Bumblebees sleeping in flowers

Bumblebee sleeping on a sprig of lavender flower

Bumblebee clinging to sprig of lavender and sleeping

Above you can see photos of Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) male falling asleep on a spike of lavander flower. I took the photograph in the evening, just as sunset was over and the temperature was goind down. The bumble bees showed signs of having difficulty to move and setteled on the flowers of a border of lavender for the night.
Once males leave the nest they do not go back, so they have to find somewhere to spend the night. Hanging underneath the heads of flowers, clinging to small flowers, even getting right into them, in case of big flowers, is what they normally do.
Their temperatures will drop and by morning they will have used up their stores of energy, so until they warm up by either drinking nectar or just waiting in the sun or both, they will appear listless and slow. And easy to photograph – I’d like to add.

Sleeping on or inside flowers is a good strategy for bumblebees as research has shown that the temperature at the base of flowers, near the source of nectar, can be as much as 10 °C higher than the surrounding air temperature.


Bees and apples

A little bee is very busy impollinating apple blossoms. Without our bees efforts there wouldn’t be many apples to harvest in autumn.
I took these photos in the beautiful orchard of a friend of mine, in Figline Valdarno, località Poggiolino.

Dandelion and bees

Honey bee on dandelion flower

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae (Compositae). Taraxacum officinale is considered a weedy species, especially in lawns and along roadsides, but it is sometimes used as a medical herb and in food preparation. It is a nearly cosmopolitan weed. Common dandelion is best known for its yellow flower heads that turn into round balls of silver tufted fruits that blow away on the wind. The seeds remain viable for many years and are spread by the wind up to several hundred meters away from their source. One single plant can produce up to 5000 seeds in one season.
The plant has several culinary uses. The greens and the as yet closed flowers are used raw in salads. Older leaves are usually sauteed and served as side dishes. The leaves are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron, carrying more iron and calcium than spinach.
With the yellow flowers you can make dandelion wine and beer. The flowers can be used to make a flower jam. For centuries the roots have been roasted and used as a substitute for coffee.

Dandelion is part of the list of honey plants thanks to the abundance of the yellow flowers which are rich both in nectar and pollen much needed by bees. It is possible even to harvest dandelion honey, which is strong in aroma, golden yellow in color and rather solid. To produce one kilo of dandelion honey the bees have to visit more than 100.000 flowers!

Bumble Bees and Strawberry Trees

A bumble bee of blossom of a Strawberry Tree

Arbutus unedo, commonly called Strawberry Tree, Apple of Cain, or Cane Apple, is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the family Ericaceae, native to the Mediterranean region. Lots of them grow here in Tuscany. The trees blossoms very late from the end of autumn during winter. The white blossoms are rich in nectar and therefore bees really take to them. Honey produced during the blooming season of the Strawberry Tree has a aromatic and somewhat bitter flavor and is considered precious. This honey is a great served together with aged Italian cheeses, especially aged Pecorino cheese from Sardinia.
Unfortunately for gourmets quite often the Strawberry Trees blossom so deeply into winter and rather low temperatures, that bees do not fly any more, and none of the precious honey is produced. But that is fortunate for the bumble bees who are able to fly even at very low temperatures and flock in big numbers to the blossoming Strawberry Trees to harvest the nectar of their blossoms.
I took this photo today, on the first day of 2012 at lunchtime.