a gathering of honeybees

I hadn’t really intended to post much over the weekend, but yesterday’s rain kept us indoors for most of the day. This morning is looking even less promising — rain pouring down and looking as though it has no intentions of letting up. So, I’ll use this “opportunity” to write about something that happened earlier this week.

Around noon on May 16th, I had checked the dwarf Regal Gold apple tree in my garden to see if there were any Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) on the abundant blossoms. It had been raining earlier that day, so I wasn’t too surprised to find nothing more than a couple of large Bumblebees buzzing about among the flowers. The weather changed around noon as the sun came out and began to dry off the vegetation. A little after 2 p.m., I came out to the garden with some laundry to hang on the clothesline. After a minute or two, I became aware of the droning of bees. I stopped to investigate, and sure enough, there were a few Honey Bees moving from flower to flower in the apple tree. I went indoors to get my camera and started shooting photos, with the first one taken at 2:14 p.m. I continued to shoot for over a half hour. In that time, the number of bees went from about a half-dozen to about three dozen. Also during that time, the pollen on most of the bees’ legs went from very little to quite a load.

I found it interesting to see how the apple tree, which had seen little interest for a couple of days due to inclement weather, became inundated with Honey Bees in such a short period of time. I suppose that the bees had been keeping tabs on the situation and, as soon as the sun began to shine and the weather warmed up, they came straight to the tree, perhaps informed by scouts that came over to check out the situation. I’m not sure where these bees came from, but neighbours a couple of houses down from our place did have hives in their yard at one time, so perhaps that’s the source.

The bees were quite easy to work around and didn’t seem to mind my interference as I pushed aside the branches and got “inside” the blossom-covered tree. I’m quite relaxed working around insects, so I just shot off a few dozen photos of the bees as they buzzed from flower to flower, or crawled over the blossoms. None of them behaved at all aggressively, with the exception of one large Bumblebee that seemed to resent having a camera lens pushed within a couple of inches of its face. I backed off to give it space and turned to concentrate on the Honey Bees instead.

Above and below are a couple of the photos which I shot that day. I chose these because they show the pollen collecting features of the bee’s hind legs. In a recent post I described the Bumblebee (Bombus) as having “hind legs which are formed in such a way that pollen can be packed into wide or concave surfaces which are usually surrounded by stiff hairs. This pollen collecting area of the leg is referred to as the corbicula. Honey Bees have a similar leg structure as can be seen in both of the accompanying photos. The photo below is especially good as it shows how the pollen accumulates mainly on the outward-facing side of the leg. Sometime soon, I’ll write up a post about Leafcutting Bees which have a distinctly different way of collecting pollen.

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6 Responses to “a gathering of honeybees”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Really fantastic photographs, Bev. I wonder how much pollen a bee can fly with. Do you think they ever overdo it? Gather too much? It is an impressive amount for such tiny creatures to carry.

  2. Ontario Wanderer Says:

    Very impressive bee photos! Maybe I’ll find some bees on our wild apples if it ever warms up again. What a cold Victoria Day weekend we have been having. Most of the rain “mist” us however.

  3. burning silo Says:

    RA & OW – Thanks! Regarding RA’s quiestion about how much pollen a bee could carry. I’m sure there must be a limit. I’ve read that their flight can be made more difficult by changing air temperature or pressure (can’t remember which or perhaps its both), so I would guess that the amount of pollen that they carry must have some impact on flying ability as well, especially on a long flight back to a hive — it must feel a lot like having to carry a couple of heavy suitcases! I photographed a couple of bees that were flying in such a way that it looked like the pollen was a burden — and in fact, I think I’ll write up a post with one of the photos. And, O.W. we’re having a cool, wet Victoria Day weekend. We did manage to get out for some hiking yesterday, but it started to rain about halfway along the trail. We’re hoping it might be a little better today. We had possible snow flurries in the weather forecast for last night, but fortunately that didn’t materialize!!

  4. Dotty Stripes Says:

    Robin Andrea sent me! These photos are absolutely gorgeous. I work with beeswax as my art material, and am always interested in the bees! What at thrill to see the gorgeousness of your photos. They are stunners. Thank you for your eye!

  5. burning silo Says:

    Hi Dotty – Glad that you also made it over for a visit! Glad you liked the bee photos!

  6. Burning Silo » Blog Archive » bees with excess baggage Says:

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