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The Uncommon Habits of Our Most Common Spiders

common spiders

To learn more about our most common spiders, check out Chris Buddle (@CMBuddle) and Eleanor Spicer Rice (Roar, @verdanteleanor)’s BRAND NEW book: Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders.

By |May 21st, 2018|Spiders|0 Comments

To Sting or Not to Sting

When we think of bees, we imagine their fearsome stingers—but not all bees sting! Let’s take a look at our not-so-sharp buzzing buddies.

1. All male bees – A stinger is a modified version of the egg-laying part of a female bee’s body, called the ovipositor. Since males were never meant to lay eggs, they never evolved a stinger.

Despite not being able to sting, many male bees exhibit a sting-based behavior. When grabbed, they buzz loudly and curl the end of their abdomen toward the hand holding them. This mimics a female’s stinging position, but only the fuzzy male bee butt makes contact. Still, the behavior is scary enough that even experienced bee handlers often let go!

 



2. Stingless bees –Meloponines, or stingless honeybees, are a group of approximately 500 species that live in tropical and subtropical zones. Stingless is a bit of a misnomer – female bees have stingers, but they are so tiny, they cannot even pierce human skin. They can bite, though, and will pinch away at your forehead with their tiny jaws if you try to steal their honey!

Fairy bees (Perdita) and other mining bees in the Andrenidae family lack the valve in the stinger that pumps venom, rendering their stingers effectively stingless. Not to be outdone, the Dioxyini, a group of cleptoparasitic bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, have the most reduced stingers of all!


3. Most bees, most of the time – Bees only use their stingers when in danger. No need to fear around bees. Just move slowly, watch your step, and everyone will leave sting-free.

By |May 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bee-ting the Heat

It’s easy for bees to get all hot and bothered. Flying takes a lot of work! To flex those wing muscles, bees convert chemical energy to mechanical work.

Insect flight can require metabolic rates up to 500x resting rates, so a lot of heat can be produced very quickly. To keep from feeling the burn, bees can do a few cool things to beat the heat.

  1. They mouth off.

Honeybees regurgitate nectar and spread it over the long surface of their tongues, extending it over and over. This behavior, called tongue-lashing, increases evaporative heat loss – similar to dogs panting.

2. They go against the flow.

Some species of bumblebees and carpenter bees have a loop that circulates hemolymph (bug blood) from the thorax to the abdomen and back. At high temperatures, these bees can alternate the flow so that it only goes in one direction at a time. This allows hot hemolymph from the thorax to be cooled by the wind across the large abdominal surface; then the flow to the thorax is turned back on and all that cooled hemolymph goes to the flight muscles.

  

  1. They let it go to their heads. Some species of carpenter bees will direct super-heated blood to their broad, flat heads; when the wind contacts the large surface, it blows lots of the heat away.

 

That’s not all! Some studies on pallid bees, orchid bees, and honeybees suggest they might be able to reduce their metabolic heat production by decreasing how frequently they […]

By |May 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bringing Home the Honey

Honey bees have been making honey for millions of years, providing some of the earliest relief for humanity’s sweet tooth. But how is honey made?

While honey bees may be the most famous honey makers, some wasps and other bees make honey, too. Even some ants take to storing nectar–“honeypots” store nectar inside their distended abdomens. These ladies have so much junk in their trunks, they can barely even walk!

Written by Meghan Barrett and illustrated by Buzz. Barrett is currently a Biology PhD student at Drexel University, studying an expanded version of “bug brains.” When not fawning over native bees as part of her Bee Bytes initiative (byte-sized introductions to the bees of the US), she spends her time writing ecological poetry and science plays (or dabbling in #scicomm). More about her work can be found at meghan-barrett.com; you can find her on Twitter (@Bee_Bytes).

 

Check our facts!

Anderson C, Ratnieks F (1999). Worker allocation in insect societies: coordination of nectar foragers and nectar receivers in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 46, 73-81.

Ribbands CR (1953). The behavior and social life of honeybees. Bee Research Association, London.

 

By |May 1st, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments