this fluff in your mason bee condo.

The flowers of stachys are unassuming, but they are similar to this bee plant that's blooming now: dragonshead.

I noticed this lovely mass of creeping germander along a neighbor's sidewalk which has a similar morphology in the blossoms but lacks the fuzz on the foliage. I did see some wool carder bees in these plants too.

Here's another plant with purple flowers with bilateral symmetry of the about the same size as the stachys and germander: a sage I didn't save the name of. . . I bought it on a whim and the bumble bees and honey bees love it.

 After my daily bee-watching, I set off to the Kits Farmer's market in search of millet stems. I found some millet in this bouquet at Choices Market on 16th. It comes with a free honey bee!

This organic bouquet is from Bathtub Gardens in Pemberton which is the same flower stall that sells the millet stems at Kits Market! I rushed to the market, got there five minutes before it closed and bought some beautiful millet. Who did I happen to meet, but the lovely busy bee artist Holly Schmidt who was meeting with Alexander McNaughton to concoct their next tasting at the Burnaby Art Gallery as part of Holly's project: The Moveable Feast.

Why was I chasing down millet? Well, that's the story for my next blog post. Hint: It's to do with the current Earth Art Show at VanDusen Gardens.

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