Tale of Two Bees
When you visit the Elachee Aquatic Studies Center at Chicopee Lake during blooming season, this will be a veritable bee-watch. The many bee species, along with dragonflies, birds and scores of other insects crowd the plants in Elachee’s Pollinator Meadow that grows all around the perimeter of the parking lot. Among the plants attracting these winged visitors are Sunflowers, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan, Partridge Pea, Coneflower, Goldenrod, Bellflower, Yucca and native grasses, just to scratch the surface.
Elachee’s Pollinator Meadow is a protected ecosystem within Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. This is an important habitat and food source for wildlife. The area includes several meadows, a bioretention pond, in addition to bordering the reservoir known as Chicopee Lake, as well as the forest of the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.
Recently, University of North Georgia professors Dr. Evan Lampert and Dr. Tom Diggs conducted botany labs at the Elachee Aquatic Studies Center at Chicopee Lake. Students surveyed plant species and associated pollinators in the meadow. In this compressed timeframe, they found Carpenter bees, Halictine bees (Sweat bees), Honey bees, Bumble bees, Yucca moths, Clown beetles, Hoverflies and the invasive Stinkbug on a variety of plants.
Dragonflies also offer a great example of the ecological functions in progress, providing a unique opportunity to observe an entire lifecycle. In Chicopee Lake, find the dragonfly in its aquatic nymph stage. Or, get whiplash keeping track of the many adults seen zooming through the meadows hunting for other insects. Consequently, the dragonfly is a tasty treat for those birds fast enough to catch one, thus completing the lifecycle.
Honey Bees’ New Royalty
Elachee’s demonstration Honey bee hives are also lifecycles in constant motion. The two live bee hives are interactive features of the Mike and Robbie McCormac Pollinator Pass interpretive exhibit at the Nature Center.
Prince Harry and Megan have nothing on Elachee’s queen bees! In the hive, we recently kept sharp eyes on the progress of a ‘queen-to-bee’ that is a super sedure cell with a queen bee larvae ready to hatch.
This is one exhibit that Elachee Nature Shop Manager Judy Stock personally introduces visitors to upon their arrival. “Hey bees have more eyes than I do!” is a comment she frequently hears from children visiting Elachee. Judy goes right to the good stuff in her introduction. Bees have five eyes – three small ones on the top and two big ones in front that the bee uses to detect ultraviolet light and colors. Then she wows them with another factoid. A teaspoon of honey can ‘fuel’ a bee’s flight once around the Earth!
“Earlier this summer a family stopped by to tour the Nature Center’s exhibits. Their 9-year-old son was fascinated with the bees and hung on my every word,” Judy shares. “Shortly after, another family came through. This attentive boy took that family’s young daughter under his wing, leading her right to the Pollinator Pass saying, ‘Here, let me show you these awesome bees!’”
The live bees in the Pollinator Pass represent a unique exhibit most people have not seen anywhere else, according to local visitors and those visiting the area from Virginia, Germany and as far away as Zambia. There are purposeful pollinator garden areas and plantings along the sidewalks surrounding the Elachee Visitor Center that just a fascinating to watch as the demonstration hive at work.
Oh, and in case you are interested in buying honey, Elachee’s Nature Shop just restocked its supply. Regular Visitor Center and Nature Shop hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plan Your Visit