Monday, June 18, 2012

UCD worker wins award for rare photo of bee sting in action

By Andrea Gallo
Published: Thursday, Jun. 14, 2012


A rare photograph of a honeybee stinging a man, with its abdominal tissue trailing behind, was more than 100 years in the making.

UC Davis communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey in the Department of Entomology said she has taken at least 1 million photos of honeybees in her lifetime, but this snapshot won the first-place gold feature photo award in an Association for Communication Excellence competition. The international organization includes communicators, educators and information technologists.

Garvey has bees in her blood: As dairy farmers, her father and grandfather kept bees to pollinate their orchards. She said bees have been in her family since around 1850.

Garvey recognized an opportune time to capture this photo when she was walking with a friend. A bee came close to him and started buzzing at a high pitch. She said that's normally a telltale sign that a bee is about to sting, so she readied her camera and snapped four photos.

The images showed the progression of the sting, but the most interesting part was that the bee's abdominal tissue lingered behind, she said.

"As far as I know, nobody's been able to record anything like this," Garvey said. She said the only time she's seen it illustrated was in a textbook.

She said her love of bees led her to create a garden in her backyard so she can constantly observe and photograph them.

"I always see something different in every bee," she said.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Your Plants Pollinate

From the fabulous folks down at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA, a great article explaining plant pollination:

How your plants pollinate

Our teaching garden at Seed Savers Exchange demonstrates important seed saving concepts. Throughout the season, I’ll take you on a tour to discuss some of these concepts. The first stop on our tour is the Pollination bed. It is important that seed savers understand how their plants pollinate in order to prevent varieties in the same species from cross-pollinating. In this bed we are growing tomatillos, spinach, amaranth and cucumbers to demonstrate different flower types.
Flowers exist to facilitate pollination, which occurs when pollen is transferred from the male anther to the female stigma. In some plants, this occurs before the flower even opens. In other plants, pollinators such as humans, insects, or wind are required to transfer the pollen.
Tomatillos have perfect flowers. These flowers have both male and female organs, allowing for self-pollination. Tomatillos are “selfers” that can pollinate before their flower even opens.
Selfers are good plants to choose if you are a beginning seed saver. Selfers include tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, and lettuce. And remember, in nature there are always exceptions to the rule—just because a plant can self-pollinate doesn’t mean that it can’t cross pollinate.

Female spinach plant

Male spinach plant

Spinach and cucumber have imperfect flowers. These flowers have either male or female organs. If male and female flowers are on different plants, the species isdioecious. In order to produce seed, pollen must travel from male plants to the female plants. Spinach is dioecious, and requires the wind to pollinate. Asparagus is also dioecious, and relies on insects for pollination.

Female cucumber flower

Male cucumber flower

Cucumber flowers are imperfect as well. However, cucumbers—as well as squash, melons, watermelons, and gourds—are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same plant. Notice the immature fruit at the base of the female flower pictured above. In the Cucurbitaceae family, insects are required to transfer pollen from male flowers to female flowers for pollination to occur. Corn is also a monoecious plant with imperfect flowers (the tassels represent the male flowers, and the developing ears represent the female flowers), though corn relies on wind for pollination.
Take a few minutes to identify male and female flowers in your home garden. Congratulations you are officially one step closer to becoming a seed saver!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

From today's New York Times:

Posh Hotels Are Buzzing With Tiny New Guests: Bees