Look at the Queen

The bee in the photo is the titanic. Two other bumble bees of the same species would not equal the size of this one.DSC_0039ed

This bee is a queen. If no one else is watching you could bow. She is a queen two spotted bumble bee.  There are some reasons why at least a fast salute to this sizeable queen would be appropriate.

First, she is a seasonal marker. When the queen comes out bumble bee work is nearly finished. Flowers blossoms are fewer. Freezing temperatures are near. The queen marks the change of season.

Next, she is a survivor. In the next days she will dig a hole in the ground her size. Her nest cavity will not be deep usually less than 6 inches. In this nest she will hibernate. She will survive winter temperatures of -25 F or -31 C often colder.

Have you saluted yet? There’s one more thing worthy of mention. The male bumble bee who mated with her will die likely before frost come. So will all of the worker bumble bees of her colony; and the old queen who began the colony last spring. All will die. She will live. She holds the future spring 2019 colony in her abdomen. One bee carries the next year’s colony.DSC_0059ed

You don’t need to salute. Know this, a queen bumble bee is an extraordinary creature.

Yesterday we called what happens with bumble bees a superior life plan. It is certainly efficient-and effective. God has made all of His creation this way.

God has a Superior Life Plan for humans. This plan includes the forgiveness of all your sin, and mine…all the sins of every human. This plan includes the infinite grace and mercy of God. He favors us with forgiveness we do not deserve because He is merciful. This Superior Life Plan is free. Jesus bought it for us when died on the cross. It is perfectly effective, and completely effective. The Superior Life Plan of God has no ending. This plan provides life forever-eternally.

It seems logical doesn’t it? God could create the bumble bee to mark season change. He could create the physical body of all queen bumble bees to survive subzero temperatures for months. He could design her body to preserve the next generation. Could God devise a way to give all humans a Superior Plan for eternal Life?

Look at the queen…and see the King of Kings.

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The Superior Life Plan

 
 
The end is near. This is not a doomsday message from a want to be prophet. The end is near, it is a fact.
 
Blooming flowers will cease first. Freezing temperatures may hasten the end of blossoms. The work of pollinators for the season is near its conclusion for this season.DSC_0010ed
 
There is a cold reality coming. Many humans accept it with regret. Winter is nearing. Before full winter sets in the bumble bee in the photo will be dead. It sounds dreadful, but it is a nature fact.
The workers of a bumble bee colony will all be compost or food for others long before winter arrives in the north country. But there is a plan for the colony this bumble bee comes from. The bumble bee in this photo is likely feeding the final colony of bumble bees of this summer season. DSC_0001ed
 
This last colony is special. Unlike summer bumble bee colonies, it contains a number of queen bumble bees. Before freezing temperatures end flowers and nectar flower each queen from the colony will mate and find a safe winter nest just her size. There she will hibernate till spring. The eggs within her body will become the first bumble bee colony of next spring.
 
Native bees also overwinter in a birth cell as a pupa or immature adult bee. They will complete development in the warm first flower weather of next spring.
 
Honey bees are different. They overwinter in their nest around the queen. They are not dormant, but greatly reduce their activity. They use honey stored in the hive for winter food and “shiver” to keep the hive and themselves warm.
There is unconventional beyond this world wisdom evident in the lives of these pollinators. There is a winter provision. There is a superior life plan. The life cycle of bumble bee and honey bees is perpetuated throughout winter.
 
Take a long look at these photos. Look at the bumble bee, the honey bee (I think it is.) God has provided for these creatures who provide us food with their pollinating work. Flowers for them in spring, summer and fall and a winter protection plan when cold arrives.
 
Call it mercy, call it love. Yes, God loves His creation. That includes us.
 
Are you suffering? Is there heart ache, human trouble which seems an insurmountable mountain? God provides. He loves His creation, all of it. Tell Him of your trials, your worries, your fears.
Read His promise to us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
 
He provides for the bees. He will provide for you, in ways you cannot imagine. Talk with Him, He is always loving you, always listening for your voice. His plan is superior.

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Eternity in Our Hearts

DSC_0106edIt is the time for the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly, and the Monarch butterfly. Their beauty tugs at the knowledge of every human that there is an eternity. It is God who puts eternity in our hearts. But, we do not need all the answers. God has them, and He is trustworthy. Consider the words of King Solomon.

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“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Danaus plexippus

Danaus plexippus, the milkweed butterfly.

This resident caterpillar…

from one egg of over 300 eggs; after a 3-5 day development becomes…

a summer weather caterpillar for 9-14 days with 5 stages of growth called instars.

On the 5th instar…

a pupa forms, then in 8-15 days an inexplicable wonder …

millions of late summer adults become international travelers.

Unfathomable mystery packaged by God.

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Every Heartbeat

Every Heartbeat
 
This is about the heart. Break it down to a purely physical description, and describe it as “a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation.” This is a start. There is significantly more to a heart. More physical detail helps. In humans there are 4 chambers, two atria, and two ventricles. A normal sized heart is comparable to a human fist and weighs about 10.5 ounces.
The average human heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute(bpm). DSC_0027ed
 
To understand the significance of the human heart rate let’s compare them with animal heart rates. A hibernating groundhog rate is 5 bpm. The Blue Whale 8-10 bpm. Horses have a bpm of 28-40. A mouse has a bpm of 450-750.
 
Invertebrate hearts are very different physically from humans. Insects are known to have an open circulatory system. Their internal organs “float” in blood. Insect blood is called “hemolymph.” Insects hearts are found in their abdomens. Usually there is a tube at the top of the insect’s back which has holes to take in the “hemolymph” and pump it towards the head.
 
Large insects like the bumble bee use the muscles of their wings to increase heart rate and blood flow and warm their bodies on cold mornings. This makes bumble bees important pollinators. They begin pollinating earlier in the day and continue longer as evening temperatures ground other pollinators. We do not know the heart rate of insects. Yet a honey bee flies at a rate of 15 mph and will travel up to 3 miles to collect plant nectar. Its heart rate must be elevated after such exertion.DSC_0023ed
 
What causes human hearts to beat rhythmically, steadily night and day for an average of 79 years? Do you ever need to tell your heart to beat? Medical science identifies the sinoatrial node as the “heart’s natural pacemaker.” This tiny cluster of specialized heart cells send electrical impulses which produce a heart-beat. It works for a lifetime.
 
Now the question behind what causes the heart to beat. What causes the sinoatrial node to send electrical impulses? DSC_0018ed
 
Have you ever taken your pulse, or placed your hand over your heart and felt your pulse? Yes, diet, stress and exercise impact heart health. But our hearts function a lifetime, and we have little to do with it. It’s really a miracle. My favorite shepherd who also was a king, David said of God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God knows your heart. He made your heart and knew how many times it would beat-before you were born. That’s how powerful, how wonderful God is.
 
There is great comfort in this. Your heart beats free at no charge for you-all of life. God does that for you. God directs the sinoatrial node to function.
 
This is also about the heart that lives beyond death, your soul. He knows the number of your days. He knows the sin in your heart for each of those days. He did something for us about that. He sent His Son Jesus to clean our soul-heart, the eternal heart, from sin which separates us from God.
 
Consider the words of the shepherd/king once more, “From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33:14-16) God is in the heart business, yours and mine. He’s the ultimate expert in hearts.DSC_0045ed

Greatest Grace

Unseen most of its life, we seldom think of it or the service it does. My eyes have been watching it for you. That’s because its story will give you joy. You will be awed. Being awed is a joy for me. So, it must be for you. Don’t expect a large object. Its small. It is quick. In trying to photograph it my patience was tested every time. It’s not colorful either. Yet black fuzzy yellow with yellow pollen attached legs can be beautiful.
Yes, our subject is a bee. DSC_0010ed
What are your typical bee stereotypes? Perhaps your knowledge is based on the negative experiences you have had with a non-bee, the yellow jacket wasp. Worse, a yellow jacket has stung you. This is a bee, not a wasp. Look at the photo. There are no alternating black and yellow stripes on its abdomen.
It is small. For size perspective, it faces a 5/8 inch diameter garden hose.
This little ground bee can be your introduction to the concept that bees are not only good, they are amazing.DSC_0005ed
About bee stings. This bee and members of its colony have been active since late April. Be astonished, these small ground bees have their nests in front of the outside water spigots to our house. My wife and I use these spigots to water flowers, shrubs, and grass for the last 4 weeks. Each time we go to turn on the water spigot we step over, or on one or more of these bees’ nests. Guess how many times my wife and I have been stung? Zero. How many times has one of these bees buzzed around us for disturbing its nest? Zero. The day I forgot and covered the nests with a thin layer of landscape bark I was reminded the bees have their nests here when I returned and found 5 or 6 of them searching for their nest tube in the ground. I had covered them. Would you say I was stung that time? No.
More amazing. About 70 % of bee species nest underground like these do. These bees are expert at soil excavation. They tunnel into the soil and create a hard tube of small soil particles. Beneath the soil these tubes end in cells. The female ground bee brings pollen to the cell and shapes it into a ball. She lays one egg on the ball and closes the cell. The egg will hatch to feast on pollen before winter but spend winter in the cell as a prepupae. They freeze there and survive! Next spring it will emerge from the cell as an adult bee.
While many of the nest tubes are hidden, my estimate is between 30 and 40 tubes in a 2 foot by 3-foot area just below our outside water spigot. Many bees are using this area. We would like to add fresh landscape bark to the spot. We can wait till they finish nesting.DSC_0003ed
Have you thought about where the pollen comes from? Our yard has flowering crab apple trees, two fruit apple trees and a raspberry patch in our garden. We have a small native prairie garden. Two days ago, we planted a cherry tomato with blossoms already on it. These bees are doing us a great favor. They are making our food. As they gather pollen they pollinate the plants. Seeds and fruit result. They expect nothing but pollen to feed their larva. We get the best part of the bargain and we seldom if ever notice them.
Sometimes we mistake them for wasps and kill them. If they were human we could say all they ever are is gracious.
There is an even better greatest grace bargain. We get the best part. We do none of the work. The work of paying for our sin has been done for us. It was hard. It was agonizing and extremely painful. I don’t know the name of the little bees we’ve talked about. I do know the name of the One who paid for all our sins. His name is Jesus. While there were eyewitnesses to his crucifixion. You and I never saw it. To us His sacrifice was like that little bee-unseen. He is unseen, but on the throne of heaven today. His death for the sins of each person living and once living on the earth. He made the little bee I’ve shared with you.
Why did Jesus die? Love. God’s love. The Bible says it best. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 Jesus died for your sins and mine because God loves us, he graciously saves us. He made the beautiful ground bees to remind us his love has no limit and his power is everywhere present.

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Bombus Ternarius

Bombus ternarius is a member of the group Bombini. Latin always adds some depth to the subject. But we are not discussing a new band. Our subject is a bumble bee. Now, a bumble bee announcement: Central North Dakota has this spring’s first Tri Colored Bumble bees. My own eyes witnessed one in the photos.DSC_0198ed

For you “so what” skeptics, yes this is significant. Look at the photo. If she was not so small you could bow to the queen. This is a queen. She has just emerged from her winter nest of more than 5 ½ months. At the time of the photos, she was the only bumble bee in the area. This is the first wow!

The 2nd wow: in her body are the eggs that will make the next generation of Tri-colored bumble bees for this area. Her eggs over wintered in her body-frozen.DSC_0200ed

3rd wow: She is small between 17 and 19 mm long, males and workers are between 8 and 13. A penny is about 17 mm. Yet, she is a big bee.

Ternarius refers to its three colors yellow, black and orange/red. Tri-colored bumble bees are quite common. They occur from the Yukon to Nova Scotia and are wide-spread in the United States. Don’t let the word common end your amazement.

Yes, wow is too plain-we’ll use astounding.DSC_0203ed

4th a worker Tri-colored bumble bee weighs 5 hundredths of a gram. Without exaggeration, we can say it is ultralight…astounding is better.

 Tri-colored worker bees may fly up to 1/3 to 1 mile to find pollen to feed the colony the queen produces. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees do not make large quantities of honey. Since they feed the larval bumble bees pollen, the bumble bee is an exceptional pollinator. While cold-blooded they warm up faster, with fuzzy bodies they begin their day earlier than the honey bee, so they accomplish more pollination.

Questions for us:

  1. How does the Tri-colored bumble bee fly in a wind? It is so light and its wings so small.
  2. Why does it have three colors-most bumble bees have two.
  3. How is this queen bee able to survive? There were no noticeable sources of pollen-no flowers at the time of the photos. How did it survive winter-frozen?
  4. Why is this queen bee so shiny? Why the shiny black wings and feet?
  5. Do you see the dots between the eyes? One photo shows the ocelli- primitive eyes between the large shiny compound eyes. Why ocelli?

This bee is beautiful. But not when she landed on our granddaughter’s nose. Perhaps it was the sugar from the frozen yogurt on her face. I heard the scream. It was later I found out this bee thought our granddaughter was food.DSC_0204ed

One more thing. This bee is no accident, no chance organization of life. She flies-in strong wind. She knows where the pollen is. She survives being frozen for months. She pollinates-even when it’s too cold for honey bees. She does things impossible for humans, even impossible for other types of bees. Our lives are dependent on her survival.

This is the thing: she is a miracle. Let’s give credit to its Inventor. Yes, this bee was “invented.” No human eye saw it. This bee was invented before human eyes were. We can substitute created for invented. In this case the Inventor knows everything and has all the power. This Inventor knows exactly how to make a large bodied insect like the Tri-colored bumble bee fly. This Inventor is the Creator of the universe, his name is Jesus.

John the Baptist explained it best in the Bible, John 1:1-3, he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Through Jesus, all things were made. Even my favorite bumble bee the Tri-colored bumble bee was made by Jesus.

Jesus knows the answers to all of my questions, and all of yours. He gave perfect attention and wisdom to the creation of the Tri-colored bumble bee and perfect attention, perfect wisdom, to making you and me.  His “inventions” shine with perfection. His love never fails.DSC_0202ed