Friday, January 18, 2013

You da bombus

Actually, you not da Bombus, which is the bumble bee genus.  As near as I can tell, you da Apis - one of the honey bee genera, although I have no clue which one(s). 

I'm no expert on insects, but they're probably European, and I don't know how extensively our little Centerpointe friends have been Africanized (as this TM article notes, all wild North American honeybees have been Africanized by this point - the only question is degree).  But here for your viewing pleasure is seventeen seconds of backyard Hell-on-wings (if you turn up the volume on your computer, you'll find that it sounds as formidable as it looks):

It's cruciferous vegetable season, and I showed a pic in a recent post of some nascent broccoli.  I also grow cauliflower, including this 5.5-pound behemoth that I harvested a few days ago:
Don't be fooled by that demure presentation - there's a monster lurking under there (my foot for scale).  I grew this in one of my stock tanks

Incidentally, do you know why cauliflower produces such a remarkable collection of leaves?  It's because the leaves supply the energy to the plant.  They are the solar cells.  And if you're a plant intent on creating a 5.5 pound yield, you need to gather a lot of solar energy to get the job done.

That, and cruciferous vegetables are colder-weather plants.  They grow in our area when the sun angle is lower and the energy is correspondingly weaker. 
I see a curry just waiting to happen.  Although this home-grown organic tastes so good, it's wonderful simply baked to a light golden brown in garlic and olive oil. 
But anyway, I don't harvest all of my cruciferous yield.  I allow some of it to bolt, because the flowers are pretty and I figure the bees need something to forage.   It is the middle of winter, after all.  It's not like there's a single other flower out there for me to look at, or a single other thing out there for the bees to eat. 

But then what happens??  Well, those ten thousand visiting bees also realize that there's not a single other thing out there for them to eat.  And they get very, very unhappy about anything that they perceive might be a threat to their precious bolted cruciferous.  I have never been stung or attacked, but they will aggressively shoo me away from the feeding frenzy.  It's obvious from their hairy little body language that they will not tolerate any interference.

I don't know whether I should be worried or not.  Last summer, there were those stories about people getting attacked in central Texas.  There's this story of a case in Pflugerville, this one in Cleburne.  Africanized bees actually reached us about two decades ago...
GCDN frontpage from July 24, 1993. 
The resolution is too low for me to read it, and the archive URL wants six bucks for it, so that's out of the question. 
...but I don't know of any stories about local attacks.  Well, there is this one about a man in Freeport, just 60 miles from here.  I'm not sure what the common threads are in these attack stories, but they sure don't seem to like lawnmowers.  That much is obvious. 

I dunno.  I will say this: after a few successive years of gardening, what I'm finding about our Centerpointe bees is that their behavior is heavily influenced by the season.  Right now, they are ten thousand junkyard dogs on wings, ready and willing to pick a fight.  Come springtime when everything is in bloom and there is no more food pressure, they will be positively stupid with passivity, assuming they follow previous trends.  I have chopped down whole plants laden with bees in the springtime, and they simply do not care.  They just follow the plant all the way to the ground and keep happily foraging, with me stomping to and fro directly above them. 

Somewhere in our neighborhood, there's probably a hive with a great deal of honey.  But I'll leave that to its rightful owners, and I will continue to knock wood about never having been stung.

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