Milkweed Seed Needed

12 08 2013

If you are based in North America, you might be interested in the following campaign. Monarch Watch, a non-profit organization based at the University of Kansas, is looking for milkweed seed donations to further their goals to preserve local monarch butterfly populations. They encourage the start-up and maintenance of monarch waystations and provide kits to interested parties. Remember that milkweed is also a plant loved by bees :)

Click the following poster to find out how to collect and donate. (Of course, you can always plant your own milkweed on your own!)

milkweed for monarchs needed

Summertime Bombus hortorum in the UK

15 07 2013

Thank you to a regular contributor for the following lovely photos of an industrious Bombus hortorum.

Bombus hortorum - UK July 3rd 2013

Bombus hortorum - UK July 3rd 2013

Bombus hortorum - UK July 3rd 2013

Bombus hortorum - UK July 3rd 2013

Pittosporum and Honeybee in Nanjing, China

29 04 2013

Let’s celebrate. Bee season is off to a running start in central China, and I caught a few photos today. I’ve identified one of the flowering bushes so far (this is a Pittosporum), so I’ll start by posting two photos of the plant, one with a honeybee deeply engrossed.

Pittosporum and Honeybee - Nanjing China - April 28 2013

Pittosporum - Nanjing China - April 28 2013

Carpenter Bees in Alabama

1 04 2013

Tcarpenter bee drawinghanks to a fellow blogger, I have some beautiful, new photos of carpenter bees from Montgomery, Alabama. Carpenter bees and bumbles are often mistaken for one another. The major difference between the two is that the former have a relatively hairless abdomen, while the latter is fuzzy all over.

Chinese Magnolias

18 03 2013

[Also posted on The Good Villager.]

It’s spring. Flowers are popping up everywhere. I just posted on the all-important Chinese plum blossom season with some lovely shots provided by one of my students. Now, the magnolia trees outside my housing complex have blossomed, and I was able to get out there myself today and photograph.

After doing a little research, there are what I believe to be two different species of native magnolia trees here. One (see the white blooms) is the Magnolia denudata (玉蘭 – yù lán – literally ‘jade orchid’), also called the Yulan magnolia – a symbol of purity. The other (purple blossoms) is the Magnolia liliiflora species (木兰 – mù lán – literally ‘tree orchid’), also called the Mulan magnolia.

Enjoy these beauties below.

Acacia Honey in China

21 01 2013

Chinese Acacia Honey - yang huai feng miFrom time to time, I buy a jar of Chinese honey. It makes sense. After all, I live in China. Why not buy local? Of course, Chinese products are often suspect in some way – many Chinese folks I’ve spoken to are suspicious of honey coming from their own country, and as I’ve written about before, they have a reason to be. But I’ve also written that it’s impossible for us to avoid toxins completely given what we, as humans, have done to our world. So Chinese honey and whatever chemicals it contains makes their way into my kitchen.

Robinia pseudoacacia 004This time round, I secured a jar of acacia honey.  One of the more common monofloral honeys, this honey comes from the false acacia tree  (洋槐 yáng​ huái – black locust tree or Robinia pseudoacacia). The tree grows in warmer climates in Europe and North America, but it also grows in China. The honey is usually rather light in colour, but can have an amber hue (particularly if it has been pasteurized) like in the jar you see here.

Acacia honey has a higher fructose content than most honeys. As a result, it tastes sweeter – you will likely need less to sweeten your tea – and it probably won’t crystallize like most honeys will over time.

See other posts on my Chinese honey adventures:

Enjoying Lavender in Norfolk

15 01 2013

Taken out in the beautiful lavender fields of Norfolk, East Anglia, UK, this is a guest contribution by the folks at the up-and-coming Bee Plan. Their site is in the works, but their mission is clear – they are a non-profit supporting a programme of bee-friendly planting in east London. Looking forward to seeing them (and the bees) in action in the near future :)

Bee - Norfolk Lavender

Why Do Bees Just ‘Hang Out’?

9 10 2012

Bees are supposed to be busy. Always on the move. Foraging, scouting, collecting, helping the hive thrive. But sometimes, you see a bee just sort of hanging out. Not moving. Not doing much of anything.

There may be a few reasons for this. First, it might be too cold. Bees’ flight muscles need to be held at specific temperatures in order to work properly. When it gets too cold (especially when it is too cold for the insect to shiver and thus raise muscle temperatures), they are grounded.

Another reason might be that the bee is old and tired. This might especially be the case if you notice ragged wings on the bee and it is later in the season.

It could also be possible that the bee (especially males) has forgotten to fuel up by drinking nectar during all of its flying around. No fuel means no energy.

I had a photo submission from 100twenty out in Southern Quebec. A quiet bumble was found hanging off the wild aster in Gatineau Park. One thing about grounded bees – they make for excellent photo opportunities ;)

Frangipani, Anyone?

23 09 2012

Ji dan hua - egg yolk flower - frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan, ChinaOne of my favourite flowering trees found in the tropics is Plumeria, commonly known as frangipani. They grow in abundance here in tropical China, where they are known as ‘ji dan hua’ (鸡蛋花) or ‘egg yolk flowers’. I find when I pass by them, I inevitably pick up a flower than has fallen and carry it with me on my journey, occasionally smelling it absentmindedly. Not only it is a simple and beautiful flower, but its perfume is intoxicating.

sphinx moth - by the Garden Helper - http://www.thegardenhelper.comIt is actually more fragrant at night. Sphinx moths are the pollinators, and these night creatures follow the deceptive scent in search of nectar. Nectar they don’t find, but they do end up pollinating. Sneaky tree.

Check out some photos of the tree and a few varieties of flower growing around my building at on site at my place of work.



Pink Frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan China - September 2012

Pink Frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan China - September 2012

Branches of an egg yolk flower tree - Frangipani - Plumeria - ji dan hua shu - Haikou, Hainan, China

Motherwort Honey

18 09 2012

One of the delightful things about being back in China is the availability of honey from crops that are uncommon or non-existent in Canada. I have written in the past about the notoriety of Chinese honey, and I stand by that. Many Chinese products are suspect and/or cheaply made, reality being lack of regulation, standards and labour laws, all in the name of capitalism.

Leonurus cardiaca - motherwort - yi mu caoBut, of course all bodies living in the modern world are filled with carcinogens and other poisons from numerous sources, including food. If I spent all my time worrying about what I put in my mouth, I’d eat nothing at all. Besides, research to date does not yet demonstrate that organic food, for example, is better for us (see this recent study done by Stanford University on the health benefits of organic food). I do support organic farming and beekeeping – it is good for the environment and the ecosystem – but I also eat notorious Chinese honey.

Motherwort honey from China - Leonorus - yi mu caoToday, as I am currently plagued by a recurring throat infection, I went honey shopping in my local grocery store. And I found some motherwort honey. Motherwort or Leonorus (most common varieties: L. cardiaca, L. sibiricus and L. heterophyllus), known in Chinese as 益母草 (yi mu cao), is an herb with healing properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, motherwort is used to energize the liver and the blood, and for menstrual issues. I found an interesting link to a Western blogger who has used it to calm emotionality.

Motherwort honey is light amber to amber in colour (see my colour standards guide at the bottom of this page). It is fragrant, and it is tangy, and almost spicy. After tasting it, I read others’ reports that it tasted of mint. I’m not sure that is what I tasted, but I could understand the interpretation.

In additions to the purported healing effects of motherwort listed above, the honey is recommended as a tranquilizer, sedative, and can soothe hoarseness and sore throats.

Wish me luck!

Hymenocallis littoralis – The White Spider Lily

9 09 2012

Not a bee-pollinated flower, but gorgeous nevertheless. The White Spider Lily is native to where I’m living, and I wanted to showcase them.

Hymenocallis littoralis  - The White Spider Lily - Haikou, Hainan, China September 2012

Hymenocallis littoralis  - The White Spider Lily - Haikou, Hainan, China September 2012

Hymenocallis littoralis  - The White Spider Lily - Haikou, Hainan, China September 2012

Hymenocallis littoralis  - The White Spider Lily - Haikou, Hainan, China September 2012

Tibouchina urvilleana

30 08 2012

A small, but stunning, flower growing on the grounds of my new apartment building in Haikou, Hainan in tropical Southern China. I crouched down in the flower beds to take my photos only to discover that some of the Chinese living in the complex started photographing me photographing flowers. Strange, but true…

Tibouchina urvilleana in Haikou, Hainan China - August 29 2012

Tibouchina urvilleana in Haikou, Hainan China - August 29 2012

Tibouchina urvilleana in Haikou, Hainan China - August 29 2012

Rosemary’s Bumble

15 08 2012

While visiting the Davie Village Community Garden in downtown Vancouver, BC, I caught up on some bumblebee action in the rosemary patch. I haven’t identified the bee as she was moving too quickly for my terrible little camera to capture adequately. Fuzzy critter, fuzzy photo. Appropriate?

Purple Rosemary Flower - Davie Village Community Gardens - Vancouver BC - August 2012

Bumblebee on a Purple Rosemary Flower - Davie Village Community Gardens - Vancouver BC - August 2012

Covered in Pollen: Buzzing in the Hibiscus syriacus

12 08 2012

After a dry spell in bee land – the result of seeing bees without a camera in hand, or having a camera, but uncooperative bees – I hit the jackpot yesterday on a busy Saturday in downtown Vancouver, Canada.

Downtown? Yes! In fact, I often have excellent luck with bees in heavily urbanized areas (for example, spectacular luck in Los Angeles: see Full Pollen Sacs on a Los Angeles Bee; and downtown Ottawa, Canada: see Bombus impatiens in Downtown Ottawa). So, why not Yaletown in the downtown Vancouver core???

Hibiscus Syriacus by Eric KounceI will be posting a few series of bee photos, starting with this one, that mark a brief visit to Vancouver. I am heading back to southern China in a week’s time. Leaving the Western honeybee behind and returning (for the third time) to the Eastern honeybee. I do have posts and photos about bees and flowers in China – take a look at Flower Photos and Photos of Insects to see the growing, permanent collection on this site.

Anyhow, in this post, I’m looking at visitors to the lovely Hibiscus syriacus or the Rose of Sharon. A gorgeous white flower with a dramatic spray of crimson radiating from its centre. These flowers are literally dripping (if pollen can drip…) pollen, and  every one of the many species of bee visiting these flowers ended up absolutely covered within seconds of landing.

I have several photos below. Clicking these already large photos will give you an even larger one – please feel free to download and use (giving a credit to Bees Alive! – except for the full flower photo – would be excellent ;) ). Note, the first photo has both a honeybee and a Bombus vosnesenskii visiting the same flower.

Bombus vosnesenskii and Western honeybee visiting an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - August 2012

Bombus vosnesenskii visiting an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - August 2012

A western honeybee lightly covered in pollen from an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

A western honeybee in profile lightly covered in pollen from an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

An unidentified hairy yellow bumblebee on an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

Bumblebee completely covered in pollen on an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

Tomato Plants Love Bumble Bees

1 08 2012

And there is evidence of that statement below, thanks to another 100twenty contribution from eastern central Canada! (click for high-rez, as per usual).

July 2012 - Bumble bees love tomato plants - Southern Quebec

July 2012 - Bumble bees love tomato plants - Southern Quebec

Bumble Hovering over Birdsfoot Trefoil

29 07 2012

Photographically capturing a bumble in flight, especially when you’re not hunkered down waiting for one, is a major accomplishment. Thanks to this guest photo contributor for being in the right place at the right time and for having a quick trigger finger ;)

Bumble hovering over the Birdsfoot trefoil in Ottawa, Ontario

Blackberries Are Coming – Thank You Honeybees!

27 07 2012

Nearly three years ago, I published a short rant – a blackberry season rant, no less – on the first incarnation of The Good Villager, my responsible living and travel blog (then known as Something to Chew On). The Good Villager was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and having travelled through Canada, the US and China, we are now back in Nanaimo, BC to celebrate our third birthday. I think it’s worth talking about blackberries again, and as this post does and will live on Bees Alive! for all eternity, let’s throw (or gently place) a few bees into the mix.

Come mid- to late August, Nanaimo is absolutely covered in blackberries. You can almost walk anywhere and have breakfast or a snack along the way. I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. But seriously, we couldn’t walk and snack without the bees. Honey bees are currently busy making that special period of time a reality.

I managed to get a few photos of our friends at work among the blackberry blossoms on Protection Island, a little island off the east coast of Vancouver Island at Nanaimo.

Honeybee pollinating blackberry blossom on Protection Island in Canada

Honey bee pollinating blackberry blossom on Protection Island in Canada

Bombus impatiens in the Onion Flowers

23 07 2012

Submitted by 100twenty from Southern Quebec. A Bombus impatiens hanging out in the onion flowers.

Bombus impatiens - July 2012 - southern Quebec

Bombus impatiens - July 2012 - Southern Quebec

Tiny, Aggressive, Bumble-like Bee

28 06 2012

One of my greatest frustrations is that there are no truly excellent sites that allow for easy bee (and bee look-alike) identification. There are a few very good bee sites, but like with plant and flower online resources, it is on the identification side of things that sites fall short.

My site is no exception. If I were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, I would devote myself to the development of a truly excellent identification guide, but alas, it may become a retirement project years and years in the future ;)

Until then, I will continue to post the photos I take with my best guesses and pleas for greater knowledge to come my way through my visitors!

I found the following bee in southern Quebec in a woodsy home garden. Rather than frolicking amongst the flowers, it spent its time crawling along the ground and dive-bombing the bumblebees and honeybees that were busy visiting chive flowers. It was quite tiny, but furry, like a bumblebee. Black and yellow stripes.

June 6 - Unidentified Tiny Aggressive Bee in Southern Quebec

June 6 - Unidentified tiny fuzzy aggressive bumble-like bee - Southern Quebec

June 6 2012 - Unidentified tiny fuzzy aggressive bumble-like bee in Southern Quebec

Chives: Good for Humans, Bumbles, Honeybees & Swallowtails

24 06 2012

If you have some space in your garden and want to plant something that will benefit everyone (or at least many), then pick chives. They are quite pretty when they flower, humans can eat both the stem and the flowers, and the flowers will attract several different kinds of bee as well as butterflies. I’ve done two different posts on chives already – one on human use (on my other blog: The Good Villager), and one guest photo contribution of a bumblebee visitation in southern Ontario. See the links below for these posts and after that, some further photos from where I currently am in southern Quebec.

Honeybee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012

Honey Bee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012

Bumblebee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec -June 2012

Swallowtail Butterfly on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012


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