Monday, May 18, 2015

A Year of Beehive Adventures

Pacific Science Center’s observation beehive is great for seeing bees going about their daily activities. The queen is almost always visible. However, this wide, flat hive isn’t the typical design for a beehive in the wild. Bees would go for a much thicker and more compact construction that allows them to store more eggs and honey, as well as heat the space more efficiently. Therefore, our bees have had difficulty successfully surviving through the winter and into a new season. Our past year’s hive had such an eventful year that it seems worth taking a look back through their adventures.

Not long after our beekeeper, Corky Luster, installed the bees in May 2014, the hive was running low on honey, which was unusual with all the flowers in bloom. But then we realized that we were in a drought and those flowers weren’t producing very much nectar. So throughout the summer, we gave the bees sugar water to supplement their wild diet. Even that wasn’t enough. So in late July, Corky switched some of the empty hive frames, with heavy, honey filled frames from another of his hives. We also supplemented their diet with synthetic and wild pollen and the bees seemed to be doing well.

Then in October, the hive had another big challenge, intruders! A guest actually noticed something that wasn’t a bee in the hive. A couple of yellowjacket wasps had found their way into the hive and were attempting to eat the bees. To assist the bees, we covered most of the outdoor opening to the hive to make it easier to defend, and placed a couple of yellowjacket traps in the vicinity of the hive opening outside. Together, worker bees quickly destroyed the few yellowjackets that made it into the hive.

Something about the yellowjacket interaction or the narrowing of their hive opening must have confused these bees. The next day, when we looked through the Plexiglas, our hive population had dropped dramatically. Outside, there was a tight beard of bees over the opening. It took a day or so, but eventually the bees figured things out and returned to the safety of the hive. It looked like our hive was back on track.

With such a mild winter we were really in good spirits about the survival of our hive to another year; the population was stronger than it had ever been in years past. Maybe the narrowed opening from the yellowjacket incident helped them stay warm over the winter, too. But soon, we started noticing another problem: no babies.

Something was wrong with our queen. She was sticking her abdomen into cells to lay eggs, but clearly nothing was happening. There were no cells with larvae and no evidence of baby bees. We were noticing a buildup of bee feces inside the hive, indicating that the workers weren’t leaving the hive. Without any new young, our hive population started dropping.

Normally, if a queen is growing old, a hive will rear young on royal jelly to make new queens to take her place. But that isn’t possible without any eggs. Our hive was dying. So in late April of this year, Corky came in to remove the last of the bees. The workers would possibly join one of his hives and he had hopes for the queen to possibly lay eggs again after some care in a new hive. We would have to get new bees for PSC’s observation hive.

These new bees were recently installed. After such an eventful year with the previous hive, we’ve seen new challenges and new successes. We’ve learned new strategies to deal with their many adventures and we’re optimistic. This might be the year we get the hive to thrive all the way through!

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fresh Sheet – May 16, 2015

Looking for butterflies? Take a hint from this Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing) in the photo above. Look at their food sources. And don’t forget your camera. Our tropical butterflies are very photogenic!

Suministros Entomológicos Costerricenses, S.A.
Costa Rica

05 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
36 - Catonephele mexicana (Mexican Catone)
08 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
15 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas februa (Gray Calico)
05 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
04 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
15 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
09 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
30 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
31 – Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
15 - Heliconius hewitsoni (Hewitson’s Longwing)
14 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
27 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
20 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
10 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
31 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
08 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
49 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
31 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)

Total = 391

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Introducing New Tide Pool Animals

Please welcome our new tide pool animals, who have just completed quarantine. These animals were generously shared by Highline College’s MaST program.

Decorator Crab, Oregonia gracilis
This crab’s carapace is equipped with specialized hooked setae (bristles). It hooks bits of plant and shell onto these to camouflage its profile. Mature crabs decorate themselves less, but are often colonized by small organisms looking for a place to live. Decorator crabs eat carrion. We will feed it scallops.

California Sea Cucumber Parastichopus californicus
Sea cucumbers can eject their internal organs, or eviscerate, as a defense mechanism. They can then regenerate new sets of organs. They also eviscerate as an annual renewal during October and November. Gross fun fact: Recently this species has been discovered to take up nutrients via the respiratory tree in the anus especially in late winter/early spring when the animal was regenerating its gut. [Brothers et al. (2011)] Feeds on organic detritus and small organisms.

White Sea Cucumber, Eupentacta quinquesemita
Adults rarely expose their tentacles during daylight hours. Typically white sea cucumber have bits of shell and other materials attached here and there to the tube feet. During the evening, it will spread its tentacles to capture small food items and insert them into its mouth.

Leafy Horn Mouth, Ceratostoma foliatum
A large ornate, carnivorous snail eats mainly barnacles and bivalves. It drills through their shell with its radula, injects digestive enzymes and sucks out the dissolved tissue. We hope to keep ahead of this animal through collecting of barnacle rocks and small shellfish. This species can live up to 16 years, growing larger but also eroding its sharper edges as it matures.

Moon Snail Egg Cases, Euspira lewisii
We don’t introduce grown moon snails to the exhibit because they are voracious carnivores but we often find their egg cases on collecting trips. As reported in a previous blog post, moon snail sand collars make a cool discussion topic. They are a combination of sand, mucus, and eggs, which slowly disintegrate and release the eggs.

Hermit crabs, Pagurus hirsutiusculus and others
Hermit crabs have definite shell preferences, but these may be different in different places. The Bering hermit crabs we collect like shells too small to fully retract into. This is also true in the wild; we are not just offering undersized shells. Diet is mainly detritus.

Our tide pool contains hermit crabs that live in snail shells. We also have some of the snails themselves. Unlike the hermit crab, snails create their own shell and keep it throughout their lives. We allow handling of the hermit crabs but ask guests to leave the snails where they are. As on the beach, if something is attached, it is safest for the animal to leave it where it was found.

A good website to checkout more information about local tide pool invertebrates is “Invertebrates of the Salish Sea” - or come by and visit our display tide pool.

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fresh Sheet - May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 9th is Astronomy Day at Pacific Science Center. Of course, the butterflies and naked mole rats are joining in the celebratory activities and presentations. Why don’t you?

Neotropical Insects NV

06 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
30 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
30 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
40 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
30 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
17 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
15 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
42 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Bioproductores de El Salvador

08 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
25 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
08 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
10 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
25 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon [males] (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)

Total = 306

Grand Total = 576

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Read more!