Friday, June 24, 2011

THAT Subject

Yes, it is time for THAT subject again. You know the birds and the bees. Only today we are only going to cover the bee part. Yes, I've been reading up on the sex life of a queen. It's so much more interesting than who's sleeping with whom in Hollywood, which I could care less about.

My concern is the survival of my two hives. I'm a bit worried for them. You see hubby says they'd better start producing honey and get off welfare. Yes, due to drought, plagues of grasshoppers and the like, the girls have been having their groceries delivered, not going out and shopping for them themselves, and fixing their own meals. 

I love my bees and in the interest of keeping them, I might be going just a tad bit far. I knocked on their door one cloudy, cold day last week to check on them. It was just a howdy do call as I wasn't dressed for a formal visit being just in a sweatshirt and jeans, not my jumpsuit and bee veil. The butler just told me to go away, they were busy cleaning house and promptly turned around and went back in. She made me feel guilty for my house needed cleaning too. 

At least she wasn't cranky about it for she kept her voice soft with a pleasant hum. I think it was because I knocked softly which is very polite. One doesn't want to stir up trouble especially if one isn't suitably dressed for the occasion. Cloudy days can make them irritable. Cabin fever you know. 
I'm a bit worried about what they are eating with all the rainy days we've been having and the fruit trees are done blossoming and the lilac blossoms are starting to wane. All they have left for the most part is some flowers on the prairie. But soon it will be moving day and they can feast on alfalfa. And as for me, I'll be at a loss because almost every day I spend a few minutes just a foot from the hive watching to see what color of pollen they bring in and guessing where it comes from. 

 What one can't help but observe is how different in appearance the bees are despite the fact they are all Italian and have the same mother. Why so different? Well, that is the part where things get spicy.   

Not one to give a hoot for romantic stories I find a bee's love life fascinating. Well, actually on second thought you probably couldn't call it a romantic story, more like an orgy. Yes, I said orgy - get over it. We are talking about insects after all.

I guess I'd just better tell you the facts of life before you get your tail feathers all in a whirl. The queen when she is mature, goes on a maiden flight. She starts out a virgin and whoa does she get busy. The next few days she has one fling after another with drones from other colonies. Enough to last her a lifetime.

The price for such a good time with a queen is death. Dead drones tell no tales. No they aren't killed by assassination like in the case of many vicious female spiders. Instead, they leave their mating organs inside the queen and that kills them. Ouch! 

The queen puts all this to good use though and stores all this sperm inside a sac in her abdomen known as the spermatheca. Every time she lays an egg, and mind you she lays over a thousand a day, she secretes a small amount of sperm from this sac.

The result of the queen's mating flight is the same as all the tom foolery our barn cat Callie does before she has kittens. "Oh that pure black tom is so... handsome I think I'll just have a little fun with him." And a few minutes later she's saying the same thing about the grey tom, and the tabby colored tom, and the Siamese one, and before you know it she's so ladened down she can hardly stand. Like she was doing this morning. Yup, the result of such tom foolery will be a litter of kittens with an assortment of colors. 

The same result happens with bees. I want you to scroll back up and take a good look at this bee collecting pollen on a dandelion blossom.

And this one on the onion blossom.
And this one on the thistle. Note the dark color or light as it may be, along with the width of the black bands. These bees are not all from the same hive but they could be. The one on the dandelion blossom and the one on the onion blossom are. I just needed some good photos to prove my point so I threw in the thistle one too.

This means that some bees in a hive are full siblings and some are half sisters having the same mom but different dads. The same can be said for the drones, only they would be brothers.

The differing fathers add strength to the hive by their genetic differences. One lending genes for superior endurance, another the canny ability to find pollen in a hurry, etc. 

So there you have it the bee part of the birds and the bees story.

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