Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mating orgy at the nests

Four mating couples

A male tries to mate with another male
Male orchard bees emerge first, and the females a few days later.  We seem to be in the midst of female emergence today.  The top photo shows four mating couples.  Three of them are on top of the blue emergence box in front of the upper cottage cheese container emergence box.  One couple is on top of the wood nest block.  I don't have time to watch, but if someone wanted to know how long matings last, you could get quantitative data today. 
The emergence containers are covered with bee meconia from the emerging bees.  That's a fancy name for bee poop.  The adults have been storing it in their bodies all winter, and only after they emerge in the spring do they relieve themselves.  If you look around the shelter you'll see meconia on the nest blocks and the bottom shelf that holds the nests as well. 
Both of the bees in the bottom photo have long antennae, and both have yellow faces (not seen in this photo), so they are both males.  The bottom male didn't do much to knock the top male off.  They stayed connected for more than 4 minutes with the top male trying repeatedly to mate with the bottom one. 
Bosch and Kemp's manual on orchard bee management has a concise passage about what's going on today at the bee nests:  "Emergence is timed so that males (located in the outermost cells) emerge one to three days before females.  Once out of the nest, newly emerged adults excrete their meconium as a few drops of whitish, quickly solidifying secretion evacuated from the anus.  The meconium contains metabolic waste products.  Adults then engage immediately in mating activities or fly to nearby flowers to take nectar."
Raspberries leafed out, flowering tree in distance
The raspberries are not yet blooming at Sturm Berry Farm, but I'm sure there are some weeds in bloom.  You can also see a large tree on a neighboring property that appears to have pink bloom. 
It looks like there may be a few blueberry flowers in bloom.  We'll see if there is enough bloom to keep the orchard bees nesting at our bee shelter by the number of nest tunnels that are completed over the next few weeks.  

Blueberry bush with buds
Buds are developing on the blueberry bushes.  Some of them may be open.  It will be interesting to see what visits the flowers, in particular can we see blue orchard bees visiting them.  This plant is visible from the preset location "blueberry closeup 2".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good morning, little bees!

This image was captured on the webcam this morning at 9:45am.  It was overcast, about 54oF, so the bees are sitting at the nest entrances waiting for the sun, or for the temperatures to warm up enough to fly.   Most of them are males; you can see the yellow spot on their faces.  They are using the tunnels as shelter for the night, but they do not make a nest like the females. Note the bee sitting on top of the emergence box.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Webcam is online! Orchard Bees are emerging!

Bee shelter in Sturm field, April 22, 2012
The Oregon Berry Bee WebCam (on the Sturm Berry Farm in Corbett, OR) has been live for a couple of weeks, but with some wet and cool weather nothing has been in bloom.  Now the weather is warming, and it’s looking like the blueberry will bloom soon.  Rosie Sturm put out two emergence containers of the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria in the shelter at the webcam site this morning.  The bees should be emerging over the next week or so, and hopefully will find enough to forage from and start nests. 

We are particularly interested to know if they help with blueberry pollination, and if they are still around when the black raspberry comes into bloom.  Have a look at the webcam and let us know what you see.

The camera image is on between 7:30am and 7pm Pacific time.  It is shut off at night to conserve battery charge, which relies on a solar panel.

If you would like to know how to connect to the webcam, contact me and I'll e-mail you the connection information. 

Black raspberry preset on April 22, 2012
Once you log on, there are preset camera views (nests, raspberries, blueberries) that you can go to from a menu at the top of the image.  You can also zoom, pan and tilt the camera with the controls under the image.  Be patient, the controls are slow because they are being transmitted over a cell phone line.  Click once, and wait for a few seconds to see the movement.  If the camera gets too many commands at once it stops reacting.

Wide view of black raspberry on April 22, 2012
There is also a large dial thermometer in the bee shelter.  You can zoom in to see what the temperature is.  

 Osmia aglaia, the Oregon Berry Bee, emerges later in the season than O. lignaria, so Rosie is holding on to the cocoons and nests until the black raspberry starts to bloom.  Watch for a post when the O. aglaia are released.

All of the photos posted here are preset views from the webcam.

East view of blueberry field on April 22, 2012

Please share the website and guest login information with anyone who you think might be interested in watching the bees and the flowering phenology along with us.