Buzz Pollination for National #PollinatorWeek

It’s  National Pollinator Week (June 17-23, 2019).

Right in time to participate, I caught a pollinator on video last week.

As I was walking past a sweet potato bush (also  known as blue potato bush, Lycianthes rantonnetii) I heard a familiar “bizzzzz” sound.

You may have to turn up your speaker because it isn’t very loud. I apologize for the background sounds. It is near a school.

 

Do you know why the bee is making that sound?

The answer has to do with the structure of the flower. At the bright yellow center are a tight bundle of anthers, the structures that make pollen. The visiting bee bites down on the anthers, curls her abdomen around them and vibrates. When she does this, pollen comes spilling out like when we shake salt from a shaker.

The pollen that falls onto the bee’s body goes back to the nest to be used as food. If any of the pollen brushes onto or hits the female parts of the flower (stigma), the flower is pollinated.  Because the vibration makes a sound we can hear, it is called buzz pollination.

A number of species of solitary bees –including carpenter bees — and bumble bees will visit this type of flower, but honey bees do not. I’ve noticed that the smaller bees make a higher-pitched sound like this one.

If you have ever eaten a tomato grown in a greenhouse, it was probably thanks to buzz pollination. Growers use bumble bees to pollinate tomatoes indoors and ensure a healthy crop.

So, the next time you hear a buzz, look around. It might be a pollinator in action.

___________

If you’d like to find out more about National Pollinator Week activities, visit their website.

The Bee Diaries Project

As you know, sometimes we let bees creep in here at Wild About Ants.

The Bee Diaries Project is a short series of popular science podcasts about bees in Great Britain.

Prof Dave Goulson talks about the waggle dance in honey bees and bee communication in general.

They left me wishing there were more in the series.

How well do you know bees?

http://beediaries.co.uk/take-the-quiz/

Ties Between Human Agriculture and the Distribution of Squash Bees

The impact of human activity on bees is a hot topic right now, and often the news is negative. In a turnabout,  Margarita M. López-Uribe, James H. Cane, and Robert L. Minckley used genetic markers to show how the native squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, moved from Central America to the east coast of North America with spread of squash plants through human agriculture practices.

This short video summarizes their study.

Along with evidence that the distribution of bees followed the spread of squash crops, the scientists also found evidence that Peponapis pruinosa populations have gone through reductions in genetic diversity or bottleneck events.

As an aside, this is a prime example of how the use of traditional journalistic techniques (a news release) and social media can generate interest in studies that might otherwise languish inside the pages of a scientific journal.

What do you think?

Related:

Squash bee study press release

Margarita M. López-Uribe, James H. Cane, and Robert L. Minckley (2016) Crop domestication facilitated rapid geographical expansion of a specialist pollinator, the squash bee Peponapis pruinosa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, June 22.

Peponapis_pruinosa(Public domain photograph of Peponapis pruinosa from Wikimedia)

Save

Save

Save