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Honey bees are no angels

Posted by harvestman 6 (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 24, 11 at 19:11

I was at a site today where the Castletons were soft-ripe and every one had a honeybee butt sticking out of it. They'd drilled holes into the fruit and were just blissing out inside the plums- not going anywhere. 2nd year, 2nd site I've seen honey bees actually do serious damage to fruit. 40+ years of growing fruit and I never saw it before that.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Honey bees are no angels

Are you sure honeybees...usually it's wasp?


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

Yes, wasps are an issue all over and almost every year to some degree, but I'm sure these are honeybees. Sorry I didn't have a camera, but trust me, I looked very carefully. Last year I saw them working superficial breaks in the skin of plums but this is the first time I've seen them actually burrow into the fruit. Basically destroyed most of the crop on a young tree- probably half a bushel.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

You do surprise me! I have kept bees for over 60 years and was always taught that Honey bees do not touch fruit, only liquid sugars.
Can I ask you to have a further look, up close? If they're Honey bees you can almost touch them as they will be more interested in what they're doing, and will ignore you.
If you're right then I would suspect that they are gathering from already damaged fruit.


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very ripe and or over-ripe often have "wounds" which are "invaded" by non-pests which then get blamed for the damage.


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Trust me, these are wounds inflicted by the bees, I guess I have to get photos as you guys just can't accept what I've seen. Honey bees are no problem to identify when you've been doing this for over 4 decades. All the phenomena that you folks express, I've seen a hundred times and that's why this time I'm surprised. You really don't have to bother posting all the other possibilities- each fruit had a honey bee posterior sticking out of it and they stayed right where they were. The holes were exactly the size of the bees. Yellow jackets are the only thing that look at all like honey bees around here of about the same size but are very easily differentiated from honey bees. They also create larger and larger holes while these were just big enough to accomadate the hb's. Understand that I spend every working day in orchards observing what's going on. I'd have to be a complete idiot not to understand what I'm seeing in this case.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 25, 11 at 0:29

Sounds like a clear case of bees behaving badly, to me.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

OK...seeing is believing.
""I was at a site today where the Castletons were soft-ripe and every one had a honeybee butt sticking out of it.""

Soft ripe on the tree would be overripe I would think...just pick it sooner.
I'm thinking the same as Jean, inflicting wounds by wasp first....this is usually what's done, honey bees would take over, only if nectar source run out, but these fruits would have to be very sweet.


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If the wasps had started the wounds, every wound would not be exactly the size of the hb's and you'd think there'd still be a wasp on the site and there isn't (which in itself is very strange).

I always let my eating out of hand plums get soft ripe on the tree- not mushy soft, of course, but soft enough for perfect eating. Plums keep getting sweeter on the tree right up until they become prunes (at least the Italian E. types). Around here, most people have never tasted what I consider a properly ripened plum. Most E. plums should have amber flesh not green when eaten IMO. Oullins is an exception.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

I'll have to side with Harvestman on this one.
Very interesting. To bite or not to bite. Honeybees can definitely learn new things from each other. In the self pollinating world of bluecrop blueberries, the bees are best trained on other varieties first because the bees, with the Bluecrop flower, are prone to obtaining nectar from chewing/making holes on the backside, preventing pollination. Pretty soon the whole hive adopts this activity and it becomes part of their culture. They even dance about it! Once they figure that out, it's hard to achieve pollination.
So, yes, behaviors and bee "culture" are fluid(may happen randomly) to a certain point, but when rewarded, the bee will eventually connect random act with reward. At that point the bee will initiate the activity to produce the desired response. (free nectar)
How did the bees figure out circumventing the pollination process and prefer a shortcut to the nectar? They are smart and will take the path of least resistance.This is well documented folks. Behaviors change.

If bees will bore/chew through hole on the backside of a flower to obtain nectar, then what is stopping it from piercing the skin of Harvestmans super juicy scrumptious sugary delights!
'Never' is a difficult word to mutter in the biological world. It typically sets us up for the exception.
Noogy


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This summer has been very hot and extremely dry for me and honeybees, wasps and yellow jackets were destroying my tomato crop. I think they were just after water. You could sit and watch them for hours and yes, sometimes they took advantage of cracks in the fruit but they also chewed holes into ripe fruit. I watched them do it. I assumed it was natural when things are exceptionally dry.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 25, 11 at 10:37

We have honeybees in our yard and they are feeding on sunflower, silphium, and butterfly milkweed at this time. We also have goldenrod blooming, but I don't see too many bees on that plant. When our New England aster finally blooms, they will be all over it, but that tends to happen in September. Our tomatoes are not under attack.


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I'm sorry for the actual trouble, but I do learn so much from these problem discussions. I had no idea that honeybees would go after ripe fruit, ever, though in retrospect it does not seem too surprising, and their ability to learn is fascinating.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

You mentioned you could post images. Would you please? Perhaps several?


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I did say I'd post images but it was drizzling today when I set up some yellow jacket traps- wonder if these will be the first honey bees I've ever trapped this way. By the time I get back to the site the plums will be done. Anyone who follows this forum should know that I'm knowledgeable and credible enough to recognize what I'm reporting- I'd have to be demented or nearly blind not to. I do have a witness as my assistant observed the same activity. In the end, it doesn't really matter much whether all of you believe me or not- it's not exactly helpful info anyway.

Noogy seems wise to the ways of nature to me. I've seen many unusual and unreported behaviors of this earths creatures over the years while spending most every waking moment (when not typing on my computer) observing the out of doors and its inhabitants in the course of tending fruit trees. I've certainly seen asian lady beetles feeding on ripe fruit only to find out later that they had recently become fruit pests for commercial growers. They were around for years before it was reported that they do this, so it was probably also a learned behavior.


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Wasps or birds cut the holes, honey bees can't do that.

Noogy, bumblebees not honeybees cut the blueberry flower. Honey bees live in a hive and bumble bees live in the ground wild.


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Ace, you are wrong this time and I believe you should know better than to think I can't study simple evidence right in front of me. I certainly know that you are capable of doing the same based on your postings over the last couple of years. Please.

This is becoming slightly frustrating- I feel like the child who notices that the emperor is naked.

There were at least 40 honey bees imbedded in plums in holes exactly large enough to fit there bodies and not a single wasp to be seen- what would you make of that?


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Harvest, I keep honey bees for years in my home orchard. Honey bee hives each contain about 50,000 bees. So when a break occurs in the ripe plums skin bees look like the culprits. Honey bees I've seen on my fruits only in the late season. Bees and wasps are desperate for sugar for the winter. Wasps have cutting mouth parts honey bees do not, as you know wasps are easy to trap. I've had an excellent year growing fruit in my yard. Hard to grow pluots are now most rewarding. Some peach trees I didn't thin enough and many late sweet fruits are getting eaten by wasps and bees. For these sweet late ripening fruits I am going to try party bags and wedding veils mentioned by others on this message board.


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Ace, I still say this looks like the HB's did the drilling and if they didn't it's almost as amazing as if they did. I've been seeing yellow jacket (and there white faced black sisters from hell) damage for decades now and never seen anything remotely like this. It is possible that something put in pin holes and the HB's followed, but there are now no pin holes.

I'm actually having some trouble staying ahead of yellow jacket damage in my own orchard this year, in spite of numerous traps, but I'll catch up this weekend. It takes 2 traps per tree. I seem to have a new, lager wasp in the mix this season but haven't had time to identify it. It sure looks mean.

Sure hope the hurricane doesn't blow off all our fruit. You must be a bit worried.

Best, Alan Haigh


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I have asked this in Beesource and all say what I suspected...link

Here is a link that might be useful: Beesource


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RE: e no angels

Konrad, that's all well and good but still leaves me with no explanation of what happened because if there was a previous injury there would be some signs of that. I will accept that hb's couldn't have started the holes but I've still no reasonable explanation of what did. There were harder plums undamaged on the tree- presumably some at the state where they'd be injured by whatever started the drilling. There's another round of Empress plums coming along at this site, maybe I'll have something more to report on this thing.

I will say that there's been lots of seasons with lots of plum crops on lots of sites and I've never seen anything like this. The fruit I saw honeybees in last year could easily have been damaged originally by yellow jackets but this time it's different. If someone had told me of what I witnessed I would probably have dismissed them in the same way these bee people are dismissing my report.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

  • Posted by mc25a VA - 7 (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 25, 11 at 20:25

I believe harvestman is correct in his observations. Last year, and to a lesser extent this year (squirrels beat them to it) I had bees consuming half my late peaches. This is 4 mature trees. It was not uncommon to see 20 or more bees attacking each fruit.

We have a wild hive living in an old barn nearby that has been there for 5 years or more. Not sure if they learned this or what.

The bees are not the least bit aggressive. Several times I mowed over them on a peach, stepped on them, or picked one without realizing half of it was covered with them and never got stung.

As I said, I didn't have as many peaches this year but didn't see nearly as many bees. My brother put a hive in much closer to my trees than the wild hive so maybe that has something to do with it.


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I will post what was answered on Bee Source that Konrad posted.
"Quite a bit of scientific research has been done and bees do not have the ability to break the skin of the fruit. They will, however take advantage of any fruit that has the skin punctured if there is a dearth of nectar." "It was commonly believed at one time that bees punctured and destroyed grapes and other delicate fruits, and, notwithstanding that the results of exhaustive experiments conclusively proved the contrary, it took a long time to correct this wrong impression. Bees cannot puncture sound grapes, but during a dearth of honey they will suck the juice from ripe grapes and other fruits after they have been punctured by some other animal, or have burst through over-ripeness. Sound grapes smeared with honey have been put into a hive containing a starving colony of bees: the honey has quickly vanished, but not a grape has been injured. Bunches of sound grapes have been left in four or five hives at a time, directly in contact with the bees, and after three weeks every grape was perfectly intact, but glued to the combs. (See "Langstroth on the Honey-bee," page 507.)

"I have always endeavoured by showing the mutual benefits derived by each from the other's work, to bring the horticulturist, agriculturist, and bee-keeper in amicable relations with one another, and in my Bulletin No. 18 (procurable free from the Department of Agriculture, Wellington, N.Z.), I have gone into the question fully. I will, however, make one quotation from it.
Professor A. J. Cook, the well-known American entomologist and apiarist, author of "The Manual of the Apiary," formerly of Michigan Agricultural College, and now of Pomona College, California, who has paid particular attention to this subject, extending over a long period, wrote me a short time ago in reply to some questions I sent him. He said�

"Bees never harm blossoms, but are always a help. Bees are a tremendous aid through pollination. Many of our best fruits must be cross pollinated to produce. Many pears, apples, and plums, etc., are utterly sterile to their own pollen. Bees are alone numerous enough to effect this valuable service. I am sure that it is an incontrovertible fact that bees as the great agents in pollination are far more valuable to the world than for the honey they produce. The best orchardists (in California) now arrange with apiarists to bring their bees to the orchards; they find they must have the bees."

"Coming from such an authority, this is eminent testimony as to the value of the hive-bee to orchardists. "

--Isaac Hopkins, the Australasian Bee Manual

Scientific research aligns perfectly with what I have observed in my bee hive orchard. I am entering my Honey in the club contest next month. Who knows maybe the Judges will be won over by hints of Flavor King Pluot.


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

MC, were the entrance holes the exact size of the bees with no injuries preceding the bees being observed in these holes?

I really don't care what any expert says the honeybees can't or won't or didn't do in other situations if I'm not provided with a satisfactory explanation of what I'm seeing with my own eyes. I guess I better just let this go. Even if I had photographs it would be met with the same skepticism as if it was a UFO.

By the way, if the bees were only taking advantage of cracks it would still be destructive to the fruit. In a home orchard situation a cracked ripe plum is perfectly fine, but once a honeybee has partially eaten the flesh it's pretty much useless. But if the bees had entered cracks the cracks would still be visible as they'd presumably be longer than the tiny holes that the bees crawled into. Now I'll let it go.


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Our preconceived notions and paradigms limit us from exploring other realities. Fortunately for me, the bees, bumblebees, braconid wasps and all their buddies are hanging out by my heritage raspberries, while I'm blissing on the berries. You cant even hear the nearby highway due to the hum. I might meditate in the patch, with the bees tuning me to their mantra. Hahaha. Maybe a bee will chew a hole through me! I'd be blessed! (by the bee)
Noogy


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

Hi Harvestman,

An interesting discussion. Supposing that it is true that honey bees cannot themselves puncture fruit, perhaps the initial culprit was stinkbugs. We know that the area around their bites gets soft and perhaps the honey bees can then wiggle in, making holes their size as a result of the soft flesh surrounding the stink bug bite.


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Aus, that would be the best explanation, I agree. Next time I'm there I will look for stink bug activity, but I didn't see any last time on the peaches where they are much more likely to inflict injury in my experience. I've seen some of that kind of injury in my own orchard this season.


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I do have stinkbug damage as well so that is a possibility. Otherwise I think the bees are capable of biting through the peaches skin. I would think if they are able to eat the fruit they can pierce the skin. Like you though, I don't see how I could prove it. Maybe put some bees in a container with a perfect peach and then put a camera on it. My peaches are all gone now so I can't do that.


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mc did you read the comments ace so generously posted? According to one poster, they've done some pretty good experiments with grapes, where starving bees failed to get into the flesh (probably they were just to weak from hunger, ha ha) but that certainly is not conclusive proof they can't enter any other kinds of fruit or even that some particular group of bees didn't discover a method. Enough friction can break through anything. Just a question of steeply declining probability. I thought some of the bee fans were just a bit smug.


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It'd be nice see if the bees have learned the behavior, but setting up a controlled experiment by selecting and isolating the bee in order to allow naturalistic observation is antithetical.
As per naturalistic observation, this is the central issue. Are we going to be able to observe natural or even learned behaviors with such controls. I doubt it. If we don't observe the behavior, it doesn't mean it doesn't happen, therefore it wont hold up to scientific scrutiny.
If I were in prison, hungry, and they'd serving cake, would I be apt to feasting? A little anthropocentric, I know.
But if I bake a batch of cookies at my home and set up the camera I know I'd see what naturalistic observation is all about!
Bag fruit at night, unbag in the AM, inspect individual fruit on the tree, pull defected fruit. Set up lots of inconspicuous, camouflaged high-resolution monitors with digital recording, focus on many different fruit. Wait.
Nothing like a camera for naturalistic observation.
Maybe we will realize that they are scratching or using some other mechanism. All it takes is for it to back up and poke it's stinger in, up to the barb. You never know.
Wouldn't that be cool?
Noogy


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While I'm sure that harvestman knows the difference between wasps and bees, I wonder if the bees might be some other species than honeybees - particularly if all he saw of them was furry bee butts.


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ltilton- You busted all our paradigms! That also would also be a logical explanation.
After my previous entry I went back to the raspberries, to move a dripline and inspect what was going on. I saw a couple of bees that are "striped" like the E. honey bee, slightly smaller but black striped and greyish, not golden yellow. Lots of different species, an entomologist's delight. Great research proposal for a $grant. The latest equipment would be expensive!
Noogy
Noogy


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Interesting thread. I do think of "my" yellow jackets as angels because they keep the fall garden so clean. Last week I counted how many yellow jackets came out of one hole in an overripe pear. Seven! Apparently packed in there end to end, goobin' away on that sweet juice.

I've seen honeybees go for some odd things, like sawdust, but they're rare around the fruit. I don't think they would quite fit into the yellow jacket holes, but a bigger wasp could help with the entry holes.


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Except that I did drive a few out of their blissful intoxication and the holes themselves. I've no doubt they be honey bees.

Honeybees could fit into wasp holes (not like they stop chewing the moment it's wide enough to fit into) but as I said, there are apparently no yellow jackets or other insects involved- why would they up and leave the site? Yellow jacket populations are on the rise around here.
Why would every hole be the exact size to accomadate a honey bee?

Guess I'm going to have to go back to the site while there's still some of this action to record. I was intrigued when I saw it but now I'm dumbfounded after hearing from people who know something about bees. It's just I've completed all my rounds in that area but there was some black knot that needs carving out on the the very tree with the burrowing bees.


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Hello everyone -
I'm just a lowly home gardener with a raspberry patch in the backyard (several varieties). I noticed the honeybees attacking my fruit a couple days ago - something I've NEVER seen in previous years (MANY years!). Is it just a coincidence that we have recently been plagued here on Long Island, N.Y. By "SWD" (spotted wing drosophila)??? Could the holes created by the female SWD's ovipositor in the ripe to nearly ripe fruit be the entryway to the fruit juice for our little, beloved, fuzzy friends?!?!? Any opinions, ideas??
- Mark S.


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One of my customers, and a person who has mason bees in his orchard and knows what different species look like, had honeybees in peaches this year. I asked him to get a photo but he never responded.


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Here in Indiana those are not honey bees, they are "yellow jackets. They look a lot like hornets. All I know is they caused me more damage then birds,deer, and all the other things we spray for!


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Yes, here in NY we who are in touch with such things are very aware of yellow jackets and other wasps that you expect to see in fruit. That is what made my original observation so remarkable. The difference between European honey bees and yellow jackets is quite obvious. Now mason bees bare a closer resemblence but are much smaller than honey bees.


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We also had extensive "Bee" damage on our plums this year. Few Yellow jackets due to record rains this spring. THe data on grapes not being punctured may not have bearing on this issue, since grape skins are much thicker and stronger than ripe plum skins. The majority of the damage we have is on the very bottom of the fruit where the skin is the thinnest, and the thicker skinned plums (Long John) had much less damage than the thinner skinned ones (Purple heart). It may well depend on what strain of honey bee you have, as when I had commericially obtained bees I did not see as much of an issue as I have now with the wild swarm which moved into my hive after the commericial ones died off.

Eric


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Noogy captured the bee damage experience best of all. Honey bees tend to communicate with each other reference sources of nector, pollen and water. Because of this communication, they seem to work a particular source until it is exhausted. Apparently they have learned to gather the fruit juices by drilling holes, probably at a time when there are less sources of pollen available. One potential solution is to make other sources of nector or pollen available during the fruit ripenning season. This could distrat them from the hard work of hole drilling.


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I'm adding a small section to my raised beds to attract beneficial insects. I will make sure and include some late bloomers. Not that many flowers this time of year. I can see why the bees go for the fruit. Last minute stock before the big chill. Although my raspberries will keep blooming till frost. I don't see honey bees there though, only bumble bees.


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I was widely ridiculed when I originally posted this thread. The general reaction was that I positively must be mistaken because honey bees have no chewing mouth parts which is a very reasonable and factual assertion.

I am still mystified that when I witnessed this last year the holes were all exactly a perfect fit for the honey bees. This is not how yellow jackets or other wasps operate in my observation- leaving holes like these. They tend to keep chewing larger and larger areas.. I'm still mystified by the origin of the holes in the plums I found the honeybees occupying. At least I now feel vindicated about what my helper and I originally observed.

Anyone have any theories about how those holes were made in the first place? Is there any other part of a honeybees body that could accomplish this?


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Well..... The textbooks say they do not eat fruit and do not bore holes in them. What i did find however is that they apparently will go after holes pecked or drilled by other insects or animals. A google search showed threads where people were talking about peaches mostly.

Apparently they do this when there is a lack of nector and waters. It also can apparently make some good honey.... I wouldbe be surprised of wasps/birds/squirrels made some holes, the bees smelled sweetness and dug right in, probably making the holes bigger as they go.

I think you may need some late season necter sources


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Took this a couple months ago. Doubt they made the holes but were certainly taking advantage of them!


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On my property there are multiple early, mid and late sources of nectar. Right now my buzzem buddies are all over my Canadian aster, along with some remaining golden rod and lots of zinnias, and other ornamental annuals still in bloom. Not sure about the site where I saw the bees in the plums. There are no Euro bees here, anyway.

When I saw honeybees in plums the holes were perfect sized for a snug fit for a single bee, unlike the above photo, which is what really surprised me and I haven't seen since.

Last year they were a nuisance at still another site where the owner just has too many hives for his area. He always wants more of anything he wants. He also has way too many chickens crowded together in one space and they are all molting and miserable. I have suggested many times that he could get more and better eggs with fewer chickens. His hives didn't make it over last winter either.

On the bright side, he also wants more and more fruit trees on his extensive property.


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Regarding how the holes may have started (if we assume the honey bees did not start the hole), I have found my peaches with minute pricks made by some type of sucking insect and a tiny drop of peach juice on the skin. It is my guess that the honey bees begin collecting this tiny drop and slowly enlarge the hole in search for more. Honey bees have a combined mouth parts than can both chew and suck. This is accomplished by having both mandibles and a proboscis. The mandibles are the paired "teeth" that can be open and closed to chew wood, manipulate wax, cleaning other bees, and biting other workers or pests (mites). The proboscis is mainly used for sucking in liquids such as nectar, water and honey inside the hive, for exchanging food with other bees, and also for removing water from nectar.


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  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 18, 13 at 23:12

Honeybees also go after my peaches when there are plenty of other nectar sources.

So far I haven't seen them bore into healthy peaches, but I don't doubt they can if the need arises. Seems like the older I get the less surprised I am by exceptions to the "rules". When it comes to anything to do with fruit growing, there are very few absolutes. At best there are generalizations.


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Thank you for that info Charlie. When I looked on the internet sources seemed to simply state HB.s have no chewing mouth parts after that was stated as hard fact by people on this forum.

Also, I've seen those same pricks (not talking about people on the forum) that I believe are started by very small wasps on plums on many occasions including this season in my own trees. They do it a lot to my Euro prune plums. That is a plausible explanation in my opinion.


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This summer/fall many people are reporting very weak nectar sources. I would not be surprised if the bees found a way to get into a needed source of food.

They are taking advantage of my peaches in the attached image.


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Dan, are they penetrating the skin somehow or just benefiting from preexisting holes?


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Would setting out some sugar water in bowls work, or the nectar used to to feed hummingbirds?

If bees "learn" maybe they can be taught to go to the sugar water.

Just a thought !!!
Mike


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RE: Honey bees are no angels

Not sure in this situation about existing holes or not. Its possible. One thing that I dont think got mentioned here is that bees do in fact "chew" through foundation in the hives at times. Its not at all a leap of faith to say.. "hmm if they chew through foundation in a hive, they can chew through peach/pear/whatever skin to save their lives."

Bees do in fact visit hummingbird feeders. If you leave sugar water out bees will visit it, most times. Heavy nectar elswhere they may ignore, but times of no nectar they will be all over it.

I didnt say it but I took that image this year. 3 out of 3 of my peach trees had bees on them like this.


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I took my hummingbird feeder down years ago. It only attracted ants and bees. Sugar is sugar. Mrs. G


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My hummer feeder has bee guards, no bees can reach down to the sugar water.

Looks like my early post still holds ground...

inflicting wounds by wasp first....this is usually what's done, honey bees would take over, only if nectar source runs out, but these fruits would have to be very sweet.


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Not saying this was your bee, but I have had problems with European Hornets this year. They are huge and they eat entire apples just leaving the skin hanging from the tree. Anyone else had a problem with them?


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I've been a beekeeper for 44 years and have often observed bees feeding on peaches, plums, grapes, apples, and figs. They have always been taking advantage of fruit that had split or that had been opened by chewing/biting wasps. That does not make you feel any better when it is your fruit they are sucking juice from.


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