Friday, July 11, 2008

Bumble Bee


I see far more Bumble Bees (Bombus bifarius bifarius) in Colorado than I do Honey Bees so I couldn’t resist trying to capture a few pictures of one as it lumbered from flower to flower at the Mesa Trail trailhead. Note that I did not say flitted, or bounced, or zoomed. The flight of a Bumble Bee defies logic and reminds me of a pimped out Hindenburg.

Bumbles are social insects even though you invariably see them feeding solo. Their colonies contain around 50 individuals and they will often feed up to 2 km away from their home. Since they return to the same flowers day after day, they leave scent marks warning other Bumbles away. Too bad human’s sense of smell is so retarded. I would much rather have gangs scent mark their territory than spray paint it.

Bumbles use a long tongue to suck out the nectar from flowers. This requires them to crawl over the flower’s reproductive parts and thereby collect pollen onto their legs. When they land on another flower this botanical groping results in the pollen being transferred to the new plant and the miracle of pollination occurs. Not only do the bees “do it”, they also participate in cross species manage-a-deux, which is very kinky if you think about it. Who said Mother Nature was boring?

Bumbles can sting just so you know and sting repeatedly like wasps. In fact only Honey Bees have the barbed stingers that result in Kamikaze death. Bumbles are not aggressive, however, and will only sting if threatened either while feeding or at their colony. Still, I find it best to get out of the way of any Bumble lumbering my way. Who knows what they see out of those compound eyes. Just hearing their buzz raises the hair on the back of my neck. In nature, a yellow and black motif is also a warning sign. Just so you know, a Bumble’s buzzing is not caused by their wings but by their flight muscles. It takes a lot of oooMPHF to move the Hindenburg.

So next time you are lying face down in a field of Colorado wildflowers take a moment to observe the Bumble Bee.

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