Week 8, Day 5: Bees

A bumble bee visits a thistle flower. Notice the pollen coating the hairs on its legs! (Photo by Craig Martin)

It’s the last day of week eight of Take It Outside! Thanks for joining us to take a closer look at our local insects. We hope you learned something new about some of the smallest critters around us. Join us next week to explore climate.

Today we are learning about some important pollinators: bees!

Upcoming Event:

Tune in to tonight’s live-streamed astronomy talk to learn about light pollution and protecting our state’s dark skies. This talk will begin at 7 PM and is free to watch, but registration is required. Learn more and sign up here.

Blog Post:

Larry Deaven, the mastermind behind the nature center’s amazing penstemon garden, looks at how these flowers have evolved for different types of pollinators. Read his post here.

Craft:

Flowers and bees have evolved to depend on one another. Explore this incredible relationship by dissecting a flower. 

Take each part of the flower apart and identify where the pollen and nectar are held, as well and where new seeds are made. What tongue structure must a bee have to collect nectar from the flower you dissected? Take a guess, and then learn more about a bee’s tongue in this article.

Find more instructions, as well as printable worksheets and flower anatomy guides, here.

 

Native plants often have very specific pollinators. This palafoxia flower is being visited by a small fly with a long, sucking proboscis. That allows the fly to probe for nectar deep inside the long tube-shaped disk flowers of the flower head, picking up pollen on the protruding anthers as it does so. (Photo by Craig Martin)

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Find some flowers outdoors in your yard or on the trail, and watch them for a while! What pollinators come to visit? Look closely: are there any small insects on the flowers that you didn’t see at first? Some pollinators you might see:

  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
  • Flies
  • Moths (tip: check open flowers at night!)
  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Spiders
  • Other insects

 

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

When we think about bees, honey bees often come to mind. Honey bees are actually a semi-domesticated, introduced species that was brought to the U.S. by European settlers for honey production. 

Did you know that there are over 4,000 species of native bees in the U.S. and Canada? One quarter of them are estimated to live in New Mexico! Many of these bees are solitary species and nest alone or in small groups, unlike the large colonies of honey bees. Check out this pocket guide to New Mexico’s native bees from the New Mexico State University Extension Office to learn about some of the native bees in our state. You can also learn about a few local bees on PEEC’s Nature Guide.

Then, head outside and look for bees! How many types of bees do you see? Can you find a honey bee? How about some native bees? Fill out the form below and let us know what you find!

Other Resources:

Share Your Experience:

What bugs can you find this week?! Tell us in the form below! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

Join us next week to explore our climate!

Week 2, Day 4: Pollinators

A honeybee pollinates a salvia flower at the Los Alamos Nature Center. (Photo by Bob Walker)

The first pollinators of spring arrive on the heels of the first flowers! Explore the importance of our local pollinators in today’s Take It Outside post.

Blog Post:

Read about the emergence of our earliest pollinators in today’s blog post by Jenna Stanek, a Los Alamos National Laboratory biologist and PEEC volunteer, and Steve Cary, New Mexico Butterfly Guy extraordinaire. Check out their blog post here.

Craft:

Build a bee hotel! Some solitary bees nest in small cavities, like the dead stalks of plants. You can create habitat for these native bees in your yard by building a simple structure with holes where bees can take up residence. Make it a hotel and spa with the addition of a simple bee bath.

See bee hotel instructions here.

See bee bath instructions here.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Even beetles can pollinate flowers. Note the yellow pollen on the biggest beetle. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Bees and butterflies are our best-known pollinators, but did you know that beetles, ants, and even spiders also help to pollinate flowers? Find a dandelion or other flower, look closely (use a magnifying glass if you have one), and see if you can find any tiny creatures crawling around. If the bugs have picked up any powdery yellow pollen, they could be helping to pollinate the flowers! Let us know what you find.

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Where there are flowers in bloom, we have a good chance of seeing pollinators. Find some flowers in your neighborhood or a favorite outdoor place. Can you spot any of the early pollinators mentioned in today’s blog post? You can note any pollinators in your nature journal, on iNaturalist, or here on our webpage!

Other Resources:

Share Your Experience:

Tell us what signs of spring you notice this week! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

Join us tomorrow to explore spring skies!