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1941 - SCV's first real movie house, the American Theater, dedicated in Newhall [story]
American Theater


Commentary by Paul A. Levine
| Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

When we go to a store to purchase something, we exchange money for the object that we want.  The store owner does not simply give the entire stock away. If we were to take something without paying for it, it is called theft and this may have serious consequences.

paullevineSomething similar happens in nature. Flowers need to reproduce. To do this, it is essential to transfer the pollen made by one flower to the “eggs” produced by another flower in order to fertilize them with the end result being a seed and a future new plant. This is a somewhat difficult process when rooted firmly in the ground and not being able to move very far. In the case of some flowers, the wind helps. Certainly the wind often helps to disseminate the seeds.

But flowers have devised another method that is far more efficient. They produce something that other animals, usually insects and some birds want.  In exchange for this commodity, the insect “agrees” to transfer the pollen to the other flowers.  This commodity is nectar that is consumed by bees, flies, butterflies, beetles and yes, even some birds such as hummingbirds.

There are some bees, however, that are too large to access the nectar source by the usual methods and thus pick up the pollen to deliver to the other flowers. This is the California Carpenter Bee. It gets its name from the fact that it bores into wood to create a burrow where it will lay its eggs and raise its young, but while it can make the burrow using its jaws, it doesn’t eat the wood. Its food source is nectar from flowers. It tends to be a solitary bee and while the female has a stinger, the male does not. Even the female, however, tends not to sting unless there is a major provocation.  These are generally solitary bees and while a number may live in close proximity, they do not have a hive with thousands of worker bees, some drones and one queen, as does the famous Honey Bee.

They are large bees and are often confused with bumblebees. One can easily tell the difference between these two bees. The abdomen of the Carpenter Bee is “naked” whereas the bumblebee is clothed in hairs.  The Eastern Carpenter Bee has yellow hairs on its thorax or chest area while the Western Carpenter Bee is totally black.  But the key point is that for many wildflowers such as the Wild Canterbury Bell Phacelia, the Carpenter Bee simply will NOT fit inside the corolla (the opening of the flower) to reach the nectar at its base.

As such, it would not make contact, except incidentally, with the anthers of the flower (this is the source of the pollen) and would not accumulate any pollen on its body to transfer to the next plant. While some bees to eat the pollen as well as the nectar, this bee’s primary food source is nectar.

A number of these bees were observed on the Wild Canterbury Bell Phacelia and all demonstrated the same behavior. This is well known when I checked it out, although it was the first time that I observed it. The bee landed on the outside of the flower and walked to the base of the flower where a small slit was created (if the bee can chop through wood to hollow out its burrow in which it lays its eggs, it can certainly cut through the petal of the flower) allowing it access to the nectar.  Flowers produce nectar to attract bees and other insects so that in the process of obtaining the nectar, the insect will be dusted with the pollen to then pollinate the next flower/plant.

But the Carpenter Bee is taking the nectar under false pretenses – it is taking the nectar that the flower makes as “payment” for the insect transporting the nectar but it is not distributing the pollen.  Hence, Grand Theft – Nectar.  Thankfully for these plants, there are other bees, flies and other insects that are more than willing to help distribute the pollen in exchange for the nectar.

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