Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stingless Bees of Costa Rica

Kathy and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica.  It was basically an eco-tour, arranged by a former classmate of mine who has retired from Iowa State University and has taken groups to Central America for more than a decade.  We saw beautiful scenery, many wonderful birds, reptiles and mammals, ate terrific food and made new friends.  It was a great time, and with the slow emergence of spring I'm wishing I were right back there!
One side trip we took was to a huge pineapple plantation.  It was very interesting learning how they are planted, harvested and selected for either fresh pineapple, juice, or what have you.  As we were enjoying our treats at the end of the tour, I noticed some small insects very busy, coming and going, at the base of a column that supported the open serving area.  I looked closer, and noticed many small insects flying in and out of a small tube going into a crack.

My guess was they were some type of bee.  Jim, my friend and our guide, who also keeps bees at his home near Ames, concurred that they were likely a type of bee.  When we got back to our resort, I went online and did a little research.  There are many species of the stingless bees in Costa Rica, Apidae Meliponinae, and a little research will show similar bees to these little golden ones shown above.  Many will create the tube entrance to their hive.  Though stingless, they will ward off intruders by massively flying at the intruder, getting into eyes, hair, ears, etc.
One site indicated that though small, and unable to produce the quantities of honey when compared with the European honey bee, the ease of working with them makes them very attractive in Costa Rican apiaries.  Partly this is also because of the strains of Africanized bees they would work with otherwise.
I found them very interesting, especially discovering that they are actually kept for their honey production.  A couple of interesting links follow:

Costa Rica Apiaries

10 Degrees Above


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Quick Check

Temperature was 36 degrees or so this afternoon, so I thought I'd take a quick check.  Bees appeared fine, pretty tight cluster at the top.  Still about 1 and a half patties left, so I didn't add anything and just closed them up again.  Later in the week, after another winter storm sludges through, it should get into the 40's.  I think I'll put the top feeder on and give some sugar water then.  I'm anxious for a 50 degree day to see if any brood are present and get an assessment of how large the colony is, since I'm wanting to do a split early as possible.  That may have to wait, though, with long term forecasts calling for colder than average temps the next several weeks.
Hopefully, we'll get some clear nights even though cold so we can get a good look at comet PanSTARRS, coming into view in the northern hemisphere mid-March.