Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bumble bee (also bumblebee)

Bumble bee detail, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

I found this bee on the ground and couldn’t resist the opportunity to study it in detail. I’m not fond of bees or other stinging insects, but I’ve always had a soft spot for bumble bees.

The sound of its common name “bumble” seems to fit so well! It fits the rumbling buzzing sounds and the way the bees forage for nectar and pollen: clumsily bumping and nuzzling blossoms in an apparent aimless way.

When I draw or paint something, it spurs me to research my subject a little more deeply – now that I know it better from my observation and drawing, I need to answer the questions that surface during the process.

Florida has five species of bumble bees! In my entomological ignorance, I thought there was just one. Florida is a long state north to south, so we encompass several zones and many habitats. I learned that the further south one travels in Florida, the fewer bumble species there are.

I tried to use the identifier interface at to find out which bumblebee this might be, but didn’t succeed. Perhaps I entered some incorrect information or this bee is an anomaly; I just don’t know enough about bees to know what I might be missing. The portal for bumblebees is here if are interested.

I further learned that bumbles nest underground or in convenient cavities. Growing up in Iowa, most country kids know the importance of bees for crop pollination. Without bees, our food base would suffer.

I found that bumblebees are also valuable for something called “buzz pollination.” Their technique dislodges firmly held pollen, and they are especially sought for greenhouse pollination or for certain plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, blueberries, and cranberries.

Next time you visit the produce department or a vegetable roadside stand, thank a bumblebee!

You can click on the images above to view larger on my Flickr photostream.