Tag Archives: Wasps

Is He Stuck or Just Sleeping?

I found this tiny bee who looked to be stuck to a thorn on my Bois D’Arc tree this afternoon. At first glance, I thought perhaps a March fly, and a dead one at that, but it turned out this is a most likely a “he” Nomad bee, and he wasn’t stuck at all, but just sleeping.

Nomad Bee – Stuck or Just Sleeping (March 26, 2022)

I learned something new today about bees that I did not know. My friend, Eric Eaton’s wife (link to Eric’s book about wasps in my Read More section) , shared with me that some bees will often sleep in this manner, attached to a substrate like this thorn or a twig, by their mandibles. Thanks Heidi! 🙂

Nomad Bee – Stuck or Just Sleeping (March 26, 2022)

Nomad Bee – Stuck or Just Sleeping (March 26, 2022)
Nomad Bee (March 26, 2022)

My bee was definitely gripping the end of the thorn with its mandibles. Before I found out my bee was only napping, I wasn’t certain what was going on. I worried maybe the bee had fallen victim to some weird fungus and was now locked in a death vise. Worries unfounded! The little bee released his grip as I was about to clip the end of the twig (with bee attached) and take it into the house to view under the microscope.

Nomad bees are pretty cool. They are cuckoo bees, cleptoparasites of other bees (usually Andrena bees or Melitta bees) and target the nest provisions gathered by the host bees for their own young. Nomad bees will find the nests of host bees using olfactory and visual cues. The fertilized female will lay her eggs in these nests, where her offspring will develop after devouring the offspring of the host bee, and eating the food the host parent had provisioned.

Nomad Bee (March 26, 2022)

Check out the video footage of this little bee as he woke up this afternoon and read more about Nomad bees in the attached links in my Read More section.

Read More About Nomad Bees Here

  1. Bugguide.net – Nomada https://bugguide.net/node/view/5211
  2. Alexander, B. A. 1994. Species-groups and cladistic analysis of the cleptoparasitic bee genus Nomada (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 55: 175-238. (Full Text)
  3. Eaton, Eric. 2021. Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect. Princeton University Press. https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691211428/wasps
  4. Rankin, C. 2021. Introducing the Nomad Bees. Natural History Society of Northumbria. https://www.nhsn.org.uk/nomad-bees/

Thanks for reading!

Cynthia Brast is an independent entomologist living on San Juan Island. Check out her YouTube Channel, Bugging You From San Juan Island to see more amazing 6 and 8-legged creatures found in the San Juans. https://www.youtube.com/user/buggingyoufromsji/featured

Sparrow Bee

Doodles

I find doodling is a great way to reduce stress. Here are my morning doodles (and Japanese interpretation) of the most scary insect in the news in the United States.

They say laughter is another good way to reduce stress and I admit I chuckled a bit watching the sensationalized CBS video of the kevlar?-suited team taking on the “Murder Hornets.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/murder-hornets-85-killed-13-captured-alive-washington-state/

These hornets INVADING North America (hyperbole here), are native to Asia. It’s also very likely they’ve entered the US illegally in someone’s suitcase. At least that’s what I think! My sense of this came from reading the US Dept of Agriculture bulletin titled New Pest Response Guidelines linked here – https://cms.agr.wa.gov/WSDAKentico/Documents/PP/PestProgram/Vespa_mandarinia_NPRG_10Feb2020-(002).pdf Note page 16 of the guide where it reviews how Asian cultures place a high value on the wasps as a delicacy, especially how expensive the market price for the wasps are in Japan. Hmmm.

Yesterday I thought I’d do some research on how the Japanese live amongst these giant wasps, known to entomologists as Vespa mandarinia or the Asian Giant Hornet (AGH).

What I found out was pretty interesting!

First off, the Japanese name for the wasps is Suzumebachi. Say “Sue zoom eh ba chee” and you’re close. Suzumebachi translates into “sparrow-bee.”

In my quest to uncover the history of these insects in Japanese culture, I found they are actually revered. The Japanese bee hunters climb into the mountains to dig up the subterranean nests and collect the adults, larvae, and pupae. Check out this bloggers adventure as she hikes into the mountain to help her guide dig up a subterranean nest http://www.libertyruth.com/blog/vespa-mandarinia-finally-finally-i-can-write-about-the-venom?fbclid=IwAR30J9hbyB6xtRx5zqVZrodcfG6U2DFKdPPDlV9CGolOBc1HwR7CbAV5S5c

Japanese anime’ has a character based on the “bee sparrow,” and you can buy a variety of costume garments to dress just like her if you’re inclined. If you can believe it, many of the online stores selling these costumes are SOLD OUT! You can read about the anime’ character of Suzumebachi here https://naruto.fandom.com/wiki/Suzumebachi

The Japanese eat these highly prized wasps. I found one story online originally published in Munchies. It’s titled, I Got Buzzed on Japanese Hornet Cocktails and takes place in a bar in Japan. Guess what the bar is named? Suzumebachi! According to the blogger, the owner has gone all out and even has a giant hornet nest displayed behind the bar. Read more here – https://www.vice.com/amp/en/article/aeyp4k/i-got-buzzed-on-killer-japanese-hornet-cocktails

More about hornet sake here – https://youtu.be/r6k60yo_nZo

While some hornets are kept in captivity and bred because of their great value, in rural village communities, you can still find traditional Suzumebachi hunters and attend annual festivals themed around the collection of the hornets https://travel.gaijinpot.com/edible-wasp-festival/ and https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2019/02/08/the-japanese-tradition-of-raising-and-eating-wasps

It’s pretty incredible how prized these hornets are for their medicinal and culinary properties. Japanese athletes are even touting increased energy after drinking hornet juice https://youtu.be/sfdSPW-cwgM or using bee protein powder.

While I don’t discount the intimidation factor of these wasps, we may be missing something in our eradication efforts.

Eating insects is in our future. It could be a lucrative investment!

Thanks for reading.

Author’s note: I am in no way encouraging the importation of exotic species, or species deemed invasive, but only writing this to present an alternate perspective as a means of balancing the extraordinary sensationalization of the Asian Giant Hornet. They aren’t the Winged Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

Is our fear of murder hornets turning us into the real murderers?

A neighbor sent me this video footage late last night.  She asks, “Why are all the black and yellow bumble bees on the ground dying?”  This occurred locally at an island lavender farm where the bumble bees are LOVED and no one is applying any pesticides.  In the video you can certainly see the bees she refers to.  Why only those?  

The dying bees are the lovely Yellow-Faced bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii.  I personally appreciate these because not only are they avid tomato pollinators, but they have such adorably chubby and fuzzy bodies with a yellow face and a yellow band around their little black bottom. 

Bombus vosnesenskii, Yellow-faced Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are cavity nesters.  Many will select an empty mouse burrow in the ground to create their nest. The fertilized queen overwinters and begins her colony in late March or early April, foraging for herself and the eggs she laid that would soon hatch into larvae needing to be fed.  

Bumble bee nest on San Juan Island, WA 2010

In order to obtain nutrients necessary for survival, bumble bee foragers can travel long distances (up to 11 miles), especially here as our growing season ends in summer.  Right now, they are visiting the lavender in bloom.

These poor bees are most likely victims of pesticide.  The fact that all of them are the same species, at the same location, indicates to me that someone applied pesticide at their nest site, likely a property owner within foraging distance of the worker bees visiting the lavender farm.  The workers dispersed from the nest to try to do what they are programmed to do (forage for food), but simply succumbed to the toxic residues that some fearful homeowner applied.  

“I can’t have bees in my yard!”  “I’m allergic.”  “I have pets.”  “I hate insects.” “It could be murder hornets.”  

Do you want to have food? 

If you, as a homeowner, continue spraying your yard every time you see a bee and can’t learn to live with them, you are going to be the end of all of us.  Bumble bees are some of our most important agricultural pollinators.  More important than honey bees!  

The dying bees in this video are native bees.  “Native” means they are adapted to this environment.  They have the ability to survive here better than European honey bees (Apis mellifera) which are not native.  Honey bees were transported to North America by Europeans who brought sheep, cattle, swine, and other domesticated species to this continent.  

Back to the over-sensationalized “murder hornets.”  This term makes me angry!  😡 The media hype is much like the hype over the mantids that are going to eat our hummingbirds !  Just because it is printed in the paper doesn’t mean it is the whole truth or entirely accurate.  The primary reason the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is of concern is their ability to kill European honey bees (Apis mellifera), an agricultural commodity.  To read some of the news stories, you’d think we were dealing with Africanized Bees…remember those? 

It is possible Vespa mandarinia will not survive here.  They aren’t native.  They will be susceptible to parasites, and viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases (not unlike the same problems our non-native European honey bees face) potentially making it difficult for populations to establish themselves.   We could also, as many Asians do, learn to eat them. Yes, do read the publication about them in my references section!

Please put that can of pesticide away.  Don’t spray.  If you are truly afraid of bees, then educate yourself about how to live alongside them.  First off, don’t wear shades of blue or black colors when you’re near an area that has bees.  Bumble bees and honey bees are attracted to these colors.  Avoid wearing fragrances.  Wash your clothing in unscented detergent and avoid using those noxious, heavily scented dryer sheets.  Finally, if you do see an insect that you believe is the Asian Giant Hornet, take a photo or collect the specimen if it is already dead and contact WSU following these guidelines. 

In Washington State only, people should report potential sightings of the AGH through the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s website. Outside of Washington, contact your state apiary inspector. If it is safe to do so, take a photo or collect a dead specimen of the pest to help experts identify the insect.

In the meantime, please don’t fall victim to media hype and do your best not to murder innocent bumble bees!   

References and further reading: 

Bombus vosnesenskii. Bugguide.net https://bugguide.net/node/view/19538

John M. Mola, Neal M. Williams. (2019) A review of methods for the study of bumble bee movement. Apidologie 56. 

Jha, Shalene, and Claire Kremen. (2019) Resource diversity and landscape-level homogeneity drive native bee foraging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 110,2: 555-8. doi:10.1073/pnas.1208682110

Sujaya Rao, George Hoffman, Julie Kirby & Danielle Horne (2019) Remarkable long-distance returns to a forage patch by artificially displaced wild bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), Journal of Apicultural Research, 58:4, 522-530, DOI: 10.1080/00218839.2019.1584962

(Vespa mandarinia) Asian giant hornet. New Pest Response Guidelines. (2020) USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Plant Protection and Quarantine. https://cms.agr.wa.gov/WSDAKentico/Documents/PP/PestProgram/Vespa_mandarinia_NPRG_10Feb2020-(002).pdf