Before we get too much further into the summer, I wanted to share this picture I took at least a month ago, of a bumblebee in my Phlomis. The plant is no longer flowering; it is, in fact, somewhat fried from heat and drought up here. But the bumblebees have moved on to other wonderful sources of nectar.
Because of this picture, I got to wondering about bumblebees, so I looked them up in Wikipedia. Of course, it is entirely possible that this is NOT a bumblebee, and I'm sure someone with more learning in this area will clarify. It could just be a fuzzy bee. Still, I'm happy to give myself an excuse to learn about bumblebees.
As I was taking notes to share with you, I had a flash of memory from grade school, when we were given assignments to write little reports to read to the class. No one knew how to do original research, of course. It was enough that we were learning how to use the encyclopedia (my parents owned a set of World Book--what a great name.) And as with the dictionary, you would stumble on all sorts of other unexpected subjects on your way to finding what you were looking for. Kind of like life.
So: the bees are characterized in part by the soft nature of the hair on their bodies, long branched setae, called pile. The same word we use to describe the texture of fabrics, or teddy bears!
They extract nectar using the long tongues, and their body hairs get a dusting of pollen too. I've seen them so laden that it looks as if they were wearing pantaloons.
Bumblebees leave a scent mark on flowers, to deter other visitors. They tag, or claim, a blossom. That seems to be such universal behavior--think of graffiti artists, and dogs.
Bumblebees beat their wings 200 times a second; their buzzing sound is caused by the vibrating of the flight muscles.
It seems to happen more and more often that, when I'm learning about something I've seen, I come to a passage like this one:
Bumblebees are in danger due to habitat destruction or collateral pesticide damage.
There have been significant declines of entire types of bumblebees in Britain and in Ireland. The world's first bumblebee sanctuary was opened at Vane Farm in the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve in Scotland in 2008.