I think all the bees must be on a spree as we have not seen nor have I photographed many bumblebees, however I couldn’t resist using the line from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan for my title of my post about bees. Nor can I resist sharing the music which follows that line and is probably one of the most well known pieces of classical music in the world.
Did you recognise it? I am sure you did . . it is the ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’. Written as an orchestral interlude it closes the first scene in Act 3, during which the Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon Saltanovich into a bumblebee so that he can fly away to visit his father incognito. The recording is by the US Army Band.
I wonder if the Swan-Bird meant to change him into a Carpenter Bee. Far more regal with its shiny abdomen and also a much larger bee. In fact the Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea) is one of the biggest bees in Europe. Over the past few days we have seen a couple of them and like the bumblebee they move fast in flight, fortunately though their tendency on the days we saw them to sit in the sun meant I didn’t have any problems photographing them.
The Carpenter Bee’s name derives from their nesting behaviour. They burrow into hard plant material such as dead wood or bamboo, and like most bees are a solitary bee. They hibernate over winter and so I am guessing that these two have only recently emerged from hibernation. It was warm when we saw them.
Most of the bees we have seen though, or I should say have heard as we have walked past rosemary, buttercups and oaks, have been Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera). Not surprising I guess given the amount of delicious honey on sale in the Algarve; mellifera means honey-bearing! The majority of these bees will probably be a subspecies called Apis mellifera iberiensis (Spanish Bee) which is native to the Iberian peninsular.
This subspecies unlike most honeybees continues working through the cold winter months. Not only does this mean an endless supply of honey, but it also means that extensive natural pollination is possible here year round. In fact bee pollination is far more important commercially and environmentally than honey production, and is the main reason there are so many commercial bee keepers world wide.
If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
I cannot say how accurate this assertion is, nor can I even confirm who said it. However it is certainly true that bees are one of the most effective and efficient pollinators on this planet, and without them, food production would become incredibly difficult. There is therefore worldwide concern about bee mortality and the impact pesticides, climate change, changes in land use and habitat loss are having on both wild bees and commercial colonies. Some governments are taking action, but if we are to save bees then we all need to help. To find out what you can do click here or here to visit bee sites.
Oh and the quote . . . . well usually it is attributed to Albert Einstein. However it is more likely it was in fact Maurice Maeterlinck as there is a very similar line in his 1901 book ‘The Life of the Bee’. Buzz buzz!