Learning the ABCs of bees
2001-11-21 : 12:06:4 - MEG BARONE - http://www.connpost.com/
ANSONIA -- Only a pane of glass separated Claudette Morell from a humming hive of honeybees Saturday as she spoke at the Ansonia Nature Center about stinging insects.
The bees seemed to gather at the display's window to hear her speak, but they were actually busy tending to the hive, installed in a large faux tree at the nature center. Morell, a ranger at the center, told about 10 visitors about the complex social structure of beehives. Each has a queen and her consorts, or drones. Their functions mostly involve reproduction. It's the worker bees that tend to the unrelenting demands of maintaining and protecting the hive, and providing food. Their many tasks include fanning their wings to keep the hive cool, draining it of water after rainfall and gathering nectar, which they make into honey. As she spoke, Morell opened a hatch to reveal the hive's inner workings. Visitors watched the worker bees deposit honey into the honeycomb. Honey is invaluable as food in the winter, when nectar from flowers is unavailable, she said. When the flowers return in the spring, the honeybees return the favor by pollinating them. Using a large honeybee hand puppet, Morell enacted the gathering of nectar from a fistful of silk flowers. "Bees collect the nectar to eat and the pollen sticks to them like a hitchhiker and that's how they transfer it to other flowers," Morell said. "Bees even pollinate some things you wouldn't expect, [like] oak flowers in oak trees that create acorns." Later, she led a hike along the nature center's wooded paths. Each hiker got a collection jar with a magnifying glass top, allowing them to closely examine the bees, wasps and other insects they caught. Pete Rzasa of Seymour found a wasp that resembled a yellow jacket. But after consulting a field guide, Morell said it was probably a mud wasp or paper wasp.
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