Invertebrate Land Animals
Because invertebrates were decimated by human activity less than higher classes were, they are the best example of the country's position as a meeting ground for creatures of extremely divergent geographic origin. The number of insects, spiders, crustaceans and other invertebrates reaches tens of thousands, and there is an incredible variety of forms and colours. In addition to countrywide species, many are restricted to limited areas. Richest in invertebrate fauna are refions which abound in warmth, water and vegetation, such as the Hula Valley, the valleys around the Sea of Tiberias, and some of the northern parts of the Coastal Plain. The use of insecticides and biological warfare against crop pests or plagues succeeds in reducing the attacked species greatly, but only rarely makes it disappear. The introduction of new farming crops also brings the appearance of new pests, previously unknown; cotton growing, since the beginning of the 1950s, caused the spreading of the boll-worm (Earias insulana). The introduction of groundnuts brought other species; citrus growers must wage constant war against the Mediterranean fruit fly. Of creaturesharmful to man, best known are scorpions, among them the common black and the more dangerous yellow variety (Nebo hierochunticus and Buthus quinquestriatur). The bite of a large spider, the black widow (Latrodectus tredecimiguttatus), may cause considerable trouble.
The Jaffa Amphipod (Ampelisca jaffaensis) from Jaffa, Palestine.
This carabid beetle of the Genus Anthea hunts other insects on the ground.Its graphic markings of a few large white spots on a shiny black body cause it to be commonly known as the Domino Beetle.
Ground-beetles (Carabidae) are very numerous in Palestine. They generally lack wings and live on the ground, where they hide beneath stones or in cracks in the soil during the spring days.
In the hibernal inundation area of rivers, wadis and swamps in the Jordan Valley, in the coastal plain and in the hills they are found in abundance, on the still wet soil in early spring.
Species of Bembidion, Microlestes, Chlaenius, Tachys, Harpalus, Brachynus, and many others are distributed all over Palestine.
The gigantic, hairy Camel or Sun spiders (Solifugae) are quick and agile nocturnal predators, which hide beneath stones during the day.They are typical of the steppes and deserts of the south and the east of Palestine, where some species live on insects, mainly on termites, and others on grasshoppers and beetles. Their jaws are strong enough to pierce even the human epidermis, but they are not poisonous, as is generally believed. When they meet with a scorpion, - which must occur quite frequently, in nature, they immediately attack each other. The Camel Spider tries to bite off the poison-dagger at the end of the scorpion's tail and if successful he can then finish off the scorpion at his leisure, as it has become absolutely harmless. The scorpion tries to strike the camel spider, as often as possible, with its dagger. The result of the struggle is doubtful when full-grown individuals are the opponents.
The camel spiders are easily distinguished from the true spiders, because of their clearly segmented abdomen, which is never found in the true spiders. When disturbed, the camel spiders take a peculiar defensive attitude.
The common,larger species are Paragaleodes scalaris and P. judaicus, the smaller Rhagodes phalangium, R. melanus and others. They are less frequent in the Mediterranean parts of Palestine.
Ants are very common in Palestine. As in Biblical times the grin-collecting activity of the large and numerous Messor species attracts the attention of nearly all of us.
The tourist, coming from northern regions, misses the large ant-hills of Europe. But in warm countries like Palestine there is no necessity of erecting such hills in order to obtain more intense solar radiation. Only in January and February small cupola nests of Tapinoma may be discovered amidst low grasses all directed eastwards. The overwhelming majority of our ants live in purely subterranean nests or beneath stones. Their problem is not so much that of incressing heat and insulation, but rather of avoiding overheating in the summer. Many species have their main nests at a depth of between 1 - 2 m while the upper parts of the nest serve mainly as storage-chambers. The soil, from its overheated surface to its depth, presents a gradation of many temperatures. Eggs as well as larvae and pupae are regularly and untiringly transported to a certain optimal temperature, which is maintained in the environment of the offspring during the breeding season. The majority of the ants belonging to Crematogaster and Camponotus, only, nest in the wood of dead trees, underneath the bark of living trees or in dry herbs and twigs. The large majority of our species are predacious and lovers of sweet liquids. Mesor, Monomorium (Holcomyrmex) and Pheidole, however, live mainly on the seeds of plants, which they chew and with which they also feed their brood. If they chance to find dead insects, snails, etc., they readily devour them, but the percentage of such carnivorous meals is relatively low.
Red Palm Weevil
The Honeybee in Palestine
Palestine is the Biblical land of "milk and honey". It seems to be almost certain, however, that the ancient Inhabitants did not practice beekeeping, but collected the honey from the nests of wild Honeybees, which they found in the crevices of rocks. Beekeeping was probably introduced in the Hellenistic period. Even today there are reports of wild Honeybees' breedings. It is abundant in the mountains north-east of Acre and on Mount Carmel.
Our endemic Honeybee is the Syrian race Apis mellifica syriaca, which is related to the Cyprian bee. It stings very quickly,and tends to swarm and to produce drones. Its abdomen is of a bright yellow colour, probably brought about by the intercrossing with the yellow Egyptian bee (Apis mellifica fasciata). Experimental crossing of our Syrian with the Italian and Carniolian bee is done.
Native beekeeping takes place in pipes of clay, mud and even wood, of various forms. As a rule, these pipes are 50 - 70 cm long and 15 - 30 cm broad. They are closed with loam at both ends. The opening is in front, at the lower end. If there are no pipes at hand during the swarming season, clay vessels of any kind are used. The pipes are piled up, 4 - 6 layers high, and the spaces between the layers are covered with loam. These bee-walls are generally accessible from the front and from the rear. The work of the native Arab beekeeper is simple. In April he catches the swarm, in August he collects his honey by opening the pipe from the back and taking out all the honeycombs, except the foremost. Many bees are destroyed by this primitive and reckless procedure. The number of native swarms in the 1930s was between 30.000 and 40.000. 1,2 kilos of an impure honey is the average production, 2,4 kilos that of an especially favorable year. The annual honey production from this source therefore was from 35.000 to 50.000 kilos. The native beekeeping, however, depends greatly on climatic influences. In dry years no honey is collected at all.
The modern beekeepers use the American standard hive or the Langstroht hive principally.Single-walled hives seem to be more suitable than double-walled ones. The brothers Baldensperger, who are the pioneers of modern beekeeping in Palestine, started the cyclic transport of the bee-hives in 1882. The bee-hives remained from November to April in Jaffa, where 25-30 kilos of orange-honey were produced. In May they were transported to Ramleh (10-15 kilos of prickly-pear-honey), in July and August to Jerusalem and Bethlehem (15 kilos of thymus-honey). During September/October they were placed in a hornet-free district, near Nahr Rubin. Thus the Baldenspergers obtained three annual crops of 50-70 kilos per hive. In the 1930s, the transportation of the hives was restricted mainly to the coastal plain, where it follows the orange- and eucalyptus-blossomings. One to three annual crops can be gained by intensive bee-keeping and seasonal transportation of hives. But,even without the latter, two annual crops on the average are certain. The average annual crop is 30-50 kilos per hive in a normal year, 75 kilos in a very good year. In the 1930s, there were about 14.000 modern hives in Palestine, mainly in the Jewish settlements. They produced more than 200.000 kilos annually.
Today, the number of honeybee colonies in the Palestinian Authority Territories is about 45.000 , and in Israel about 76.000 colonies.
Palestinian working bees are industrious collectors of honey and producers of wax, but their tendency to sting renders amateur beekeeping here and make it more difficult than in Europe. The Palestinian bee-owner has to work much more cautiously than his European colleague.
A pronounced tendency to swarm, much greater than that of any European bee race, is characteristic of Palestine bee. The main swarming season is in May/June and lasts for three weeks. Distributed hives may start swarming as early as April. The old queen leaves the hive generally - but not always - with the first swarm. During the swarming season, the virgin queens remain in the hives undisturbed, until a fertilized queen returns. Many sexual transitional forms (half-queens, etc.) are reported as occurring among Palestine bees. When nectar becomes rare in nature - generally in July - the drones are killed. However, in hives which have rich stores of honey the production of drones is still continued. A true hibernation does not occur and breeding is continued throughout the winter, but to a lesser degree and more sporadically. Young queens are reported to be fertilized as early as December/January. The number of queen-cells is larger than that of other races. The flight begins in full strength in the spring. The covers of the honey-cells are noticeably arched and the cells completely filled with honey. Our bee produces propolis, which is not true of the Egyptian bee. From February onward the hives must receive additional food (sugar solution of 20-30%; 5-10 kilos of sugar in all). The transport of a native swarm into a modern hive is easy. It is sufficient to open the clay pipe of the old hive from the rear and to transfer the queen together with a few workers into it. The opening of the old pipe is then brought close to that of the new hive and the rest of the swarm passes into the new home, without difficulty.
The recent changes in agriculture change the conditions of beekeeping. Orange and eucalyptus blossoms - today the most important honey-sources in the coastal plain - were unknown in Biblical times. Prickly pear and Egyptian clover are further additions since historical times. Every new crop may be of importance as a new source of honey. Cruciferae, thistles and other Compositae are the principal natural sources of honey of the coastal plain and the Plain of Esdraelon and Labiatae, Borraginaceae and thymus are the best honey-producing plants of the mountains. From June to September Papilionaceae and Borraginaceae are the chief honey plants of the mountains.
In years of drought the amount of nectar in the wild flora is very much decreased. Only the nectar production of eucalyptus seems to be fairly resistant, even to drought.
Our hornet (Vespa orientalis) is the most important enemy of beekeeping in Palestine. From July on, These large robbers lie in ambush near the entrance of the bee-hives waiting for the returning workers, on which they prey. If the bees are unprotected, many swarms are so reduced by this that they can not recover and perish. Frequently the hornet manages to enter the hive where it preys on the stores and kills the inhabitants. The easiest method of control is to blow 30-60 gms of calcium-cyanide into the opening in the ground which leads to the hornet-nest. This should be done at sunset, when all the inhabitants of the nest are assembled. This control measure should be performed not later than July.
The Beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) is another predacious wasp, but is no economic menace. The Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), lizards, as Agamia stellio, and even toads may be mentioned as other enemies.Wax-moths are very common, especially the large wax-moth (Galleria melonella). They develop mainly in bee-swarms which are weakened by hornets or diseases. The honey attracts the large Dead-head Hawk-moth (Acherontia atropos). It is not easy to understand in what way this large insect occasionally manages to penetrate the bee-hives, where it is always killed by the bees after a long, but unsuccessful attempt to defend itself. American and European foulbrood of the larvae, which is produced by Bacillus larvae and Bacillus pluton respectively, is quite common. The diseased bee-hives must be radically destroyed and this procedure is legally enforced. The adult bees of these hives may be transferred to another bee-hive. In the spring, during the time of artificial nutrition, the adult bees often suffer from a contagious dysentery.
AraBee:Beekeeping in Arab Countries
The Book : Aquatica Arabica. An Aquatic Scientific Journey in Palestine, Arabia and Europe between 1980 - 2005.
Das Buch : Aquatica Arabica. Eine Aquatische Wissenschaftliche Reise in Palaestina, Arabien und Europa zwischen 1980 - 2005.
von : Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa.
Scorpions abound all over the country. They are slow, nocturnal animals which hide beneath stones, during the day. They prey on insects, wood-lice and spiders, but tolerate prolonged fasting, very well. They are ovoviviparous. They strike with a poisonous dagger, which is situated at the end of the scorpion's tail (postabdomen). The sting is extremely painful for man, and smaller animals are readily killed by it. In one case, the death of an infant seemed to have been caused by the sting of a scorpion.
By far the most common species is Buthus quinquestriatus, which - at least in the inhabited parts of Palestine - forms about 90% of all scorpions.
The common species are: a) Yellow scorpions: Buthus quinquestriatus, Buthus occitanus, Nebo hierochunticus. b) Dark brown to black scorpions: Buthus bicolor, Buthus judaicus. c) Green-brown scorpion: Scorpio testaceus.