Diary of a Hills Backyard: The physics bending bee (Jan 2021)

I was taking a couple minute break away from work and the computer screen and wandered outside into a beautiful day. The sun was shining past puffy white clouds as they raced along the blue sky highway. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something zipping about one of the emu bushes. Immediately I knew it was a Blue-banded Bee. The day before, quite possibly the same bee was buzzing around the same bush. Its movement so fast it almost looked like it teleported between spaces. At the purple tube flowers, the bee stopped midair to inspect, its body so motionless that everything else seemed to orbit around it and that it had stopped in time. So still it seemed, at least momentarily, that you could lean in close and inspect every last detail of its intricate features. All except the wings of course, which beating unfathomably, were barely a blurry distortion of space.

I extended my break and sat down to watch the bee for a while, a bee that appeared to bend the laws of physics and had harnessed quantum mechanics for its own accord. After a little while I noticed a pattern in it behavior. When the sun shone through the clouds the bee was out assessing flowers, occasionally stopping in for a visit. When the clouds came over the bee seemingly disappeared. For one of these brief moments of cloud cover, I saw the bee settle on a kangaroo grass stem, mandibles firmly clamped to the stem, legs and body lifted touching only but itself. The sun returned and the bee vanished into the air.

I did a bit of reading and found that foraging activity in bees may be related to several factors including light levels and temperature. There was certainly a reduction in light when clouds passed and temperature dropped noticeably. So it seems as though the light and/or temperature levels where fluctuating above and below the threshold for foraging in this bee. This too may explain the recent phenomenon of finding Honey Bees on the ground. This summer has been comparatively mild and many days have been cool, though sunny. Maybe these Honey Bees are also getting caught out on their foraging expeditions by a brief cold snap grounding them temporarily.

Compared to previous years there is an apparent lowness to the numbers of Blue-banded Bees in the garden. This, I suspect, has a lot to do with the lack of tomato plants, which have been hubs in previous years. So next year I’ll endeavor to both bump up the veggie harvest and provide these intriguing and lightening fast bees with more flowers to forage at.

Blue-banded Bee settled onto an emu bush leaf waiting for the clouds to pass so it can forage.

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