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Published 27 March 2020

Venezia Primo - Bee's

Let’s have a quick recap on why bees are our friends.  They have always symbolized eloquence and worldly sweetness, they were considered divine because that was the only sweetness before sugar.  In the past, they also were the first light bulb through bee wax candles. 

They are highly evolved because biologists have identified super powers.

  1. Wrap around ultra violet vision
  2. Flexible interlocking wings
  3. Super hyper sensitive antennae, capable of sniffing out anything and everything.

Bees evolved alongside flowering plants.   Before the last extinction flowers were only small and white and there was minimal diversity of plant life, it was all big ferns, trees and spores.  Plant diversity took off after the last extinction, bees effectively shaped the natural landscape with their relationship with flowering plants.

That is:

  1. Flowers give bees direct communication and navigation signals, through flower design and colour.  Petal colour is a strategy of the plant to get itself fertilized.  
  2. Bees provide plants the essential service of pollination.  That is they are a go between for plant sex. That is it was a successful relationship that created a mass of different flowers and plants.

Bees go back to the ages of the dinosaur, 65 million years ago, when they were exactly the same and we know this because ancient pieces of Baltic amber were found to contain a perfectly preserved bee fossils.  Honey bees are hive builders, which means they have complex structural societies. Bees are vegetarian wasps that must have evolved by necessity in an ancient innovation lesson of hunger. For bees to find sufficient nectar to feed thousands of workers in a hive requires an evolved specialized fauna. 

What’s another example of this co evolution, consider the bee’s hairy coat, which varies in texture across the species with some coarse and some soft and fine, always correlates to the pollen in the flower that it visits, the bees surface identifies and collects the pollen in large quantities. A bee can carry in its hair up to 50% of its body weight. This means bees are very efficient in gathering food and carrying a load this size means there is an increased probability that some pollen from one plant that the bee is carrying will rub off on another plant. Bees are efficient pollinators. Scent is also a bee related trait. Morning flower scent is produced then to attract bees are sunrise because bees are the earliest riser of the insect kingdom. A bee has a special system that sends warmth from its body to its wings allowing it to be the first to fly in the morning. The scent of flowers reproduces the scents that bees produce to attract mating partners. Bees rise early to be the first to get to the nectar that flowers have produced overnight. The flowers with their scents are advertising themselves, at real prime time, for real prime action. Humans share the same olfactory range as bees. It is sensible not to go near a bee hive when you are sweaty, dirty and smelly. For it is then that a bee will attack using it’s sting, a collective evolutionary trait of specific bees, solitary bees the most numerous in the species are non-stinging. Scent remains an evolutionary co feature of plant and bee.

The shapes of flowers are also dictated by bees. Common flowers, so to speak, are where the plant has not further evolved and are round rimmed flowers. Such flowers allow insects to approach at any angle and those results in a crowd. Such flowers are not choosy on the pollinator but complex flowers are insisting upon a particular approach to its nectar. The flower is bio symmetric, that is, the top half is exactly the same as the top half but upside down. This communicates two different actions. If the bee enters at a particular angle, it creates the opportunity for the plant to evolve particular adaptations for the furthering its own benefit. That is if a plant can hit and thereby deposit pollen on a particular parts of a visitor’s body, especially if they are of a particular shape and size, then there is a higher probability of the bee depositing the pollen in a mirrored area on the receiving plant. This explains the divergence of flowers internal parts. Take your favourite flower, an orchid.  Well, apparently Calypso Orchids are evil and nasty because they open in the morning and let out a beautiful scent.  They offer a broad landing area and have beckoning stripes and a shallow spur which advertises nectar. But the orchids offer no nectar, their flower design is trickery because all the orchid will do is put some pollen onto the bees backside and out of reach from the bee.  The lady slipper orchid also tricks, indeed a third of orchid plants rely upon deception for pollination. Today we may note a lot of flowers and then note there is not much fruit, that’s no pollination. You need the bees for the fruit. Bee populations have of recent collapsed and though there are the theories why, insecticides, monoculture, fundamentally, there is a shortage of flowers.

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