Bernheim Pollinators: The Bumblebee

By Claude Stephens

So…who among you remembers the song with these lyrics sung by Beaky Buzzard from Saturday morning cartoons? “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee. Won’t my mommy be surprised at me? I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee….whoops she stung me.”

You can watch it by clicking here.

Everybody knows the bumblebee.  But what you may not know is that there are actually more than 250 different species of these large fuzzy bees.  Most of those species are social insects that live in underground hives.  Bumble bee hives tend to have far fewer individuals than honey bees and although they do seem to have a way to communicate between them about resources such as nectar and pollen in their vicinity, their communication is not as elaborate as the wiggle dance of honeybees.

Perhaps you have heard that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly, but obviously that’s not true.  On a recent morning in the Bernheim Edible Garden there were so many bumblebees flying around the cucumbers, acorn squash, melons and pumpkins that if you stood quiet for a moment you could hear the buzz.  They can beat their wings so fast that they shake the pollen off of the flowers.

Here are a few photos of the bumblebees visiting the flowers.  In some of the larger squash blossoms there were sometimes upwards of five bumblebees per blossom. That’s good news for our garden since without pollinators we wouldn’t expect to get any crops.

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