- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The black-tailed bumble bee wasn't flying very well.
You wouldn't, either, if you were trying to fly with a backpack on your back.
Except this wasn't a backpack but sticky pollen.
The bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, was foraging in our Spanish lavender last weekend when we noticed something unusual: a sort of hump on the back, a reddish coloration.
"That mass on the rear of the Bombus melanopygus thorax is a load of pollen," said Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. "A larger lump than most that I have seen before. Deposited from several visits to some 'nototribic' flower. Nototribic flowers are those that deposit pollen on the upper side of visitors. Like salvias with their anthers at the top of the tube."
Biologist Africa Gomez of the UK writes about it in her abugblog: "Some bees...specialize on collecting pollen from flowers with raised anthers, which touch over the bee's head or thorax when bees land on them. These are called nototribic flowers and include species from the Lamiaceae (the mint family) and Scrophulariaceae (the figwort family)."
"Although bee-pollinated plants benefit from bees taking nectar--exchanging nectar for inadvertent pollination- they do not benefit when potential pollinators efficiently gather the pollen for their offspring consumptions instead," Gomez points out in her blog. "Nototribic plants in response to specialised pollen gathering by bees, have flowers that make pollen hard to collect, even when they have plentiful nectar. Only bees equipped with either specialised behaviour or morphological modifications, or both can effectively make use of their pollen."
As for the bumble bee foraging on our Spanish lavender, it eventually bumbled off with that heavy load, taking flight like a weighted Spruce Goose.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
A sure sign of approaching spring...
As the cold weather subsides, out come the overwintering queen bumble bees. They're gathering nectar and pollen, building their nests and laying eggs.
Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, found a young queen bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus) on campus yesterday.
The confused queen managed to fly into Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
These particular bees, native to North America, are nicknamed "the orange-rumped bumble bees." They're basically your fuzzy-wuzzy, yellow-banded black bumble bees.
Last year UC Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp tended a nest of Bombus melanopygus on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility grounds at UC Davis. The story behind the story: an area resident was seeking a temporary location for the bumble bees, which were nesting in his birdhouse. Thorp obliged.
The photos below:
Kimsey's queen bumble bee (which rates a solid 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for fuzzy-wuzziness) and a bumble bee ready to take flight from the birdhouse. The bumble-bee-in-the-birdhouse photo, taken Feb. 29, 2008, received an online presence when the North Carolina State University Museum asked to borrow it to illustrate some text.
All hail the humble bumble bee...ever beautiful and ever resourceful./o:p>