Bee report from Plymouth MI

A pleasant surprise! Honeybees seem to be holding their own locally. In fact, the number of honeybees working the yard seems to be higher than it has been in previous years. They started working the ground ivy and catmint and moved to the Salvia when it started blooming. Geranium 'Biokovo' was constantly worked by honeybees when in bloom. And now they have moved to the Asclepias tuberosa (for nectar) and the oakleaf hydrangea (for pollen).
I have noticed that quite a few of the honeybees are very dark in color, with perhaps only one band of orange at the front of their abdomen. I have also seen the occasional all black honeybee. We tried taking pictures of one of these dark honeybees but I don't yet know how well they turned out. (Two person job: one to hold the plant so it wouldn't sway in the breeze, one to man the camera.)
I have found a photo of a black honeybee like those I've seen: http://drone.cyberbee.net/gallery/foraging/hyacinth4
I wonder if there is any significance to this seeming shift in color to darker honeybees? I don't recall seeing many dark honeybees (and never any all-black ones) in the past.
Carpenter bees were quite obvious in early spring (favoring the ground ivy and henbit). I was able to watch one drone guarding his mate and chasing off a rival. Very entertaining!
The number of carpenter bees seems to be up this year. Perhaps they are using the large number dead ash trees as nesting sites.
Bumblebees seem to be very rare this year. I suspect the weather might be to blame: no snow cover for long stretches in a 'warm' early winter (rain instead); suddenly plunging temperatures in January; a warm March followed by an extremely cold early April.
The Verbascum, Gaillardia and Anthemis have been swarming with various pollinators: sweat bees, digger bees, leaf-cutter bees.
No squash flowers yet, so no sightings of squash bees.
Oregano and thyme will bloom soon, as will the Salvia 'Victoria' so plenty to keep the all of the bees busy.
Some links that might be of interest:
Native Bees & Their Conservation on Farmland (requires Adobe reader): http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/item_id . 372953/workspace_id.-30/Enhancing%20Farm%20Landscapes%20for% 20Native%20Bees.pdf/
The tiny version of the above URL: http://tinyurl.com/2bnujl
A bee photo album: http://drone.cyberbee.net/gallery/otherbees
Links to more bee photo albums: http://drone.cyberbee.net/gallery/bees-on-flowers
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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