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Oh, I wish I had the time to take some video of one of our plants this morning. Our desert spoon is flowering and it is alive with bees. Honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, sweat bees, big bees, tiny bees, billions and billions of bees. Well, probably not that many, but it seemed that way. It was like a swarm.

The desert spoon plant sends up a huge flower stalk covered with blooms. This year there were 5 stalks. You can't see them all here.

desert spoon

Each stalk was covered with hundreds of bees. Each of those specks was a fast-moving insect.

bees
Of course you know that the bees were gathering pollen, the yellowish powder produced by the flower, and nectar, the sweet liquid reward for picking up the pollen. The honey bees pack the pollen into the specially shaped baskets on their hind legs. Check out the load this honey bee has gathered. Honey bees were the most numerous bees this morning.

honey bee

I was able to get very close to these insects without any danger. They were intent on gathering food, and that is it.

The biggest bees I saw were the black carpenter bees, but they seemed intimidated by the other bees and quickly flew away. They may have also been sizing up the stalks as future home sites. Carpenter bees build their nests in agave and desert spoon flower stalks.

The second biggest bees were yellow and black bumble bees. They stay near the top of the stalks, so I couldn’t get a close up.

bumble bee

The smallest bees were some tiny sweat bees. They were numerous, but not as noticeable because of their pencil-lead size.

sweat bee

Mixed in were a few other sweat bees and digger bees. Here are two examples.

green beeStripe bee

Finally, not all the creatures I saw this morning were working hard to gather pollen and nectar. This jumping spider was taking advantage of the bounty of bees to catch breakfast. It was behaving in an odd manner, jumping down and hanging upside down with its legs drawn in. In that position it looked all the world like a flying bee. Very Cool!!

spider

For more information about bees, check out the "Africanized Honey Bees on the Move" website under the blogroll in the sidebar.

Also, try out growing list of children's books about honey bees at Science Books for Kids.

honey-bee-books-for-children

A few years ago my family discovered the America’s Horrible History Series by Elizabeth Levy, published by Scholastic. The books were easy to read because of Levy’s use of humor and seemingly effortless writing style, and we were impressed by how comprehensive they were, with extensively researched and current information. Unlike the European version of Horrible Histories by Terry Deary, which had way too much graphic violence for us, we found Levy handled the “horrible” bits in an acceptable way. We read the series over and over.

You can imagine how thrilled we were when we recently discovered the Horrible Science Series by British author Nick Arnold. The first of the series we found is Horrible Science: Chemical Chaos.

 

It is every bit as humorous (downright silly in spots) and as comprehensive as the history series was. In fact, I was not surprised to learn that the author is not actually a trained scientist. He studied history, and it shows with all the marvelous historical references to the lives and experiments of famous scientists. Like the history series, this is “science with the squishy bits left in,” meaning that it does contain some references to stinky or gross aspects of science, but not so much as to put off more mature readers.

It is extremely difficult to find good science books to fill the gap between picture books and college textbooks. Middle and high school students are still interested in science, but have to resort to reading popular science written for adults. These excellent books go a long way to fill that gap. We were thrilled to find the series has more than 20 books. I will be haunting bookstores for more of these titles.

You can find out more about the series at Nick Arnold’s website:
http://www.nickarnold-website.com/index.htm

or at Scholastic’s UK branch http://www.scholastic.co.uk/zone/book_horr-science.htm

Happy Reading!

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