By Wendy Langhans
Anyone who’s ever been on a picnic knows what a bee sounds like. Or do they? Watch this video and listen carefully – can you hear the two different buzzes – each with a different pitch?
The lower pitched buzz occurs when a Bumblebee flies between blossoms. The higher pitched buzz occurs when a Bumblebee lands on a blossom. Why the difference? What’s going on?
This bee is hard at work on a Yerba Santa plant.
The answer has to do with pollination. Female Bumblebees use a pollination technique called “sonication” or “buzz pollination“. Certain species of flowers are designed such that their pollen is contained in hollow anthers, with two openings (apical pores) at the top. “The bumblebee grasps the flower with its legs or mouthparts and vibrates its flight muscles very rapidly without moving its wings”. This vibration shakes the small, smooth grains of pollen out of the anthers, much like we shake salt out of a salt shaker.
Purple Nightshade, a local wildflower, is pollinated through “Buzz Pollination”.
These pollen grains carry an electrostatic charge, so they cling to the Bumblebee’s oppositely-charged body hairs. When enough pollen has accumulated, the Bumblebee gathers most (but not all) of the pollen into two pollen baskets on her hind legs. When the bee flies to the next plant, some of these pollen grains are transferred to another blossom. Cross pollination occurs, creating fruit and seeds for the next generation of plants.
This Bumblebee is carrying two pollen baskets on her hind legs.
Not all bees use “sonication”, only Bumblebee species. And not all flowering plants need it, only about 8% of all flowering plants worldwide. But anytime you eat tomatoes, blueberries or cranberries, you are eating food that was buzz pollinated.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, August 8th & 22nd, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout. For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.
Saturday, August 15, 8:00 AM. Early Morning Bird Hike.
During the long days of summer, birds are busiest in the morning before the heat of day sets in. It is also the perfect time to enjoy a leisurely stroll through Towsley Canyon to meet our friends of flight. Beginners are welcome. Bring your binoculars. 2 hours, easy walk.
Saturday, August 22, 2009. Acorns, Sea and Sage: Chumash Native Americans. Ranch house at William S. Hart Museum.
Discover how the Chumash used their natural resources to survive hundreds of years ago. You even have a chance to grind your own acorns! Activities geared for 3-10 year olds, but all ages welcome. Adults must accompany child. For more information, call 661-254-4584 or visit www.hartmuseum.org.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.