There have been times this summer when I would look out over the lawn and see MANY bumblebees in flight. They would be everywhere. On the flowers, and the clover cover on the ground. They fly and buzz continuously. These are the same cute insects that we were told as kids that should not fly as they do not have the right size of wings, or the the flaps per second, to keep them in the air. And yet they do fly……and dip around……and delight. I love them, and am surprised how many of them have surrounded the area this summer. I have not seen this many since a boy in Waushara County when I would use a butterfly net to catch them. Then I placed them into a fruit jar, and added some flowers for “food”, and would be amused for hours. At night I would release them, only to chase new ones the next day. This year, for whatever reason they seem truly abundant, and add something special to the blooms. On Tuesday the bees seemed ready to be photographed. In the past they seemed more interested in flying away.
The bumblebee above has yellow pollen loaded up on each hind leg, which is visible in this picture of a sunflower. Bumblebees can fly from a distance of over a mile, and will return daily to the blooms until the the pollen is gone. Bumblebees are truly incredible. Sadly in some heavy agricultural areas in Wisconsin bumblebees are not to be found as the toxic sprays kill not only pests, but also these amazing insects.
Pollen is removed from flowers deliberately or incidentally by bumblebees. Incidental removal occurs when bumblebees come in contact with the anthers of a flower while collecting nectar. The bumblebee’s body hairs receive a dusting of pollen from the anthers which is then groomed into the corbiculae (“pollen baskets”). Bumblebees are also capable of buzz pollination.
There are over 250 species of bumblebees in the northern hemisphere, and the bees have an interesting home life.
Bumblebees form colonies. However, their colonies are usually much less extensive than those of honey bees. This is due to a number of factors including: the small physical size of the nest cavity, the fact that a single female is responsible for the initial construction and reproduction that happens within the nest, and the restriction of the colony to a single season (in most species). Often, mature bumblebee nests will hold fewer than 50 individuals, and may be within tunnels in the ground made by other animals, or in tussock grass. Bumblebees sometimes construct a wax canopy (“involucrum”) over top of their nest for protection and insulation. Bumblebees do not often preserve their nests through the winter, though some tropical species live in their nests for several years (and their colonies can grow quite large, depending on the size of the nest cavity). The last generation of summer includes a number of queens who overwinter separately in protected spots. The queens can live up to one year, possibly longer in tropical species.
The bees never seem to mind us, and I wonder where there home is. I would like to think that they are our neighbors somewhere close.
Though it is hard to see there are three of my friends on this sunflower that towers over my head. Bumblebees have no ears, and are not aggressive like other bees can be. I am glad to share our flowers with them!