7.14.2010

The Flight of the, well, maybe it's a Bumblebee


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.

20 comments:

queen_cupcake said...

Lovely photo--yes, I do think it is a bumblebee. I do not speak Swedish but I understand bumblebee in Swedish is humla. Isn't that great? I'm generally afraid of things that can fly and sting, but bumbles are different--they're kind of sweet. And at the end of their busy workday, they fall asleep on my purple coneflowers, where I find them in the morning.

Leslie Brunetta said...

Hi, Dominique,

I hope your hand is better. I left you some info in the comments section of Spider Woman Replies.

Our neighbors down the block are now keeping bees in addition to chickens, and there's a guy who keeps hives on his roof a block away from Porter Square Books, a very densely populated neighborhood. The return to urban food production, even though small-scale, is really interesting, I think.

Best wishes,
Leslie

Madgew said...

Beekeepers are having trouble here in the US keeping bees alive. Some strange phenomenon is killing are bee population. So sad as they are so important.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I love to watch them disappear into the long pink blooms on the foxgloves.

But one of my dogs always tries to jump up and catch them. I'm afraid one unhappy day she'll succeed.

Karena said...

They are an important part of nature. My daughter's boygriend raises bees!

Like you Dominique, I am taking time to enjoy the things around me more and more.

Karena
Art by Karena

mary said...

The environment--hopefully one day soon much freer of pesticides and man-made toxins...it is achievable. We just have to keep focused on the goal. Thanks, Mary

david terry said...

Regarding Pamela Terry's comment" regarding bumblebees and what happens when you get one in your mouth?....?

I don't know what Rhode Islanders do during the years they're pre-pubescing over the summer months while they're farmed-out to various country great-aunts, but?...

In Upper East Tennessee, we had a very braggarty, bossy, fat, and not particularly bright cousin who irritated us(over the twelve or so years since any of us had been born)by claiming to know everything about everything.

He told me, one hot afternoon out in Washington county, that I was a SISSY, because I'd run away from a bumble bee. He told us that they DIDN'T STING, and that I was a sissy for being scared of it.

My brother (who grew up to have two marriages and five children, thus presumably demonstrating his non-"sissiness") and I (who grew up to have no children and find myself legally married to a Frenchman, which is actually a VERY "sissy" thing to have done) told him that if HE wasn't a sissy, he would put it in his mouth. We caught one for him in a glass jar, and he put it in his mouth.

He did it. Just because we dared him to do it, and also because I told him I'd give 5 dollars (I'd been mowing old ladies' yards and had the money at age 11 or so)if he did it. And, yes....bumblebees can sting you...particularly if you stupidly let your Cousins shove one into your mouth.

In any case, bumblebees aren't as cute as they might seem. Carpenter bees are worse. They recently (although after years of effort)brought down a longtime, elderly friend's deck in Charlottesville.

I prfer the stingers to the drillers. We have plenty of both down here. Be glad you live up North, Ms. Browning.

Advisedly yours as ever,

david terry
www.davidterryart.com

kayellen said...

I was just outside watering everything down~~it is going to hit 100 in sunny Riverside,California~~~
A bumble was already headed to one of my bird baths!

My schaunzer and tabby kitty are already asking to come in the cool house~~~

So nice to meet you :)
My first time to visit!

Kay Ellen

Vava! Veve! said...

I love bumblebees! They are the big school buses of the bee world! They are even the right colors! The bees you want to be very cautious about are the wasps! They can sting again and again with extreme prejudice! Bumblebees and honey bees are only trying to do their singleminded jobs of gathering. A honey bee will only sting if threatened and then, tragically, in the act of trying to pull his stinger from one's flesh, loses it, disembowels himself and dies. Uck! But truly sad!

The really scarey part of the lowering of the bee population is that they are CRITICAL in the farming of our food. In order to bear fruit, the flowers of a plant must be pollinized. The bees are the pollinator. So try not to kill bumble and honey bees! But I am not sure what role the wasp plays in the ecosystem. Food for others maybe?

Anonymous said...

While watering this early morning, I glimpsed a bumble bee crawling inside my snap dragons. I paused.
A flashback to summers past when my velvet friends visited in clusters. Why did they leave this idyllic Colorado summer?

Susan C Hammond said...

I live in southeastern Massachusetts home to many cranberry bogs. They import bees to germinate the plants but sometimes even that isn't enough. We need to develop a greater understanding of how all these sub-ecosystems work together and I count myself in the collective "we".
I look forward to receiving your daily posts. Thanks.

c said...

I remember watching a 60 Minutes report on farmers "importing" bees to pollinate their blueberry crops (for one), because the "native" bees have disappeared. By importing, I mean within two states in the US, I don't remeber which ones, specifically.

Whole colonies are dying out, many theories, no one really knows why. [cellphones?]

Scary stuff considering how our food supply is hugely impacted by pollination, or lack thereof. Think of countries where farming is the biggest industry. The food supply is threatened, everywhere, including places where famine is a reality.

We tend to think that being green means weaning ourselvs from oil, for ex. It means a whole lot more than that. Pesticides, and their dangers are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg [hmmm... melting ones too].

Tpony said...

I had a "bee-loud glade" for many summers in my front yard in Ct. Nothing I can take credit for. Amidst a languid weeping type tree (I confess to not learning its identity) already in place before we moved in, that formed a canopy of pink blossoms for about a week and a half each season over my partial shade garden, a great gathering of bees sang and swooped. I would stand beneath the canopy, enveloped, thrilled by the vibration. It was an accidental paradise! This past spring there was so little bee traffic.... no "deep heart's core." I'm clinging to a belief that they will return in numbers; there are some amongst my echinacea, so hopefully, they'll bounce! Love your pictures Dominique; what type of camera, please?

sandrajonas.com said...

There are many theories as to why the bee population is waning, not least of which is the use of pesticides and herbicides.
My husband made an arrangement with a local beekeeper to keep hives on our property to pollinate our vegetables. Without them there would be no harvest.
We also get some honey. Unbelievable flavour, tastes like a garden.

lifeonthecutoff said...

Lovely picture. I can watch bumblebees all day long and love to find them, sated and dusted with pollen, sleeping in a hosting bloom. Right now, they are having an orgy in the Rose of Sharon and hanging onto the coneflowers, sipping companionably with the monarchs.

We all watch and hope the bee population stays stable.

lyndafitz said...

If you are looking for a GREAT book on the bee topic get Hive Detective by Loree Griffin Burns. It is a great book- for young and old alike! Love your blog!!!!!

Ann said...

I've never seen the phlomis perennial before. I will have to add some to our garden.

Thanks for the introduction!

suzieQ said...

So many people are afraid of anything that buzzes. Bumblebees are such hard working insects and like honeybees, just want to fly among the flowers.
In Maine, I used to show my daughter how they sleep on the lamb's ears. I would show her how you can gently "pet" them. Every time, they would raise one leg to let me know that I was bothering them and to stop. In all my years of gardening,so far, 36 years, I have only been stung twice. Once, when my shirt blew up and trapped a bee under my clothes and the other time, when I unwittingly put my hand right onto a bee that had been swatted.

My parents taught me, "Don't bother the bee and the bee won't bother you." I try to teach that to all the children I know, being a teacher.

Thea said...

sometimes people say they were stung by a bee when it's really a wasp or yellow jacket. I'm always warning them to leave them all alone and don't be swatting. my best bee-loud glade was went i planted lavendar along a long walkway to my farmhouse. me and the bees out there every morning humming along in the garden.

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