Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mobility Means Survival

Of course, wild geese and honey bees can fly. Other than the fact that they both are capable of flight, they have little in common. However, both have evolved a strategy for survival based upon their mobility. The Arkansas Delta sees thousands of migrating snow geese in the winter. The ability to fly many hundreds of miles to their winter feeding grounds allows the birds to survive when their summer home is covered in ice and snow. The geese are able to thrive on the spilled grain from mechanical harvesting of agricultural fields as well as the dormant, green shoots of cool-weather crops, like winter wheat. The abundant winter forage allows the geese to return in the spring to their nesting grounds in a healthy condition. With good nutrition the birds have high survival rates for their offspring. Click on today’s photo to see a flock of snow geese feeding in the stubble of a Delta rice field. The flock includes both the black and white snow geese and the dark gray color phase of the same species, the blue goose. The gregarious birds often cover the ground, giving the appearance of dirty snow.

The honey bee also takes advantage of its mobility to survive by flying to various available flowering plants as they come into bloom throughout the year. A single colony will typically fly two and one half miles in every direction to forage an area of about nine thousand acres. They are able to pass from one species of flowering plant to another as these plants come into bloom throughout the year. It takes quite a large amount of forage to feed a flock of snow geese or a colony of honey bees. Neither would be successful if they were not able to move to the available food. For the honey bees to produce one pound of honey, the bees must fly a combined distance of 55 thousand miles, more than twice the distance around the world.

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