Q&A with Leif Richardson, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America

auricomus PHW

We’ve recently published a comprehensive identification guide to bumble bees of North America. One of the authors of that guide sat down with Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden to talk about misunderstandings when it comes to bumbles–how are they related to other social bees? do they make honey? what does aposematic mean?, and more. Enjoy this preview and then read the complete interview here.

At the end of the interview, there is an opportunity to enter and win a copy of the book, too. So make sure you scroll to the bottom.

 

Q. First, can we briefly place bees, and bumblebees, in the order of things?

A. Bees are in the insect order called Hymenoptera, which also includes ants, wasps, sawflies and a few miscellaneous taxa. The closest relatives of bees are wasps, and they diverged from them many millions of years ago.

Q. Yes, I read in the book that bees evolved from wasps 100 million years ago—though frankly, I can’t tell the two apart. Are there things I can be looking for?

A. What many people consider a bee is the furry thing that looks like a honeybee, but most people don’t know that there are many species of bees that closely resemble wasps.

In general, bees are more hairy than wasps, and the hairs are branched—all bees have branched hairs at least somewhere on their body. They can sometimes look very feathery under the microscope, just like a bird feather….The feathery hairs insulate, and also aid in the collection of pollen—or so is the theory.

In most bees, the females collect pollen to feed to their offspring, so they have a pollen-carrying structure. We call that a scopa—which is usually a morphological characteristic of the exoskeleton combined with hairs. If you think of what a honeybee’s leg looks like, you have that big, wide area on the hind leg—this is the scopa of a honeybee. It’s a concave area and then it has long hairs that arch over it, so the bee can pack pollen in there.

In other bees, the scopa may be on the underside of the abdomen or on the thorax, and some bees even carry pollen internally.

You won’t always be able to tell bees and wasps apart, but look for the pollen-carrying structures, and generally more hair on bees than on wasps.

Q. How many kinds of bees in North America? And how many are bumblebees by comparison?

A. There are only 46 species of bumblebees, which are in the genus Bombus, on the continent–but nearly 4,000 species of bees total, including the bumblebees, in the United States.

Most of the bees are not what you know as a bee—most of them are solitary in their lifestyle, and not social [like the familiar honeybees]. So the males and females mate, and then the females go off and lay their eggs in a nest, and provision it with pollen and nectar and seal it up and they’re done.

That’s as opposed to rearing their offspring, and then successive generations of a worker caste coming and later reproductive individuals, too, all in the same colony in the same year—that would be a social bee.

Continue reading this Q&A at A Way to Garden: http://awaytogarden.com/bumblebee-101-leif-richardson-win-new-field-guide/

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 4

This week’s episode sees Sharon heading down to Rio Grande Valley to see a rare Amazon Kingfisher (“…an ABA Code 5 Rarity!!”). Along the way Clay and Sharon meet up with Greg Miller of The Big Year fame, spy on a Green Heron chick grabbing a snack and provide some instruction on how to deal with lighting while digiscoping.

Hopefully the theme of the series is becoming clearer. Remember if you figure it out, you can submit an entry to win a Swarovski STS Spotting Scope. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping). For more details about this contest, please visit the BirdChick’s web site.

ps — you may be interested to learn that the rabbits in this episode are stars in their own right. Sharon used to write Disapproving Rabbits blog which is worth checking out, even if it’s no longer active: http://www.disapprovingrabbits.com/

Katrina van Grouw & Unfeathered Friends featured on BBC Springwatch Unsprung

Sorry for the poor quality of this video, but it’s worth watching!

For more of Katrina’s Unfeathered Birds, please visit our slideshow of images from her book:

Capture

And if you wish to see Katrina’s art in person, you might like to attend this exhibition of her drawings at Buckinghamshire County Museum through September 27, 2014.

bookjacket

The Unfeathered Bird
Katrina van Grouw

Third Place for the 2013 BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year, British Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology
Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Biological Sciences, Association of American Publishers

Hardcover | 2013 | $49.95 / £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691151342

New Birds & Natural History Catalog!

Be among the first to browse and download our new birds and natural history catalog!

Of particular interest is The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Warblers are among the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

Also be sure to note Rare Birds of North America by Steve N. G. Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell. This is the first comprehensive illustrated guide to the vagrant birds that occur throughout the United States and Canada. Featuring 275 stunning color plates, this book covers 262 species originating from three very different regions—the Old World, the New World tropics, and the world’s oceans.

And don’t miss out on our forthcoming BirdGenie™ app. BirdGenie is a remarkable app that enables anyone with a supported Apple® or Android® smartphone or tablet to identify birds in the backyard, at the local park, or on the nature trail—all with the tap of a button! It’s like Shazam® for nature—just hold up your phone, record the bird singing, and BirdGenie tells you what bird it is!

More of our leading titles in birds and natural history can be found in the catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. (Your e-mail address will remain confidential!)

Quick Questions for Peter and Rosemary Grant

Grant and Grant_ In Search ofPeter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant are both emeritus professors in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. They are the co-authors of How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches and co-editors of In Search of the Causes of Evolution: From Field Observations to Mechanisms (both Princeton).

B. Rosemary Grant received her B.Sc. (with Honors) from Edinburgh University in Scotland, and completed her Ph.D. at Uppsala University, in Sweden. Peter Grant received his B.A. (with Honors) from Cambridge University, England, completed his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and completed his Post-doctoral Fellowship at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Their combined research efforts continue to offer “unparalleled insights into ecological and evolutionary changes in natural environments,” and in 2013, the couple was awarded the Margaret Morse Nice Prize by the Wilson Ornithological Society.

Now, on to the questions!

PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?
Peter and Rosemary Grant: Early experience followed by stimulating teachers. Before the age of five, we had each enjoyed the English countryside: the lake district of the north in Rosemary’s case and south of London in mine. Some of our earliest memories are similar, such as the thrill of finding a fossil, catching a butterfly, and smelling a flower. Much later as undergraduates we had inspiring teachers, and many of them. Foremost among them were the Edinburgh geneticists C.H. Waddington and D.G. Facloner (for Rosemary) and Yale ecologist G.E. Hutchinson (for me).


There is widespread misunderstanding about evolution; that it occurs extremely slowly….The idea that animals as large as birds might evolve before our eyes is not so well known.


What was the most influential book you’ve read?
Each of us read Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species at an important stage in our lives. This magisterial book opened our eyes to an understanding of the natural world that is within reach with careful observation, experiment, and logical reasoning, It is extraordinarily rich in insights, and repays re-reading, even with people like us who are older than Darwin when he died!

Why did you write this book?
Having written numerous papers in the specialized scientific literature, as well as three books on our research, we believed the time had come to synthesize all we had done and learned by following the fates of finches on Daphne for 40 years. We also wanted to explain and illustrate the excitement of scientific discovery to a broader audience than the professional biologists who might have read our more technical papers. Finally, we wanted to inspire and encourage students who might wish to study the workings of nature in remote places unaffected by humans, but who are not sure if and whether this can be done.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?
Perhaps many scientists make the last observation and then start writing a book without returning to their scientific material. This is not what happened in our case. As we developed the main argument in the book about how new species are formed we were stimulated to improve the way we expressed the main ideas, to think along new lines, and to ask new questions. In a few instances those questions led us back to the files of data, to new analyses, and to a greater appreciation of the role of hybridization in evolution.


We are collaborating with no less than five different groups in pursuing evolutionary questions with the data we have collected.


What do you think is book’s most important contribution?
There is widespread misunderstanding about evolution; that it occurs extremely slowly and therefore cannot be studied in a person’s lifetime. This was the view of Charles Darwin. Many biologists and others now know that this is not correct. For example, evolution occurs in the bacteria that cause illness in us, such as streptococcus bacteria in hospitals, and in insects and weedy plants that are agricultural pests. We do our best to control our biological enemies and persecutors, and they evolve in ways that repeatedly thwart us. The idea that animals as large as birds might evolve before our eyes is not so well known, yet our study in the entirely natural world of Daphne Major island has revealed this does in fact happen when there is a change in the environment, and it takes place over a period as short as a year, and repeatedly.

PUP: How did you come up with the title or jacket?
The title is the essence of the book. That was an easy choice. The jacket was the brain-child of a designer employed by Princeton University Press. We already had a strong image for the cover with a picture of Daphne taken at sea level. However, the designer improved on this by picking one of our photographs taken from the land and cropped it creatively to present of visualization of what it is like to actually be on the island.

What is your next project?
Not sure. Our involvement in finch research has not ended with the publication of the book. We are collaborating with no less than five different groups in pursuing evolutionary questions with the data we have collected. We are also thinking about returning to the island to check on the birds, to see who has survived and who has not, and to find out what has happened to the new lineage of finches whose ups and downs we followed for thirty years.

 

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Peter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant are the authors of:

5-23 Grant 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s Finches on Daphne Major Island by Peter. R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant
Hardcover | 2014 | $49.50 / £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691160467
432 pp. | 6 x 9 | 44 color illus. 129 line illus. 21 tables. |
eBook | ISBN: 9781400851300 | Reviews  Table of Contents[PDF]  Chapter 1[PDF]

The Extreme Life of the Sea at TEDx Stanford

Read the complete story in The Extreme Life of the Sea by Steve and Anthony Palumbi.

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 3

Spring has sprung in this latest installment of Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon. Sharon takes a break from her eagle-feeding duties to take Clay on in a digiduel. Along the way, she has lots of great advice on how to make the best of your own spotting scope, too. Enjoy, and see if you can spot Lawrence’s warbler!

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 2

 

Episode two of Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon features a nice shout-out to our forthcoming app, BirdGenie™. (By the way, I keep linking to the Eastern version of this app, but there will be a Western version released at the same time!)

Are you catching on to the overall series theme yet? Make sure you read up on how to enter the giveaway for a Swarovski Spotting Scope.

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 1

We are proud to join with Sharon Stiteler and Clay Taylor to sponsor this web series. Each episode will feature a DigiDuel — a race to see as many species of bird as possible in a set amount of time. This episode features Clay in warm, sunny Texas and Sharon in snow-covered Minnesota. Guess who wins? Along the way, we learn what makes for good nap-time reading for chickens and get a lot of terrific advice on how to find and photograph birds from two experts at digiscoping.

If you watch closely, you will notice a theme to this episode and the others in the series. If you correctly guess the theme, you will be entered to win a Swarovski spotting scope. Check out the YouTube page for details on how to enter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAZS7tllt3Q

Bonus for this episode — do you recognize the grumpy chicken farmer? Leave a note below if you know who he is and why he’s famous.

Flight of the Bumble Bee[s of North America]

k10219More than ever before, there is widespread interest in studying bumble bees and the critical role they play in our ecosystems.

To learn more about bumble bees–how to find them, how to identify them, how to help with bumble bee conservation efforts–please check out “Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide” by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson & Sheila R. Colla: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10219.html

Video credits:

Photos courtesy of authors
Leif L. Richardson
Sheila R. Colla
Paul H. Williams

Music is “Flight of the Bumble Bee”
Composition: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer: US Army Band
http://commons.wikimedia.org [PD-US] [PD-OLD]

Looking forward to spring warblers? Join The Warbler Guide at these events in Philadelphia

We’re looking forward to spring with three fantastic warbler events this weekend at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, co-authors of The Warbler Guide, will be on-hand to give workshops on warbler ID and guide a few walks.

Capture

 

Click here to download a PDF flyer for these events.

A bird book goes to Africa, part 2

Last year we posted about Rick Ludkin’s trip to Kenya to teach students about their avian neighbors. He returned this winter with more copies of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania, to continue his mission, though with a slight twist. Here’s part of his report:

This year was quite different from last year. In 2013 I spent most of my time with grade 6, 7, and 8 students teaching them how to use a field guide and binoculars and how to band birds we were catching. This year I did the same thing except that much more time was spent with the adults in the community. [Don't worry, the students weren't neglected; we ran the Bird Club every weekend for them.]

Working with the adult community was incredibly exciting. Most of them were completely unaware of the richness of their birdlife – and they began to take pride in the great variety around them. Most of the them had never used binoculars and it was a treat to watch their wonderment as they figured out how to use them. But I think it was their unbridled enthusiasm for their avian heritage that was the most rewarding for me.

Here are some pictures showing some of the action in the various events we ran for them. I trained a group of 5 local folks to help me with the banding, to run the bird club when I’m in Canada, and to run the workshops for the community.

Click the thumbnails above to view larger photos.

It is incredibly rewarding to know copies of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania are used in this positive outreach. Thank you, Rick, for all you are doing!

To learn more about Rick’s work in Kenya and his birding adventures in North America, check out his blog, Ruthven Park Nature Blog.