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.
A few weeks ago, the wolfberry was in bloom and covered with insect visitors.
Today the Texas sage is blanketed with flowers.
We had a lot of rain this month, and Texas sage plants bloom in response to humidity and rain.
The insects respond, too.
The thumb-sized carpenter bees caught my eye, but they were too fast for a close up.
Does this look like a honey bee?
Surprise! It is a syrphid fly. It was more cooperative and sat still for its photograph.
Here's another smaller syrphid fly (sometimes called a flower fly.) It also posed.
The honey bees looked strange. Instead of the usual golden brown, most were covered with white pollen.
Would you believe the thorax of this sweat bee is bright green?
It looks like it is covered with snow.
All these insects are pollinators, which means they carry pollen from plant to plant and help many types of plants produce viable seeds. Some recent reports have shown that pollinators may need extra assistance in order to survive and thrive. Check out a recent article which suggests being messy in the garden is a good way to provide places for pollinators to shelter over winter.
Messy? That's easy to do!