Author Archives: kmh5

A Visit from a Bee and a Visit to a Hive

This morning, I was walking down the stairs in my dorm when I noticed a lounging honeybee. This bee was hanging out on the concrete step, not much minding as I observed and took pictures.

I went to the beehive on campus about an hour after spotting the bee. It was the coolest temperature I’ve been to the hive in (about 75°F), and the bees weren’t as active as normal, but there was still activity. As I approached the hive, the bees started moving around more and seemed to want me away, but they weren’t aggressive at all, and I was able to get very close to them and the hive with no injuries.

After looking at the hive, I rode my bike bake to my dorm, stopping next to the spot I originally found the honeybee. She was of course long gone by this point, but my bike computer read .94 miles, and that’s even with my winding around buildings. According to this, the bee I found was well within the range of the Rice beehive, though it’s probably more likely she came from one of the natural hives on campus or one of the closer neighborhood hives. Either way, the lone bee and the hive represent pollinators that play a large role in our lives as Rice students.

I found the first bee near Martel, a college that is home to a community garden. This garden is the home to some tomato plants, including a couple of “volunteer” plants that showed up this year. Tomatoes, like many Solanaceae, are fertilized via buzz pollination, a method that requires the vibration of the flower for the pollinator to obtain the pollen. Bees are typically the pollinators in question for this method, as it the case for tomatoes (read more about it here). The eggplants and potatoes sometimes grown in the gardens also require buzz pollination. This video shows buzz pollination very well.

Honeybees are not native to the United States, though other varieties of bees are, but they have nonetheless become important in crop pollination, food production, and even medicinal and cosmetic ingredients in the United States. This article states that honeybees are essential for agriculture in the United States, and it is hard to ignore the importance of honey when most Americans consume or use it every day. The little bee I spotted on the stair is part of an extremely important species, not just for us, but for the world.

Ants in the Dorm

A few days ago I was hanging out in my room when I noticed I had company.  A group of tiny ants barely bigger than the tip of my pencil were crawling around the surface of my desk. At the time I counted 30-40 ants, and in the last couple weeks they have fluctuated in number from a very few to hundreds each time I look.

These tiny little companions have become a part of my life. We coexist peacefully as long as I remember to keep food out of my room, but how did they get in here in the first place? Are they my friends or my enemies? And do I need to do something about them, or can I stick to the status quo?

Ants are some of the most common household pests, so these are questions many people have to ask themselves. The first question is often the most difficult for people to discover, but I have a hint that leads me to my conclusion. This same variety of ants was present in my summer residence. I discovered these ants in my car after moving here before I found them in my room. Most revealingly, none of my roommates have complained about any ants in other parts of our dorm room. Therefore, I think the ants have been hitching rides on these:

These plants have been present in all the recent places I’ve discovered this variety of ants. I also acquired two of these plants outdoors and kept them in their native soil, leading me to believe that I may have inadvertently encouraged these ants. I don’t think there is a nest in any of these plants because I see no evidence of distress when I water, but there are frequently ant on all these plants, making me think the plants may be attractive to the ants. The ants likely come through openings by the windows, where these plants usually reside, resulting in a number of ants hanging out around the area.

There are many sites that give advice for getting rid of ants that have possibly made homes in potted plants such as this one, but even if my plants are the conveyors of these creatures, the plants don’t seem to be suffering for it, so getting rid of the ants seems like an unnecessary affront to these peaceful scavengers. In addition, Bob Randall notes in his popular Houston gardening book (the online site for this book can be accessed here) that ants are often not an issue in the garden, so I figured that these ants can interact with my plants until I find that they are disturbing the plant somehow.

So the ants remain my friends until some altercation, and we will coexist until such a time. For now I use peppermint (a repellant, according to this) if I want to keep them away from something and I eat my food away from my desk and dispose of it thoroughly. With those two adjustments, are peace is maintained, and no ant massacre is necessary.

Kathryn Hokamp