Nature produces a species that can sting like a bee, but cannot be stung back because it has armour plates and is called a wolf. The honey bee or bumble bee is not meant to be able to fly anyway, but waggles a dance. While the wolf has difficulty adapting to change, it has been around for a long time featuring in folklore and mythology, including the well known Roman tradition that a wolf was responsible for the childhood survival of Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome.
Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-wolf by Peter Paul Rubens (Rome, Capitoline Museums)
The gray wolf survived the ice ages slowly adapting and thriving to be able to live in most habitats – temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, grasslands and even urban areas; however it has now been restricted to a much smaller range, because of the widespread destruction of its territory and human encroachment of its habitat or local extinction (extirpation).
Though once abundant over much of Eurasia and North America, the gray wolf has been pushed to the northern expanses and wildernesses – human cultures have a love hate relationship with the wolf, in some it is respected and revered, while in others they were feared and held in distaste.
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Bees are an enormous species, it is estimated that there are 20,000 varieties in nine families, but entomologists generally agree that these numbers are likely to be much larger, and they are found everywhere, except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contain insect pollinated flowering plants.
It is thought that approximately one third of our food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees. They collect nectar which they use as an energy source, while the pollen is primarily used for protein and other nutrients, as well as feeding the next generation – the larvae.
A solitary bee visiting Lantana
They too have evolved and are, like ants, a specialised form of wasp. It is thought that ancestrally the bees switched from insect prey to pollen gatherers, as their target was always covered in pollen when fed to the wasp larvae. The earliest insect flower pollination occurred by beetles well before bees came along; the novelty as far as entomologists is concerned is that bees are generally more efficient as pollinators than any other pollinating insect such as beetles, flies or butterflies.
This evolution has continued and there are now a great many different types of bee of the solitary or the communal types. The honey bee, bumblebee and stingless bee have advanced altruistic forms of community – they practice mass provisioning, complex nest architecture and perennial colonies, while other simpler community types have developed over the millennia.
Beekeeping or apiculture has been developed by humans to farm honey bees to obtain the honey, but recently managed populations of the honey bee may be one potential problem of the disease ‘colony collapse disorder’, however this management may provide a way to contain the condition and allow new colonies to be started up.
Other particular species are the Bumblebee, immortalised so often in children’s tales, the killer bee (Africanised Honey Bee) – these bees are generalists, while, for example, the Orchid Bee, the Hornfaced Bee and other types exhibit a narrow, specialised preference for pollen sources, typically to a single genus of flowering plants.
European Honey Bees Lebanon
The ability of bees to be able to fly has been vexing scientists and mathematicians for years and since 1934 when it was found that their flight could not be explained by fixed-wing calculation – as the calculations “don’t square with reality”, the chase has been on to solve this challenge. There appears to be a connection called the Dance of the Bees relative to their waggle – a navigational command as to the whereabouts of their food source – the flowers. At this point I bow out and leave you to look at the “Hive Mind Honey blog” for a greater understanding, or Wikipedia.
Now you’re asking, I hope, why on earth do we have story on wolves, on bees – well how about a BeeWolf which is actually a wasp, known as a bee hunter (hence its name). This predatory insect injects venom into the bee, which only paralyses it leaving it ready for use in a new brood chamber within the burrow, when an egg is laid. The bee may try to sting back, but another evolutionary feature is that the BeeWolf has an armour plated covering, which prevents a deadly attack from its prey.
The European beewolf, Philanthus triangulum
Nature is so clever – it may take eons for all of these evolutionary forces to take effect, and that constant evolvement continues on – the domestic dog only ‘broke away’ from its common ancestor the wolf approximately 15,000 years ago; will we understand if the waggle dance of the bee actually explains how it flies, and will the BeeWolf continue to hunt bees? Time will tell.
Dear Mr Postman thank you for taking this letter up to my mother, she enjoyed the story on the Banksian nut and Banksia rose and commented that of course those mammoth journeys by Cook were under sail! I explained the four major journeys Cook made, and gave her some background, as I have realised that the mix of subjects within each blog post can be muddling for her – she can still comprehend, and come up with appropriate comments – and takes an interest and is interested, as long as I speak clearly and slowly enough with some pauses for her to comment, if she wants to = for us both the most important thing: getting the interaction going. I have to say my subjects would bemuse most people ... we talked about the fire surviving banksias plants and Captain Cook’s cottage ... but not my mother.
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