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Bees in the bush working hard!

Many greetings, the rains over the last couple of months have brought forth some wonderful flowers out on the plains in Kenya. All the animals and plants are happy and full of life.

Now with the mix of sunshine and abundant flowers, it is a fantastic time for the bees who are out and about in large numbers. Many other insects are also making hay while the sun shines, imbibing nectar, gathering pollen and reproducing while the conditions are good.

Insects and plants have an ancient and beautiful relationship that spans hundreds of millions of years of co-evolution. For every single species of plant, there are many different kinds of insects that live on, in, around and off it. So if there are about 300,000 species of plants, you can imagine how many different insects there might be out there. As an entomologist, one of my main jobs is basically trying to make sense of the myriad interactions between insects and plants.

There is incredible diversity even around just a single species of wildflower as you can see from this series of photos on the humble wildflower Leucas, that is currently flowering on the plains south of Nairobi…

A speedy Amegilla bee who zipped like a maniac between the flowers sipping up the abundant nectar...
A speedy Amegilla bee who zipped like a maniac between the flowers sipping up the abundant nectar…

 

This particular bee was so efficient that it just grabbed the flowers for a second stuck its long tongue in and sucked out the nectar then moved on to the next one...
This particular bee was so efficient that it just grabbed the flowers for a second stuck its long tongue in and sucked out the nectar then moved on to the next one…

 

The Amegilla bees are fairly diverse and this other species was much more methodical in exploiting the flowers. Notice how it bends the flowers in a special way and rubs against the orange ‘blobs’? Those are the flowers’ anthers that bear pollen which is what the flower expects the bees to transfer between different plants…

Amegilla bee efficiently pollinating the Leucas flower...
Amegilla bee efficiently pollinating the Leucas flower…

 

Amegilla hard at work!
Amegilla hard at work!

 

There were some leafcutter bees working this patch of flowers too:

Leafcutter bee visiting the Leucas flower...
Leafcutter bee visiting the Leucas flower…

 

A few delicate blue butterflies stopped by to sip some nectar (though it didn’t seem like they carried much pollen, so they are basically free-loaders!)

The Pea Blue butterfly has a drink of nectar
The Pea Blue butterfly has a drink of nectar

While I was watching for bees, this gorgeous emerald green chafer beetle flew by distracting me:

"Am I cool or what!?"
“Am I cool or what!?”

Later in the evening the carpenter bees came out to visit the flowers:

Carpenter bee on Leucas flower
Carpenter bee on Leucas flower

 

Of course, not everyone visiting the flowers was behaving themselves. There were  a number of stink bugs and groove-winged flower beetles shamelessly feeding off the flowers and buds:

Stinkbug (on the left) and groove-winged flower beetle  with head buried in blossom.
Stinkbug (on the left) and groove-winged flower beetle with head buried in blossom.

 

My ‘field assistants’ Barabara and Zaza took a break in shade as I was watching the bees…

Barabara and Zaza (hidden lying down)...
Barabara and Zaza (hidden lying down)…

 

What an amazing world all taking place on just ONE species of wildflower. Imagine if we could quantify all of the interactions between insects and flowers in just one patch of natural habitat for one day – I find all these interactions a source of wonder and inspiration…

 

What other mysterious creatures dwell here?
What other mysterious creatures dwell here?

 

More from the wonderful world of insects soon!

Comments

  1. rha
    Indonesia
    May 31, 2013, 5:53 am

    I really loves the comment above…..:D

  2. Ima Ryma
    May 29, 2013, 2:52 am

    A flower that is growing wild,
    Must look and smell in such a way,
    That bugs like bees will be beguiled
    To make a visit, and to stay
    Long enough at the nectar bar
    To get a bunch of pollen stuck
    On the bug’s body, to fly far
    To more wild flowers, and by luck
    To let Mom Nature do her thing,
    Using the bugs as go between,
    So baby wild flowers may spring,
    Bringing beauty to all the scene.

    To be or not to be is fate
    Of getting bugs to pollinate.