Honey bees and native pollinators rely upon flowers to produce food for over-winter survival. The Arkansas Delta has a dependable fall nectar flow in most years from goldenrod, fall asters, and Pennsylvania smartweed. All wildflowers vary somewhat from year to year depending upon the weather. This year saw an abundance of fall asters but fewer stands of goldenrod and smartweed. Today’s photo shows a honey bee and a bumblebee sharing the exposed goldenrod blossoms for pollen, which can be seen in the pollen baskets on the hind legs of both female bees. Both insects collect pollen for its protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. However, the two bees use a different strategy to survive the dearth of flower food in the winter. The honey bee stays active throughout the winter and lives in a colony that is large enough to generate warmth. The bumble bee, which lives in much smaller colonies, produces a number of male reproductive bees late in the summer. The majority of the bumble bees die before winter; a reproductive queen survives the winter by hibernating in a protected area to start a new colony the next spring. Both bees mix nectar, a source of carbohydrate, with pollen to produce a complete food. The honey bees store the resulting “bee bread” in hive cells to feed to their brood. Honey bees store fat in body tissues to use to produce food for the next year’s first brood. Bumble bee queens feed heavily to store fat to nourish the queen during her winter hibernation. Fall asters and goldenrod are members of the important family of bee plants, the composites or sunflowers. The composite flowers are prolific producers of nectar and pollen. Pennsylvania smartweed is a member of the buckwheat family.
As beekeepers use blogs to share ideas around the world, Tonmoy Roy, invites us to view his agricultural blog, http://royfarm.blogspot.com/, and see farming in Bangladesh. Along with poultry, fish, dairy cattle, sheep, and goats, they even tend to crocodiles!--Richard