Bees

As you read this, imagine a bee. Where is it? What is it doing? Is it big or small? Are you scared? Annoyed? What do you do about it?

When most people imagine a bee, myself included, they imagine a honeybee or bumblebee. These two types of bees have become the face of them all – even though they are only 2 of around 20,000 species in the world.

If you don’t know a lot about these tiny creatures, I want to introduce them to you in a new light.

The Common Honeybee
This beautiful bee is known for making honey, but it is also an incredibly valuable source of pollination for crops all over the world. Honeybees are raised almost like livestock – to produce honey, beeswax, and pollinate our growing food. These bees are well known for their stinging capabilities, but I want to share some lovable facts about them, too:

  1. All honeybees that gather pollen and make honey (and have stingers) are female.
  2. Honeybees dance to communicate with each other.
  3. When honeybees fly, they frequently bump into things and fly in weird patterns because they aren’t that great at steering.
  4. A common honeybee will almost never sting unless she feels the hive in threatened, she is stuck or trapped (in your hair, for instance), or you jerk around or swat at her.
  5. Honeybees frequently get wet and sometimes drown when trying to gather water, but if you rescue a wet honeybee she will sit on your hand until she’s dry and ready to fly away!

If these facts didn’t sell you on how adorable these little flying fuzzballs are, I don’t know what will.

 

The Common Bumblebee
These flying fuzzballs are bigger than the previous flying fuzzballs, and while they are still key pollinators, they do not make honey. (Ok, you probably knew all of that already…) But do you know why bumble bees bumble?

Their tiny wings beat around 130 times per second. Per SECOND. This, along with their large bodies, causes flowers to vibrate and release pollen. This whole process is called buzz pollination, and it’s wildly effective. Bumblebees are less known for stinging and more known for size, but here are some more tidbits of information you’ll want to know:

  1. Bumblebees fly by beating their wings forwards and backwards, not up and down.
  2. Colonies of bumblebees usually contain 50 to 500 individuals, and they are ruled by a queen.
  3. Right before winter, all the bees will die except for the queen, who hibernates until she can start a new colony in the spring.
  4. Bumblebees do not die when they sting, unlike honeybees.
  5. Some bumblebees have been shown to have a favorite color of flower.

I’m willing to bet that you didn’t know at least one of those facts… unless you’re a bee expert, in which case, teach me all you know!

Most of us have known about these two species since we could talk, but there are so many more. Native bees are widely unknown by the average Joe, but they take on such important roles in the environment. If you’re interested in bees, pollinators, farming, or ecology I highly recommend you look into native species in your area.

Don’t worry, I’ll make a blog post for them someday, too.

 

Peace and Love,

Juliana

Jellyfish

Ah, jellyfish. Fish made of jelly that aren’t really “fish” at all.

I think most people can appreciate the unique beauty of jellyfish on TV or from behind glass, but not many people seek to find themselves inside a bloom any time soon. I can say from personal experience that a bloom of jellyfish can be an incredible, yet painful, situation to find yourself in.

But some people (cough-my roommate-cough) may think they aren’t important and wonder why this seemingly useless species still exists. That’s alright! Hopefully this article will give you some new and valuable insight.

So here’s a few ways these jelly creatures contribute to their marine society:

  1. They are incredibly important food. It was previously thought that when jellyfish died, they sank to form “jelly-lakes” and slowly degrade, but scientists have since found evidence to show otherwise! Researchers at the University of Hawai’i have found that when jellyfish die and fall to the ocean floor, (referred to as a “jellyfish fall” or “jelly-fall”) they are almost immediately consumed by many different species of ocean floor scavengers. Gelatinous material is extremely important to deep sea food webs, thanks jellyfish!
  2. They provide homes for baby fish! Similarly to how sea anemones hide clownfish, the tentacles of jellyfish protect young fish of poison-immune species until they are large enough to fend for themselves. So essentially jellyfish are kind of like the sweet old nurturing nannies of the ocean.
  3. They provide underwater fertilizer. Jellyfish don’t have a separate hole to “do their business” like most animals do – one hole takes food in, and the same hole expels waste out. It might seem nasty, but it’s actually a pretty smart use of limited resources. That waste becomes fertilizer for ocean plants, which boosts the ecosystem by providing countless animals with food.
  4. They can help slow down climate change! Through carbon sequestration – or trapping carbon-based greenhouse gases – jellyfish can protect the ozone layer of our atmosphere and slow the process of the greenhouse effect. And it isn’t only jellyfish that contribute to carbon sequestration, most marine life (especially marine plants) have a powerful role in the makeup of the atmosphere. Kind of weird to think about, huh? As a species, their health affects our health… I think that is a huge reason to be thankful for jellyfish this thanksgiving!

The ocean can be a scary and mysterious place to most people. It’s deep, dark, and full of strange creatures – many of them have never been seen. You don’t have to explore the deep sea to be an advocate for all the mysterious animals it contains… but you can if you want to! It’s up to you. The ocean lies in your hands, just don’t pull a Marlin/Dory move and swim into a bloom while you’re down there!

 

Peace and love,

Juliana

 

 

Sources:

Act for Libraries

University of Hawai’i

Live Science

Scientific Literature (great for doing research/writing papers!)

 

What is the Importance Series?

That’s a very good question.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine said to me “jellyfish aren’t even important, all they do is sting and float around” …or something along those lines. The point is, I was shocked to hear this, and I proceeded to write a short (somewhat comical) essay on why jellyfish are, in fact, extremely important to the wellbeing of the earth. My dear friend now loves jellyfish and would never again dare say that a living creature doesn’t matter (around me, at least)!

So, this series is inspired by that fun college memory. And naturally, I decided that jellyfish should be the very first species in this saga. Unfortunately I do not still have that original short essay, but I’ve done my best to rewrite it as authentically as I did when I was 18.

Peace and love, 

Juliana

Oh, and here’s a fun poll!