Bee digging nest, video


This video says about itself (translated from Dutch):

8th April 2014

Andrena vaga is a solitary bee, rare in the Netherlands. Only the females dig a nest, and they mainly feed on willow pollen. Filmed by René Peeters.

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Costa Rican flowers, butterflies and bees


Orchid bee

This is a photo of an Euglossa orchid bee. Photographed in Alajuela, Costa Rica, on 14 March 2014.

Orchid bees are important pollinators in Costa Rica.

The orchid bee of the photo was probably attracted by the beautiful flowers nearby.

Flower, Alajuela

Flower, Alajuela

Zebra longwing

Apart from the postman butterfly which I already mentioned in another blog post, these flowers also attracted other butterflies, like this zebra longwing.

Butterfly, Costa Rica, 14 March 2014

There was also the butterfly on this photo. I am not sure about its species, as there are various orange-coloured butterflies in Costa Rica.

Stay tuned for more on the Poas volcano, and other Costa Rica stuff!

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Dutch local authority bans Monsanto’s Roundup


This video from the USA is called Dr. Huber Explains Problems with Monsanto‘s Roundup Ready GMO Alfalfa & Coexistence.

Dick de Vos, local councillor for the Party for the Animals in Leiden, the Netherlands, reports in an article about bumblebees, that Leiden local authority will ban the poisonous Roundup, made by Monsanto corporation, in 2015.

Mr de Vos says this is good news for bees, which die from Roundup; though the ban should have been earlier.

An earlier blog post on action against Roundup in Leiden is here.

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Birds, bees, butterflies earlier in mild winter weather


This video says about itself:

Up Close: Andrena Vaga Bee Digs an Impressive Hole

2 Feb 2014

Andrena is the largest genus in the family Andrenidae, and is nearly worldwide in distribution, with the notable exceptions of Oceania and South America. With over 1,300 species, it is one of the largest of all bee genera. Species are often brown to black with whitish abdominal hair bands, though other colors are possible, most commonly reddish, but also including metallic blue or green.

Body length commonly ranges between 8 – 17 mm with males smaller and more slender than females, which often show a black triangle (the “pygidial plate”) at the abdominal apex. In temperate areas, Andrena bees (both males and females) emerge from the underground cells where their prepupae spend the winter, when the temperature ranges from about 20°C to 30°C. They mate, and the females then seek sites for their nest burrows, where they construct small cells containing a ball of pollen mixed with nectar, upon which an egg is laid, before each cell is sealed. Andrena usually prefer sandy soils for a nesting substrate, near or under shrubs to be protected from heat and frost.

Andrena females can be readily distinguished from most other small bees by the possession of broad velvety areas in between the compound eyes and the antennal bases, called “facial foveae”. They also tend to have very long scopal hairs on the trochanters of the hind leg.

Some people say spring starts officially on 1 March. Some say 21 March. Astronomers say between 19 and 21 March.

Though it is still winter now according to many viewpoints, mild winter means that in the Netherlands, many birds and insects are unusually early, Vroege Vogels radio said today.

Andrea vaga bees are already flying. So are large earth bumblebee queens.

Some butterfly species fly already: peacock, red admiral, brimstone, small tortoiseshell. Not that surprising for these species, as they winter as adults, and will start flying when temperature allows.

A bit more unusual are other butterfly species which already fly now: small white and speckled wood. These species winter as pupae. Apparently, mild temperatures make for a quicker metamorphosis.

Skylarks and chaffinches sing already.

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Spring flowers in winter


This video is called Crocus flowers full bloom, bees enjoy.

Last year, during spring, the weather often felt like winter.

Now, it is officially still winter, but the weather feels like spring.

There are white snowdrop flowers. Not unusual for this time the year. The white daisies and purple crocus flowers near the canal today are a bit more special.

While a blackbird sang.

Some people saw honey bees flying; which they don’t do in real winter weather.

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Texel island insects research


This video is called Green Tiger Beetle.

Entomologists report from Texel island in the Netherlands.

They have investigated beetles in the ‘t Grietje area near De Koog village.

They saw over 100 green tiger beetles. This species had been absent from the island for decades; and is present again since 2004.

The entomologists saw three Platyderus depressus beetles in ‘t Grietje. This species lives only on Texel, not anywhere else in the Netherlands.

Also found: five other beetle species, including Stomis pumicatis.

There were five bee species: honeybee; Andrena argentata; Colletes succinctus; large earth bumblebee; and white-tailed bumblebee.

Texel dead wood wildlife: here.

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British bumblebees, young people asked to help


This video is called Bumble bees, their colony and nest.

From The Pod in Britain:

The Big Bumblebee Discovery

Calling all young citizen scientists!

We’re running the Big Bumblebee Discovery throughout the summer to observe the diversity of bumblebees in the UK.

The bumblebee is a prolific pollinator of crops, but it’s believed that environmental changes are reducing the bumblebee population – as well as their effectiveness to pollinate. In conjunction with the British Science Association, we want to test the hypothesis that the greater the diversity of bumblebees in a particular area, the higher the level of pollination.

We need young people to get involved as citizen scientists and tell us what they see!

As well as games, podcasts and an engaging on-line data collection tool, we’ll be adding a whole host of curriculum-linked teaching resources to the Pod over the next couple of months.

The first podcast and a bumblebee factsheet are already available in the Experiment Resources below.

Coming soon – a lavender plant and engagement pack for the first 3,000 schools who sign up to take part, plus competitions, lots more teaching resources and a guide to taking part in the Big Bumblebee Discovery.

View experiment resources here.

Take part here.

April 2014: Twenty four percent of European bumblebee species are threatened with extinction scientists have found: here.

April 2014: Up to three quarters of our most threatened bee species have been lost in the South West of England says nature conservation charity Buglife: here.

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Bee cleaning itself, video


This is a video about a honeybee cleaning itself.

The video is by T. Niesten from the Netherlands.

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Bees recycling plastic waste


This video is called Leafcutter bee (Megachile relativa) builds a brood cell August 14, 2010.

By Sarah Laskow in the USA:

Bees reuse plastic waste to build their homes

We write about bees a lot, and we’re starting to think they might be reading. We’re always advocating for the use of greener building techniques, like recycling waste materials, and it seems like the bees have taken that to heart. At least, according to a new study, they’re finding plastic waste and using it to build their nests, Motherboard reports:

The bees they looked at usually build nests in cavities above the ground, and depending on the species, they construct them out of various natural materials such as leaves, mud, and even small pebbles. But as the bees got on with their work, the researchers noticed a few more modern materials making their way into the nests. “It was during inspection of the nesting tubes we discovered non-natural materials built into the nests of two different bee species,” they said.

Basically, the bees are finding different types of plastic that resemble the materials they usually use — leaves or resin, for example — and building their nests with it. And it looks like they’re not just doing this because the natural materials aren’t available:

For the leafcutter bee, they found markings on the plastic materials that showed it chewed them differently to leaves. It also returned to leaf material after using a few bag fragments, which suggested leaf availability wasn’t a limiting factor.

Maybe they’re just tired of finding the plastic everywhere and trying to do their part. Humans could learn something from that.

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New honey bee research


This video is called Honey bees – Natural History 1.

And this video is the sequel.

From Wildlife Extra:

A single gene splits the workers from the queens in honey bees

January 2013: Just a single gene separates the workers from the queens in honey bees scientists have identified.

A team of scientists from Michigan State University and Wayne State University discovered the gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen.

“This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” said Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist. “Other studies have shed some light on this gene’s role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place.”

“The gene in question is Ultrabithorax, or Ubx. Specifically, the gene allows workers to develop a smooth spot on their hind legs that hosts their pollen baskets. On another part of their legs, the gene promotes the formation of 11 neatly spaced bristles, a section known as the “pollen comb.”

While workers have these distinct features, queens do not. The research team was able to confirm this by isolating and silencing Ubx, the target gene. This made the pollen baskets, specialized leg features used to collect and transport pollen, completely disappear.

The scientists published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters.

See also here. And here.

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