Friday, November 16, 2012

Mums and Bees

I noticed a lot of honey bees on the giant mums hanging on my front porch this week. With all the hype about Africanized bees I wondered about the species, so I took some photos and asked our (very) local bee expert Scott Guiser about them.  Here's what Scott told me:

"- These are honey bees. I can say this is a honey bee because it is hairy and just the right size and still working on a vegetarian diet in November.

- No honey bees are native to North America. Europeans brought them.

- Based on gross morphology, it’s difficult to distinguish western honey bees native to Europe (Apis mellifera mellifera) from African honey bees (A. mellifera scutellata). African honey bees look just like western honey bees. It’s the stinging and not the buzzing that distinguishes Africans from their cousins (among other things).

- These are probably A. mellifera ligustica, the Italian subspecies, but I could not distinguish one sub-species from the other … there are Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica), Caucasians (Apis mellifera caucasica), etc., etc., even Spaniards (Apis mellifera Iberica)! These are all geographic subspecies or races that have minor but interesting and sometimes important differences.

- Now I know where my bees are probably getting yellow pollen. I could not imagine what they were working on. Perhaps someone has mums in Bedminster?"

Photos and story submitted by Kathleen Connally

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