Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Here be arthropods

Unrelated, but edited to add: Webs is the best. Got an e-mail just now saying they are sending out three skeins to replace the missing ones. Apparently they had the same dyelot and color still in stock. 

1. There must be a bumblebee nest somewhere in my yard or close to it. I have seen large numbers (over a dozen at a time) bumblebees visiting the Abelia bush and also the wild morning-glories (which grow like a weed but which I am loath to rip out because they are one of the few nectar sources out right now). I've looked closely at the bees and am guessing they are the American bumble bee (Bombus pennsylvanicus). There are something like 50 species of bumblebees in North America and they all look FAIRLY similar but you can often come up with a quick ID based on the amount of pile they have and how it's distributed. Also, B. pennsylvanicus is known from Oklahoma and it's not an uncommon species, so it seems likely.

In the UK, they used to sometimes be known as humble-bees, which I kind of like. (And Beatrix Potter included one, which she referred to as a bumblebee, in one of her stories.)

Bumblebees are interesting. They are semi-social bees, in that a nest consists of the queen and all her offspring-of-the-year but they don't do a lot of the overwintering like honey bees do. (Bumblebees make v. small quantities of honey but it's just enough to keep the nest going for a couple days when they can't get out and forage so we could never raise them as a honey-making species). They nest in the ground, often in old mouse nests. Only the queen overwinters, and then in spring all of her babies become the workers.....and as the season wears on, a new queen develops who will find a drone, mate, and then overwinter (all the workers die off in the winter and the colony restarts the next year).

This is the first year I have seen really large numbers of bumblebees around my place which is why I think there must be a nest somewhere near.

I think bumblebees are my favorite hymenopteran group and possibly my favorite insect because they are interesting to watch - you can stand right next to them when they're working on a flower and they will totally ignore you, and it's my understanding that they're very slow to sting, you have to really peeve them off in order to get them to do it. (Not that I'm going to try. And I don't know if they die after stinging like honeybees do).

Seeing the bees every morning when I go out makes me happy; it's one thing that makes me go, "Even in the dumpster fire that 2016 is, there are still some good things.

2. Dancing spiders (that also sing, or apparently make noise). (Warning, video contains spiders). I kind of love that one has been provisionally dubbed the Sparklemuffin Peacock Spider. (I wonder if that little octopus I talked about a year ago got to keep its "adoribilis" epithet?)

"If you're better at singing, if you're better at dancing, you're just overall a better male"

This is the kind of research I'd like to do: just looking at fun stuff and cataloguing it but you can't always do exactly what you want. (That said: not sure I'd want to have to travel to Australia to collect specimens)

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