Abaco bees 9


There are a number of insects on Abaco that demand human attention. The smallest and most persistent nuisances are the ‘no-see-ums’, tiny sandflies whose near-invisible size belies the effects of their bite. They seem impervious to many standard types of insect repellent. Different things work for different people. My method is to eat marmite (cf vegemite) on plain biscuits daily for 2 weeks before a visit to Abaco, and that does the trick. This year, I had a single bite (of course, if you hate marmite you’ll need another plan). See RECOMMENDED LINKS in the SIDEBAR under SAND FLY  for more on this topic.

There’s a form of yellowish horsefly that can give you a bit of a nip. At the top end of the pain and discomfort scale is the PEPSIS WASP (Tarantula Hawk). I’ve only ever seen one, and if you do come across one be sure not to disrespect it (click link to see why…). 

Until recently, I can’t say I’d ever noticed bees on Abaco. There are plenty of wonderful flowers that are visited for their nectar by the many species of butterfly and  various kinds of bird (hummingbirds, bananaquits). Then, last month, I heard a distinct buzzing in a bush. Bees. Lots of them. I took a few photos, some of which are shown below. Then I began to notice them elsewhere. Everywhere. Compared to the european bees that I am familiar with (check out my BEE GALLERY), Abaco bees are much smaller – see how they look on the individual flower heads in the first few photos. These little creatures were constantly on the move. No sooner had one settled on a flower, than it moved on to the next one…

I kept an eye out for bumble bees, but saw none – indeed, I’m not certain there are any bumble species in the (northern) Bahamas, and I have found no references to their existence. Enlightenment on this topic welcome via the comment box.

Abaco bees 1Abaco bees 2 Abaco bees 3There was plenty of pollen for the bees, though not all of it went into their what’s-the-correct-word-for-their-pouches (EST the Beekeper please can you help here?)Abaco bees 5However most were managing to harvest impressive quantities to take back to the hive. It’s worth saying that these are all wild bees. I know of only one honey-producer in South Abaco (south of Marsh Harbour).Abaco bees 6 Abaco bees 7A successful foraging expedition… somewhat surprisingly this bee was still able to take off…Abaco bees 8This is my favourite photo: there’s something about the expression on that little face that says “Ooooo. More good stuff in this one….”Abaco bees 9

Wild bees find a novel use for a woodpecker nesting box Bees in bird nest box 1


  1. Although some of the European honey bees (Apis mellifera) you saw in Abaco might have been from wild hives, there are many in Abaco that do have bee hives and produce honey. None are used as far as I know for agricultural pollination as is done in the US, but producers such as Wildfire Farm do have hives to honey production. And the word you are looking for is “scopa” which is a specially adapted location on either legs or under the abdomen with specific hairs that are good at holding pollen grains. Honey bees have scopae on their legs.


    • Many thanks for your observations, Trent. That’s an old post – 2013 I think – and it’s high time I updated the bee situation. I agree that the number of producers has increased, and there are now several that sell excellent honey on Abaco. I’ll try to get some more bee photos when I am ‘on-island’ in March, and namecheck some producers. And thanks for that correct word too. I’ve just spent several hours working through several hundred binomials for a book, so I have Latin coursing through my veins right now! RH


  2. Just read again and I love that you’ve picked up on honeybee expressions – I do think bees have some of the most expressive faces for insects. Also like the irony of bees using a woodpecker nest to build as their home!


    • They seem sometimes to have ‘concentratey’ expressions when they are getting stuck into a flower. Could be just greed though. Or pleasure. The woodpeckers (in theory) will happily eat bees, but only one at a time… They leave the swarms well alone. The bees have well and truly colonised this nesting box. RH


    • Thanks EST! My favourite is the little one in flight and its little face as it approaches the flower. Happy reading later. RH (I see you also ‘liked’ ‘Hive Talking’ but I imagine you are too young to recall the full-on horror of the BGs in their ‘glitter ball / disco’ period. Try ‘World’, ‘Words’, ‘Massachusetts’ & ‘New York Mining Disaster’ from the late ’60s…)


  3. Hi RH! I plant enough of a garden here in Ohio, that I can eat from it thru’ the Fall and most of the winter. In the last 8 years, I’ve taken to hand pollinating pretty much everything due to the paucity of Honey Bees. I do get a fair amount of Bumble bees still, but they’re too big and clumsy for my finer flowers. I simply use a fine-haired paint brush for everything, and I’ve had a more abundant yield since. I even have portable Citrus, a Calamondon which has been producing 30 to 50 fruits the last 8 years, and it flowers in my basement every year.


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