Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Bee World, The Most Enthusiastic Dancer Wins

I just signed up to become an official NYC Bee Watcher. Bee Watchers observe bee activity in the city, and submit data to The Great Pollinator Project. Without pollinators, our lives would be a lot less green. Since green's great, it is in our own best interest to protect our precious pollinators. The data that Bee Watchers gather will determine which areas of the city have good pollinator service (lush, nectar-filled flowers,) and help us understand more about bee distribution in the Big Apple. (Sounds a bit like Gawker Stalker for bees.) Pretty exciting stuff, anyone want to join me at the orientation on Monday, 6-8?
I've been pondering kept bees vs. wild bees. I want my bees tough for the winter, so I've popped on some extra supers and left them alone. Too much human attention can be harmful. Bees are considered "wild" if they're doing their own thing in nature; note that kept bees can become wild bees, and, one might argue, vice versa. Honeybees aren't native to North America; they were brought over by Europeans for the honey. Although there are many types of bees, (20,000 in the world, 4,000 in North America, 400 in NY State and 200 in the city,) all honeybees originally come from somewhere between Southern Europe and Southern Africa. Thus, the only difference between one of Beula's Italian workers and a "wild" "American" honeybee is circumstance.

When the colony's quarters become too cramped, the hive splits and temporarily inhabits something random. The swarm essentially sublets the new place until scout bees set out and find a better home. They divide up and check out the potential new pads and do a waggle dance upon returning to relay information to the swarm. The more excited a scout bee is about her find, the more enthusiastically she will waggle, and the most enthusiasm she musters, the more buzz she will create!

Then, the scout bees essentially vote for the best choice by flying to it and waggle dancing on it. 15 seems to be the magic number; as soon as 15 scout bees dig a location, the rest of the swarm follows and moves into its new home.

An ideal home for wild bees is a tree cavity high above the ground, with a southward-facing opening and lots of room for honey storage and the pitter patter of little bee feet.

If I were a wild honeybee scout, I'd dance my little ass off if I came across this tree. It's just perfect!
One thing I'd really like to improve is my identification skills. To be able to name things. I spent way too much time on the internet searching for the answer to what kind of tree is that? I don't remember the leaves, they were so high and green, the trunk was bulbous and enormous, it looked totally empty but stalwart and strong; I still can't figure out how so much life can spring from something hollow. Ideas?
The tree cavity makes me blush. Especially with the towering tree shooting all the way up there.

Looking up into the tree feels like you're at the midway point between the tips of roots and branches.
Does anyone recognize this tree?

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