Given all that is going on in the world these days, you might not have noticed an article about insect populations undergoing "death by a thousand cuts." (Scientific article in PNAS, AP article carried by various outlets). Essentially, the authors have gathered 12 studies written by 56 scientists around the world showing that insect numbers are in decline.
What to do? Go out and see some insects, of course.
Even though it has been relatively cold, plus dry to the extreme, we still have bees in the desert marigold flowers.
The pollen baskets on her back legs are packed with pollen, which she is carrying from flower to flower. What bits of pollen that dribble off will pollinate the next flower she visits.
This week the honey bees prefer the fairy dusters and the rosemary plants, both of which are flowering as well. The fairy duster flower is unusual -- a puffy cluster of anthers.
The bottom line is that one way to help pollinators is to plant a diversity of flowers, especially native ones.
Do you plan to plant flowers this year?
May 20 is World Bee Day, but we can celebrate bees any day with hands-on STEAM activities.
1. Visit the World Bee Day website for detailed information about the importance of bees (and other pollinators). Look for why the organizers chose May 20 for the date. The right sidebar contains many links to other informative websites, including the beautifully designed and engaging Buzzing with Life.
2. Tohono Chul Gardens has put together an amazing collection of lessons about bees and other pollinators. Created to cover a week's worth of activities, it includes instructions for gardening and art. If nothing else, download the bee homes activity (PDF).
3. To get a glimpse of the diversity of bees (and some other insects), check out the photographs at the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr page. Seriously. Click on the photographs to learn the scientific names of the bees and more about them. For example, our little long-horned bee in the photograph above is a Melissodes trinodus.
4. Make a honey bee model (previous Growing with Science post).
5. See our collection of honey bee science activities as well as all our posts in the bee category.
6. Visit our growing list of children's books about bees at Science Books for Kids.
Life can be challenging for honey bees.
For instance, take the red bird of paradise flower.
These flowers have amazing long stamens.
See the red threadlike-structures towards the left. The bumps at the ends are the anthers that produce pollen.
Collecting that pollen from such a fragile structure can be a chore.
It requires some acrobatics, even with wings.
One honey bee is using other stamens as scaffolding of sorts.
Another tries a different approach.
It's called the fly in and grab.
Grasp the anther.
And down it goes.
It would have been better as a video, but I saw a bunch of honey bees doing this.
It looked like a ride at an an amusement park. The stamen droops with the weight of the bee then springs up again when the bee lets go.
All in a day's work, I guess.