Blabbing about bees at the Royal Ontario Museum

2013 marks my 7th year of presenting at the ROM

2013 marks my 7th year of presenting at the ROM

The ROM’s poster this year wasn’t entirely accurate…I’m certainly not a PhD candidate, and don’t plan to be one for a long while! I do however, have a couple of great ideas for a project that would require several years of research.

This is probably one of the most exciting and rewarding jobs I will ever do. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, and am honoured that the ROM asks me back every year so far. This gig happens once a year for the ROM’s Pollinator Appreciation Weekend, where I don my Bee Lady hat and talk to museum visitors until I can hardly think straight. I bring all sorts of visual aids, such as empty brood chambers and honey supers, bags of pollen and propolis, chunks of beeswax, and all sorts of other hands-on stuff. The ROM’s Hands-On Biodiversity gallery has an observation hive that serves as a great visual aid. This “hive” is actually 4 frames of bees stacked vertically on top of one another and enclosed in plexiglass. The bees access the outdoors via a clear tube, and can be seen coming home with their pollen baskets (corbicula) packed with pollen from the beautiful maple and chestnut trees nearby.

using a "picture hive" to explain honey bees to a young fella

using a “picture hive” to explain honey bees to a young fella

My favourite activity is getting children to pretend they’re bees while I wear my beekeeping veil and chase them around with an unlit smoker. There are also some really cute questions that are asked by kids: “Are there any king bees?”, “why is the queen bee born with different colours on her back?”, “can I take a bee home with me?”.

the Bee Lady in her glory

the Bee Lady in her glory

I sincerely enjoy being an interpreter of citizen science. Much like the honey bee’s compound eye, the story of the honey bee is multifaceted, and I never run out of conversation material, even after talking for 7 hours straight, for two days in a row.

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Pondering Pollination

Click for high-rez amazingness!

Click for high-rez amazingness!

I’m not an advocate for just one kind of bee or animal. I speak loudly when it comes to protecting all species of pollinators, their habitat, and the flowers that bear the fruit and vegetables WE ALL need to live.

In short, anything that flowers will have a pollinator to appease. Why else would a plant invest so much energy into forming a flower and making nectar (which is costly for a plant) if it weren’t to attract a pollinator? The plant does this because it needs to have SEX, and considers a honey bee to be its little hairy cupid, seeing how it can’t get up and take another flower out on a date. The act of pollination is to pass along pollen (plant-sperm) from one flower’s stamen (penis) to another flower’s stigma (vagina). The pollen germinates down the flower’s style (uterus) where the ovaries are located. This act of actual fertilization results in an embryo, or a baby, which is the fruit or vegetable that contains the SEED for the next generation. full pollination description here

Drawn in by colours (even ultraviolet), odours, and the nectar reward, a bee lands on a flower to feed on the nectar, and the flower uses this opportunity to cover it in pollen. You see, plants are actually USING bees to do their sexy bidding, and have devised countless clever ways to draw in pollinators so that they can dust, coat, and even paste their plant-spunk all over them.

Trees do it. Coffee plants do it. Even educated orchids do it. The wild orchid of Israel has, over many eons, evolved the ability to LOOK and SMELL like a female long-horned bee. As a result, this orchid attracts male long-horned bees as its pollinator, and deceives these horny little devils into thinking they’re actually getting lucky. While the bee is distracted in his frantic attempt to get it on, the orchid deposits its pollinia on the bee’s body. The male tires and leaves, but soon tries to hump another “female”, and consequently pollinates the orchid.

Think about it. A PLANT evolved to LOOK and SMELL like a bee. Tricksy, ain’t it?!!

The video is rather fascinating:

Personal Triumph – Beeing on David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things”

Back in April 2009, the phone rang at Bee Lab: It was The Nature of Things requesting to come to the Bee Lab to gather information for their story, and to shoot footage. The staff apiculturist, Paul Kelly should have been the one on TV, but heck, he was away on a trip, leaving me to wo-man the ship. They came, they shot, they asked questions and they left. It was a fun day! The camera man and I even went out for a beer afterwards. I was so delighted to be a part of this project because the topic is so dear to my heart, and so very important for people to see and educate themselves about securing the future of our food and environment.

I don’t say anything, but I “act” like it’s going outta style, starting at 24:00 minutes.

To Bee or Not To Bee CBC’s The Nature of Things

About Me

swarm on the left, me the bee-nerd on the right

swarm on the left, me the bee-nerd on the right

How-day! My friends and family all me Nina, or J9. I recently obtained my Master’s degree in Environmental Science, and have been an active beekeeper since 2005. I was an apiculture research assistant at the University of Guelph’s Honey Bee Research Centre from the years of 2006 to 2010, and those years, without question, were some of the best in my life thus far. I was in my hay day learning, working, and teaching everything honey bees, doing presentations for beekeepers’ associations and kids’ groups alike.

Check out how “tall” the bee colonies are in the picture below. There’s 6-7 honey supers stacked on top! This photo was taken in 2009, and the people from left to right are: Miriam, Jessica, ME, Matt, and my bee sensei, Paul Kelly.

09 July crew