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Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the European honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently considered as a clade Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; the decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.
Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.
Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, again since ancient times, and they feature in works of literature as varied as Virgil's Georgics, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse, and W. B. Yeats's poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Bee larvae are included in the Javanese dish botok tawon, where they are eaten steamed with shredded coconut.
The ancestors of bees were wasps in the family Crabronidae, which were predators of other insects. The switch from insect prey to pollen may have resulted from the consumption of prey insects which were flower visitors and were partially covered with pollen when they were fed to the wasp larvae. This same evolutionary scenario may have occurred within the vespoid wasps, where the pollen wasps evolved from predatory ancestors. Until recently, the oldest non-compression bee fossil had been found in New Jersey amber, Cretotrigona prisca of Cretaceous age, a corbiculate bee. A bee fossil from the early Cretaceous (~100 mya), Melittosphex burmensis, is considered ,,an extinct lineage of pollen-collecting Apoidea sister to the modern bees". Derived features of its morphology (apomorphies) place it clearly within the bees, but it retains two unmodified ancestral traits (plesiomorphies) of the legs (two mid-tibial spurs, and a slender hind basitarsus), showing its transitional status. By the Eocene (~45 mya) there was already considerable diversity among eusocial bee lineages.
The highly eusocial corbiculate Apidae appeared roughly 87 Mya, and the Allodapini (within the Apidae) around 53 Mya. The Colletidae appear as fossils only from the late Oligocene (~25 Mya) to early Miocene. The Melittidae are known from Palaeomacropis eocenicus in the Early Eocene. The Megachilidae are known from trace fossils (characteristic leaf cuttings) from the Middle Eocene. The Andrenidae are known from the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, around 34 Mya, of the Florissant shale. The Halictidae first appear in the Early Eocene with species found in amber. The Stenotritidae are known from fossil brood cells of Pleistocene age.
The earliest animal-pollinated flowers were shallow, cup-shaped blooms pollinated by insects such as beetles, so the syndrome of insect pollination was well established before the first appearance of bees. The novelty is that bees are specialized as pollination agents, with behavioral and physical modifications that specifically enhance pollination, and are the most efficient pollinating insects. In a process of coevolution, flowers developed floral rewards such as nectar and longer tubes, and bees developed longer tongues to extract the nectar. Bees also developed structures known as scopal hairs and pollen baskets to collect and carry pollen. The location and type differ among and between groups of bees. Most bees have scopal hairs located on their hind legs or on the underside of their abdomens, some bees in the family Apidae possess pollen baskets on their hind legs while very few species lack these entirely and instead collect pollen in their crops. This drove the adaptive radiation of the angiosperms, and, in turn, the bees themselves. Bees have not only coevolved with flowers but it is believed that some bees have coevolved with mites. Some bees provide tufts of hairs called acarinaria that appear to provide lodgings for mites; in return, it is believed that the mites eat fungi that attack pollen, so the relationship in this case may be mutualistc
Coccinellidae (/ˌkɒksɪˈnɛlɪdaɪ/) is a widespread family of small beetles ranging from 0.8 to 18 mm (0.0315 to 0.708 inches). They are commonly yellow, orange, or red with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, heads and antennae. However such colour patterns vary greatly. For example, a minority of species, such as Vibidia duodecimguttata, a twelve-spotted species, have whitish spots on a brown background. Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 6,000 species described.
Coccinellids are known as ladybugs in North America, and ladybirds in other areas. Entomologists widely prefer the names ladybird beetles or lady beetles as these insects are not classified as true bugs.
The majority of coccinellid species are generally considered useful insects, because many species prey on herbivorous homopterans such as aphids or scale insects, which are agricultural pests. Many coccinellids lay their eggs directly in aphid and scale insect colonies in order to ensure their larvae have an immediate food source. However, some species do have unwelcome effects; among these, the most prominent are of the subfamily Epilachninae, which are herbivorous themselves. Usually, epilachnines are only mild agricultural pests, eating the leaves of grain, potatoes, beans, and various other crops, but their numbers can increase explosively in years when their natural enemies, such as parasitoid wasps that attack their eggs, are few. In such situations, they can do major crop damage. They occur in practically all the major crop-producing regions of temperate and tropical countries.
The name coccinellids is derived from the Latin word coccineus meaning ,,scarlet". The name ,,ladybird" originated in Britain where the insects became known as "Our Lady's bird" or the Lady beetle. Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted wearing a red cloak in early paintings, and the spots of the seven-spot ladybird (the most common in Europe) were said to symbolise her seven joys and seven sorrows. In the United States, the name was adapted to ,,ladybug". Common names in other European languages have the same association, for example, the German name Marienkäfer translates to Marybeetle.
Most coccinellids have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs. Depending on the species, they can have spots, stripes, or no markings at all. Seven-spotted coccinellids are red or orange with three spots on each side and one in the middle; they have a black head with white patches on each side.
As well as the usual yellow and deep red colourings, many coccinellid species are mostly, or entirely, black, dark grey, gray, or brown, and may be difficult for an entomologist/nonentomologists to recognise as coccinellids at all. Conversely, non-entomologists might easily mistake many other small beetles for coccinellids. For example, the tortoise beetles, like the ladybird beetles, look similar because they are shaped so that they can cling to a flat surface so closely that ants and many other enemies cannot grip them.
Non-entomologists are prone to misidentify a wide variety of beetle species in other families as ,,ladybirds", i.e. coccinellids. Beetles are particularly prone to such misidentification if they are spotted in red, orange or yellow and black. Examples include the much larger scarabaeid grapevine beetles and spotted species of the Chrysomelidae, Melyridae and others. Conversely, laymen may fail to identify unmarked species of Coccinellidae as ,,ladybirds". Other beetles that have a defensive hemispherical shape, like that of the Coccinellidae (for example the Cassidinae), also are often taken for ladybirds.
A common myth, totally unfounded, is that the number of spots on the insect's back indicates its age. In fact, the underlying pattern and colouration are determined by the species and genetics of the beetle, and develop as the insect matures. In some species its appearance is fixed by the time it emerges from its pupa, though in most it may take some days for the colour of the adult beetle to mature and stabilise. Generally, the mature colour tends to be fuller and darker than the colour of the callow.
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