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Keystone Species The Pollinators Honey Bees

Keystone Species The Pollinators Honey Bees

Friday  February 11 2011



BEE – LI EVE !!!

In zoology and nature, Bees are one of thousands of kinds of insects. All insects have six legs and a kind of skeleton on the outside of their bodies, like their relatives, the crab sand lobsters. Bees differ to other insects as they are the only insect that provides food for humans – Honey ! Ecologists call bees the ‘Keystone Species’ because they are pollinators. Consider an arch that has a keystone keeping the two halves together. Removing the ‘keystone’ means the entire arch collapses. This analogue applies to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Bees. According to the Journal of Apicultural Research total mortality loss in U.S. beekeepers in 2,009 – 2,010 compiled to 34.4%. And, Albert Einstein said: ” If honey bees become extinct human society will follow in four years.” Newspaper headlines read “Groundbreaking bee study by kids.” The British Royal Society is publishing a report by 8 and 10 year olds at Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. They investigated : THE WAY BUMBLEBEES SEE COLOURS AND PATTERNS. The children concluded: ” We like bees. SCIENCE IS COOL AND FUN because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.” The Scientist that recommended publication of the children’s report said: “Although the report lacked statistical analyses, they were cleverly and correctly designed, and hold their own compared to those conducted by highly trained specialists.” The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science study on “Visual Perception and Cognition in Honey-Bees” used radio frequency chip with ..5 ml weight on the bee’s thorax to monitor traffic entering and exiting the beehive. They captured and released these bees in various locations around the city, but the bees returned this 11 km trip. Bees use sky information: (1) polarization light, (2) celestial cues, and (3) visual cues (i.e., mountain). They may not fly back immediately when released, but when they see a familiar landmark that they remember it helps them back to the beehive. Bees have circadian timed episodic – like memory. The bee’s brain is small, and like humans, they have trichromatic colour vision, motion sensitive vision, and spatial vision. This study concluded that bees are capable of abstracting features of patterns, have visual illusions, and top-down processing. They are able to use symbolic rules for navigating and even form concepts, such as, sameness and differences. Interestingly, Bees have 5 eyes: two compound and 3 tiny ocelli eyes !

coated with pollen
diifferent flavours of honey

The above study is congruent to another study entitled “Pattern Vision of Honey Bees.” In this experiment it was discovered that Bees can experience visual illusions the same as humans. And, Bees have cortical-like processing using directional motion cues. One of their experiments used two circles with different random dots, and the bees found no differences. But, a structured pattern was designed with six dots, and another structured pattern with seven dots and the bees could differentiate between the two structured patterns. In mental processing, bees could be trained to distinguish pattern differences very quickly – for example, vertical and horizontal stripes. This study found visual objects or smells are retrieval cues. Colour was used as an indicator to instruct bees to choose scents: blue = lemon scent; and, yellow = mango scent. And, bees can reverse their preference for a visual pattern with the time of day or with the task. Bees have two pair of wings, and their wings have teeth so they can lock together when they fly. Symbolic dancing and visual odometer occur in Bees: 529 millisecond waggle = flight of 230 metres; 411 millisecond waggle = flight of 184 metres. Recruits respond differently to the dance. Asiatic Bees can communicate (language skills) with European Bees. Bees have a different dialect and a different distance dialect ( 400 metres, 500 metres, and 600 metres). Bees can form concepts and categorize visual stimuli which helps the Honeybee count up to the number 4 by use of sold dots and a circle (mathematics) , and , by use of prior knowledge.

Flowers and bees

Canada supplies 9% of its honey to the U.S.and in 2,008 that translated to 38 million lbs. You cannot go to court without a legal definition of honey. Canada has a legal definition of honey, and the U.S.A. does not. Also, in 2,008 a change occurred in Canada on how Honey is labelled. That is, products with honey (i.e., cheese, pepperoni) will now be on the label. In raw and pasteurized labels: pasteurized is for appearance, not flavour. The flower where the nectar wax is gathered from determines the flavour and colour of the honey. Honey has natural preservatives which does not allow bacteria to grow. What is interesting is Bees have two stomachs : (1) For eating where they chew with their tongues. Beeswax is formed in special glands on their stomach that secrete the wax pockets. The bee takes and chews it with her mandibles and shapes it to make honeycomb.; (2)The second stomach is a special stomach for storing nectar collected from flowers and water they suck up with their proboscis (straw-like tongues). A marketing issue is “Mysterious Honey” in the U.S. which is honey dumped by China through other countries – Vietnam, Malaysia – which drives prices down. In Canada, Mysterious homey doesn’t pass Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) testing. Many virus’s are affecting the bee. Research in Spain found dead bees in crops of Lavender Fields due to Nosema Ceranae (NC) spore virus that matures in 3 days. This is a parasite fungi in mid gut so nutrients cannot be absorbed and it triggers uncoiling of the spore which develops inside the bee and reproduce. This infection is easily spread, for example, in this study, Birds and Dragonflies that eat bees showed (NC) Infection in their cuticles. The Birds regurgitate the hard cuticle of bees but still contained lots of spores. Therefore, birds are spreading (NC). In this study, eighteen months later the beehives depopulated and collapsed. There are other virus agents that cause morality in bees: Israeli Paralysis Virus; An infection – Chronic Bee Paralysis (CBPV) , Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) , Nosema Apis Virus, Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV), Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and, Verereal infection (sperm) in mating. Vurus are transferred from adult to tot bee in the egg. Michael O Malley book entitled: The Wisdom Of Bees highlights businesses would be better organized if we copied the bees.

Backyard faming
Queen Bee Farming Honey

Source: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science

By Jacqueline

Doug Worrall Photographer


Sledding/Tobogganing Popular Winter Activity

Sledding/Tobogganing Popular Winter Activity

Thursday February 3 2011


Snow Sliding

Sledding/Tobogganing is a popular winter activity. At least 75% of Canadian children participate in at least one snow-sliding sport. In the evolution of Tobogganing Canadian Natives required a method to travel across snowy tundra to haul their supplies and families. The sub-Artic Native groups constructed toboggans out of two or more birch slats affixed to cross-bars for support. The boards were curved up and the front by bending them when they were still green and allowing them to dry. This allowed easy manoeuvres across the snow. With the arrival of Europeans, the novelty of tobogganing was discovered and they soon formed the Montreal Tobogganing Club in 1881. Recreational tobogganing was born ! Canadian Tobogganing fell out of favour in the late 1880s and many of the competition runs were abandoned. As a pastime, though, children and adults still enjoyed this favourite winter activity. In the 19th century tobogganing became a popular winter activity in Canada. The Montmorcery Ice Cone in Quebec became the prime location for recreational tobogganing in Canada.

The popularity of tobogganing is witnessed by everyone who passes a small hill covered with fresh pristine, glistening snow. Locally, Princess Point, trails in Cootes Paradise, the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, the Albion Hills Conservation Areas, and the hill at Stonechurch Road by the Waterstation are favourite spots to toboggan. Tobogganing, as a winter activity in Canada, has evolved form a recreational activity to competitive racing. Such as the Bobsled, a two axel or runners that are steered by a wheel or pull rope. A team of two to four racers move down the track for faster time. Competitive runs were re-established with the Bobsled and Luge tracks that were constructed in Calgary, Alberta for the 1985 Winter Olympics. With the 1st anniversary of the 2,010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. approaching, who could forget the effort put forth by Jessie Lumsden ? This young competitor was born in Edmonton, Alberta. But, he attended Trinity College in Port Hope, Ontario, and Nelson High School in Burlington, Ontario. At McMaster University he was awarded in football the Hec Creighton Trophy 2,004. His father was a coach in football. Jessie did a short stint for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and played for the Calgary Stampeders. In the 2,010 Winter Olympics Jessie Lumsden was a member of Pierre Leuder’s Bobsled two man team. He was the brakeman. They finished 5th in the Olympic competition in 2,010.

Ice skating

Skeleton is where the racer is in a prone position and races down the track head first and face down. Jonathan Riley “Jon” Montgomery of Russell, Manitoba is a Canadian Skeleton racer and he has competed since 2,006. Who could forget his red hair, enthusiasm, humour, or waving the Canadian flag and drinking beer along Vancouver’s street at the 2,010 Winter Olympics because he was overjoyed at winning the Gold Medal in Men’s Skeleton ? His Motto along with thousands of tobogganing enthusiasts is “Let’s Do It Again !” Only Jon Montgomery, does it faster every time with a Skeleton run, head first down the track, almost on the ice itself, as it is a Luge track.


Types of toboggan Sleds include: Inner Tubes and Snow Disks. Crazy Carpet, and out of control toboggan which makes it number one. This is not an ideal toboggan for parents doubling up with young children. The Inflatable Tube is a fun favourite and easy on the backside, it is fast and awesome over jumps. The MX Sled, seems to be rising in popularity in part to x games marketing. The MX Sled is part bike, park snowboard. The MX Sled delivers a stand-up experience that promotes new tricks and the evolution of Tobogganing. Snow Motto is similar to G.T. Snow Racer, a three-ski sled, of the 80s and 90s, this little sled stands up well to abuse. Good for jumps, speed and durability. Many reviewers though say that children over 11-12 will find it too small to use. And, finally, the Wood Toboggan used to be the favourite toboggan. Wood Toboggans used to be waxed underneath to give them extra speed. Today’s young people with lighter, faster toboggans find the wooden one like climbing a hill carting this heavy coffee table.

In Snow Sliding safety is an issue – check out the terrain before sliding down for rocks, creeks, and danger spots , like you would when diving into unknown waters when swimming. It is important to wear helmets, and warm clothing to prevent frostbite. As a life saving device the Toboggan is used by ski patrols to transport injured skiers down mountain slopes. In the Hamilton Region, most adults remember childhood adventures on toboggan hills, playing until frozen fingers and toes sent them heading to warmer areas for a revival hot chocolate. Then, you would hear “Let’s Do It Again !” The smiles, laughter, sounds of gleeful joy from the fun of snow sliding gives credence to the popularity of this Canadian winter sport whether recreational or as a competitive racer.

ice fishing
Waiting for a bite

By Jaqueline

Post script: I added the picture of the Hungry Waterfowl. When you can, please take bird seed, whole grain bread, leafy vegetation when you head-out.

Have a wonderful time in the snow


Doug Worrall Photography

Snowshoeing in Harmony With Nature Hamilton

Snowshoeing in Harmony With Nature Hamilton

Friday January 14 2011

Ice Skating in Cootes Paradise

Archaeologists have been unable to date the origin of either skis or snowshoes, but the best evidence suggests that the first device to serve as a foot-extender for easier travel over snow was originated in Central Asia about 4,000 B.C. Thus the snowshoe ski is one of the oldest inventions of man, ranking in importance with the wheel. The earliest snowshoes were nothing more than slabs of wood. This quickly evolved into the bent wood frame and rawhide lacing snowshoes commonly associated with historical snowshoeing. Indians tended to move into the forested temperate zone where snowshoes were an absolute necessity for getting around in wintertime. The Algonquin Indians of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence River Valley areas brought the snowshoe to the greatest peak of perfection. Starting with the Bear Paw Design, they introduced hundreds of variant patterns suited to all possible conditions. Canada is a snowshoe nation ! An Indian Village, Loretterville, a short distance north of Quebec City where descendants of the Huron Indians still make an excellent product for sale in Canada and U.S.A. Made in Canada are the Quebec GV Snowshoes with wood, aluminum, composite snowshoes and the ultralight carbon shoes. An Indian saying transmitted from generation to generation says : “The white man always attempted to avoid or skirt it (snow), whereas the Indian always looked the best way to walk on it and live in harmony with nature.”

Snowshoe racing

Snowshoe Designs changed from a essential tool to a toy. The snowshoe was essentially designed for survival, but changed in the American Industrial Revolution in the late 1880s, where it was seen as a toy, not a tool for survival. The first snowshoe clubs were founded in Canada and the northern U.S.A. The Recreational Sport of snowshoeing did not become mainstream until around the 1970s. The new evolution in snowshoe designs in the 1970s is where wooden frames were replaced with lighter aluminum ones and neoprene lacing replaced rawhide. the base of the shoe became neoprene, followed by polypropylene and then hypolon. Today’s shoes are the lightest and most durable.


What is a Hill ? What is a Mountain ? Our Hamilton Escarpment to coastal friends is considered a hill by comparison. Hamilton has Snowshoe Clubs and they usually meet at Princess Point, off Cootes Paradise for events. This classic winter sport is changine to a new fitness trend as an amazing workout. To embark on a snowshoe outing you should do stretching before going out. Exercises stretch the torso and upper extremities as well. A good pair of hikers or boots preferably waterproof/breathable and quality snowshoes with a supportive binding that help protect the feet and ankles are required. Hiking poles, Trekking poles, are handy as they help keeping balance on tricky terrain. They are also good for momentum going uphill and breaking a descent going downhill. Hiking staffs can reduce stress on the back and especially on the knees. For example, Komperdell anti-shock, collapsible aluminmum frame poles with a steel-tip and snow basket. During the other three months, the snow basket can be removed and rubber tips for hiking and back packing can be put on the hiking poles.

Ice fishing

When snowshoeing the steps include: Stepping-Up, Herringbone Step, Side Step, Scramble, Side Kick, Switch Back, Downhill, Gissade, and the tricky walking Backwards in snowshoes. On a bone chilling morning, or sunny afternoon gather your friends and strap on snowshoes thinking a jaunt in a snow-topped forest wil help shake the winter doldrums by embrace the long Canadian winter, and get a great workout to boot. Any park, field or wooded area with fresh snow is a great place for snowshoeing. The snowshoes suspends you atop a pristine blanket of snow as you wind across Hamilton Harbour, a meadow, or into a forest of pines and century-old maples. The instructor belets: Don’t walk like a robot, lift your knees ! Snowshoeing is exceptionally easy once you get the hang of it – lift, step, lift, step, lift, step – and you are marching confidently, happily crunching your way across the snow. “Snowshoe Thompson” by Nancy Smiler Levinson is a true story about Jan Torsteinson-Rue, who delivered mail for 20 winters in the Sierra Mountains on skis that were 10 feet long and weighed 25 pounds.

Scenery while outdoors

The fitness workout is an impressive exercise in snowshoeing that burns aout 500 calories per hour. That is twice as many calories as walking, and about the same number as swimming laps or using an elliptical machine. Snowshoeing is a fabulous workout for your legs. Snowshoeing is good for your health, and the snowshoes weigh about two pounds each, so walking in fresh snow or powder or on hilly terrain can really get your heart pumping. So, when the white stuff starts to freely descend from the sky, slap on your snowshoes and enjoy Hamilton Area that is blessed with an abundance of Conservation Areas, including Hamilton Harbourfront and Cootes Paradise Wetland and re-discover the hiking areas now covered with the glistening pristine white winter snow.

Source: Snowshoe Magazine, Feb. issue, Chatelaine

Snowshoe ,snowshoe racing Google images

By Jacqueline

Doug Worrall Photographer