Friday, 11 November 2011

Queen Bee

This is one amazing bee; she is the heart of every beehive and one tough lady! Everything the bees do is for the queen bee, they live only to serve her and her needs. They collect pollen, make honey, make the hive and produce royal jelly just for her! All the other creatures that benefit from bees are merely secondary to the queens needs.

The queen is born in a special cell called the royal brood where 10 to 20 special worker bees dedicated to the queen (current and future) will take an egg and put it in a cell with royal jelly. This jelly is magic (that is best way to explain it) and will cause any ordinary egg to hatch a queen bee. If more than one queen bee is born then the potential queens will fight to the death until only one is left, a bit more than a sexy pillow fight. If all the queen bees die than the workers will produce another queen bee as only one queen bee needs to hatch.
Royal Jelly

As the queen grows she will be much larger then all the other bees as her abdomen will house 1000 to 2000 eggs and lay eggs for 2 to 7 years. When the queen is ready she will fly out of the hive and mate with a drone seeking to fertilize a queen, she will then fly back and get ready to start laying eggs for the workers to take care of. Virgin and laying queens are not hard to spot in the hive, as they will run across the combs and over top of the drones/workers to get cover, the queen is most important after all! When it comes to the queen bee the needs of one bee out weigh the needs of many, that is why when you disturb a hive the bees will sting, knowing they will die to ward off the threat.

When the queen starts to get close to running out of eggs the bees will start making another queen. Also if the hive gets too large a group of bees will starting making another queen and then a fly off and start a new hive.
Nature never ceases to amaze me and the queen bee is epicly amazing and magical!  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Teratornithidae (Teratorns)

The word Teratorn comes from the Greek work Teratornis meaning monster bird and that was a pretty good suggestion from a reader for this week’s epic creature – The Teratorn was a species of huge birds, now extinct. Some of them may have looked like vultures but this species was birds of prey - big enough that some people believe this is the creature behind the myth of the Thunderbird.

Teratornithidae were the largest known flying birds with a wing span of up to 7m (23ft), standing up to 2m (6.6ft, that is much taller than me!), and could be as long as 3.5m(11.5ft) and weigh up to 78kg (172lb). That is a size that could rival the pterosaurs but they lived million of years apart. There are a few different species of the Teratornithidae that has been found, the largest being Argentavis but the best-known species found are Teratornis found in La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Over a hundred specimens of Teratornis have been found, the most common found stood about 75cm (29.5in), wing span of about 3.8m (12.5ft) and weight about 15kg (33lb) which is not much bigger than a condor but they are not small birds.

The larger Teratorns are believed to not be flying, but if there was a strong wind they could get some air and glide much like a modern albatross. In South America where they are believed to have lived in the late Miocene era (about 6 million years ago, very early man would of existed around this time as well) there would have been a lot of strong wind allowing the bird to be in the air a lot. The Teratorns are believed to be scavengers but their long and wide beaks suggest that they are birds of prey like the eagle. They might have been opportunistic scavengers as well as hunters and they most likely swallowed their food whole (swallowing animals as large as a hare). As they didn’t rely on scavenging, they most likely had completely feathered heads.

Teratorns are believed to still have been around at the same time as early man and it is believed to be the reason behind the myth of the thunderbird. The size of these birds would be reason enough for early man to fear it and/or worship it. I know I would find cover if this bird of prey was following me. The size alone is reason enough for this creature to be epic but that it caused legends to be passed down through the generations and survive to this day is what makes this week’s creature truly epic!