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Bees sleeping… (and dreaming?)

My name is Dino J. Martins, I am a Kenyan entomologist and I love insects. The Kiswahili word for insect is dudu and if you didn’t know already, insects rule the world! Thanks to the amazing efforts of the ‘little things that run the world’ I was humbled to be selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. This blog is a virtual dudu safari through the fascinating world of bugs. Enjoy, leave a comment and send any questions or comments to me through: insects.eanhs@gmail.com

I recently participated in an expedition through parts of northwestern Kenya to look at different kinds of bees.

The first thing that surprises many people about bees is that there are lots of different kinds of bees – in fact close to 20,000 species have been described! The honeybee, which is familiar to almost everyone, is just one kind of bee (a single species called Apis mellifera).

One of my favourite bees in East Africa are the Amegilla bees. They are beautiful, fast-flying, hard-working creatures that zip about and fly with a characteristic high-pitched buzz that is most evident when the approach flowers. Amegilla are solitary bees. This is another surprising fact about bees: most species are solitary, with females building and caring for a nest on their own. Honeybees are social and live in colonies, as do a few other bees, but for the most part, the bees are loners.

Female solitary bees have their nests to go to at night or when they are not out feeding from flowers. However, males don’t have anywhere to go. They end up having to sleep on stems of plants, grasses being a favorite perch… In some species, such as Amegilla, the males will often gather at particular sleeping areas in the evening. These are often near a stream or edge of a wetland in a sheltered spot – sort of like a male bees’ version of the pub I guess…

We found this aggregation of Amegilla males sleeping at the edge of a swamp near Bogoria recently… They are really charming creatures…

 

Male Amegilla bees lined up in their ‘dormitory’ for the night…

More from the world of bugs soon!

Comments

  1. Deborah Kline
    October 22, 2013, 6:55 pm

    How wonderful that you have been accepted as an “emerging explorer”. I am a new beekeeper and have told existing beekeepers that bees sleep. They don’t believe me. I was happy to read from you that bees sleep. I guess that many beekeepers are in the “working bee” syndrome.

  2. sospeter makuba
    Nairobi -kenya
    November 23, 2012, 1:12 am

    1. In relation to other organisms like snakes do their poison vary according to their species. 2. what are their characteristics of reproduction are they the same in all species?.

  3. Saida
    November 22, 2012, 12:48 pm

    It is really interesting. I agree that they are charming creatures.

  4. Elena Tartaglia
    United States
    November 19, 2012, 10:48 am

    Super awesome – both the photography and the info! Do they have their mandibles biting into the grass to secure themselves?

  5. sarah peebles
    Toronto, Canada
    November 16, 2012, 3:56 pm

    Those are some excellent bees! I and some collaborating artists in Toronto have created macro videos of different kinds of N. American solitary bees creating nests, with poetry, “Odes to Solitary Bees” at the blog, “Resonating Bodies” (http://resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/). More images of what solitary bees get up to inside their tunnel nests are also posted in the Audio Bee Booths section.

  6. sarah peebles
    Toronto, Canada
    November 16, 2012, 3:54 pm

    Those are some excellent bees! I and some collaborating artists in Toronto have created macro videos of different kinds of N. American solitary bees creating nests, with poetry, “Odes to Solitary Bees” at the blog, “Resonating Bodies” (resonatingbodies.wordpress.com). More images of what solitary bees get up to inside their tunnel nests are also posted in the Audio Bee Booths section.

  7. McCallum
    Canada
    November 16, 2012, 10:41 am

    Holistic Medicine (Homeopathy) collects bee venom (apis melifica) for its healing properties (i.e. swellings).
    Those male amegilla bees are scarey looking insects – look like military vehicles. Do they sting if you brush up accidentally against their reeds? The children will enjoy your post; thank you for your article and the Ima Ryma poem.

  8. Rohit Raj
    gumla, India
    November 16, 2012, 9:45 am

    Good Information…….

  9. Rohit Raj
    Ghaghra,gumla,jharkhand,India
    November 16, 2012, 9:42 am

    Really Nice Information about bee………..i liked it

  10. biffvernon
    United Kingdom
    November 15, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Love the poem, Ima Ryma. May I use it for the Louth Festival of the Bees? http://transitiontownlouth.org.uk/bees.html

  11. Ima Ryma
    November 15, 2012, 5:40 am

    I am an Amegilla bee,
    A cute Kenyan bug, born and bred,
    But detached from my family.
    My wife won’t let me in her bed.
    The Missus built her home sweet nest.
    At night with the young’uns, she’s there.
    But for me to get any rest,
    I am stuck with the guys elsewhere,
    Usually on some hangout stem
    To get shut eye – I’ve got a bunch.
    My family – I do miss them.
    They’re in my dreams, is my best hunch.

    Why? I once asked this of my wife.
    She said it’s just the way of life.