WBKA Saturday 2nd Lecture

This lecture was by Professor Robert Pickard, one of the very best lecturers I’ve come across!  His subject was ‘Wonderful Things About Bees’ and looked at the evolution of honeybees and the impact they have made on so many other species.  He told us that bees are a lot less robotic than he thought when he first looked at them in 1964.  Many years ago he designed a circular slide rule for the beekeeper to time the bee year.  I think I’ve got one somewhere!

He started the lecture by going back in time, before even he was born!  About 14,000,000,000 years ago we (we didn’t actually exist then!) were in a black hole full of energy.  Energy can be neither created nor destroyed.  Big Bang! Quarks produced hydrogen and helium. Gravity pulled the gases together to form stars in which other elements were produced. All the element have been recycled many times.

He showed a photo of himself sat in Darwin’s armchair, going through his stuff in his office.  Darwin himself wasn’t in view. Maybe he had taken the photo! The Darwinian point he made was that species that adapt to change are the survivors.  Another photo he showed was of a cyclops drone with one massive eye fronting his head. There aren’t many of those around (yet?)!

AM Capensis (South African honeybee) promotes inbreeding.  AM Ligustica (Eyeties) have a sickle shaped dance.  The oldest bee found so far is in a fossil 25,000,000 years old so they’ve been around a lot longer than we have (even Pickard).

A colony of bees is a supra-organism.  Bees and larvae are very nutritious and may soon be available in health food shops (I made that up!).  Braula are useful symbiotically. The Death Head Hawk Moth mimics the call of piping/fighting virgin queens.

He finished by showing us diagrams of how sex is determined genetically but I don’t have the skills to show them here and can hardly read my notes anyway.




About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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