Bee Series 5: Bumblebees

Any Harry Potter fans? Dumbledore Means bumblebee!

Bee Series 1: Honeybees are livestock, nothing more

Bee Series 2: The current decline of solitary bees

Bee Series 3: Solitary Species- Carpenter Bees

Bee Series 4: Solitary Species- Mason and Orchard Bees

For such a tiny creature, bumblebees are iconic throughout human civilization and culture. In music, we have the famous orchestra composition “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Both Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath wrote poems about bumblebees.

Bumblebees are mildly social forming small nests with populations around 5o bees. Only females have barbless stingers to defend the nest. Thus they possess the ability to sting repeatedly but do not leave the stinger in the target. Stings are only reported from rough handling of or breathing on a nest.Bugs seem sensitive to carbon dioxide as that is the single variable that attracts mosquitos. I wonder if there is a connection? Irrelevent fact for of the day: Mosquitoes are not attracted to people based on what they ate, what soap or fragrances they use or anything else other than the carbon dioxide the human body exudes.

These plump, hairy bees are commonly confused with carpenter bees who have shiny, hairless abdomens. They are vital pollinators due to their very long tongue that can reach into the depth of any nectar bearing flowers including the plants that honey and other solitary bees cannot. Could you imagine a world without tomatoes? No salsa, ketchup, bloody mary’s, pizza, etc. Bumblebees are the sole pollinators of tomatoes, eggplants and many wildflowers. Due to the shift in land use away from native wildflower meadows to monoculture crops or carefully cultivated and fumigated pastures, their populations are dwindling!

To recap from the second post in this series:

In Britain, out of 25 bumble bee species, only 6 remain in significant numbers with 3 gone from the region and 8 more following suit. Ireland has 2 species on the brink of extinction with 4 more considered endangered. The Irish are currently in danger of losing pollination ability that would destroy the agriculture economy. Here in North America, we have 3 species in danger of extinction with one additional species thought to already be extinct.

Where honeybees are imported exotic species, bumblebees are a native pollinator. Coupling their ability to pollinate plants which no other bee is able with their dwindling numbers, bumblebees far exceed the need for conservation of most other bee species–even honeybees.

Build Bumblebee habitat

No concessions seems apparent in providing the perfect bumblebee habitat. However all of them consist of an upside down flower pot, drainage holes plugged and filled with straw or woodchips. Beyond this, some sources recommend burying a hose to leave a tunnel to the flowerpot as ground dwelling bumblebees choose nesting sites by investigating holes. For tree or other above ground nesters, the same setup is recommended but suspended in the air. I’ll try a few methods out and report the results!



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