Training for the Olympics?
If you step into your garden in the early morning, you might see a male bumble bee sleeping on one of your plants. The females return to their nests at night, but the males don't. They stage slumber parties, aka sleepovers, on your plants.
If they look bedraggled, that's because they are. It's the beginning of a bad hair day.
Such was the case when we encountered this male yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on the lavender.
As the sun began rising, Mr. Bombus vosnesenskii, too, struggled to rise. Had he been partying all night? Sipping too much nectar, perhaps? Rolling in the pollen?
He crawled along the lavender plants , backtracked, and then appeared to be using a stem as a chin-up bar.
Nothing like a little morning exercise...
If you've ever been to Angel Island or Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, you may have seen them.
And sometimes if you're fishing in the Bay, a bumble bee may land on your boat.
That was the case Monday, May 28 when the sportsfishing charter boat, The Morning Star, left its berth at Loch Lomond Marina, San Rafael, and headed out to the Bay to search for what skipper Gordon Hough calls "meals on reels."
The Morning Star encountered the bumble bee about two miles north of Angel Island, near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, later identified it from the photo below as a female Bombus vosnesenskii.
Nobody was catching any halibut or stripers at the time, so some of the anglers caught an image of the yellow-faced bumble bee.
"I thought it was remarkable to see a bee flying around in the middle of nowhere," said Hough.
"She was probaby just too lazy to fly the distance and decided to hitch a ride," quipped Thorp. "Wonder if she does a daily commute to find a better patch of flowers."
Thorp says that bumble bees are "larger, stronger fliers than honey bees and can potentially fly for several miles."
"They have occasionally been found on boats off shore, but like honey bees, they tend not to forage across wide strips of water," Thorp says.
UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, who does fly research on Alcatraz, has seen bumble bees on Alcatraz, too. No honey bees, but bumble bees.
As for Hough, he says he has no plans to offer bumble bee charters.
The yellow-faced bumble bees are back!
And amid the throes of winter and the promise of spring.
On a trip Feb. 27 to Bodega Bay, we spotted two yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) about two miles apart.
They were both foraging on "The Pride of Madeira" (Echium candicans) on a sunny, but wind-whipped day in this Sonoma County coastal town.
The camera lens, the strong wind and the erratic flight of the bumble bees didn't allow us to get close, but the purple spiked flowers made a delightful sight.
See more images of this bumble bee, found throughout western North America, on Bug Guide.
It's good to see so many people looking for the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may soon list as “endangered” and provide protective status.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor entomology at UC Davis, has been tracking the elusive bumble bee since 1998. Its only known location is in a narrow range in northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties) and southern Oregon (Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties).
He's seen it only once since 2006.
But now Robbin Thorp has a "posse" on the lookout for the elusive bumble bee.
After The News-Review, Douglas County, Ore., published a news story and photo of the bumble bee on Sept. 13, nearly two dozen people "called or wrote...to say they thought they had spotted Franklin's bee," wrote reporter John Sowell in the Oct. 12 edition.
Alas, it was not to "bee." Thorp identified the residents' photos as mostly the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
"There are a lot of lookalikes out there," Thorp told Sowell.
Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini (Frison), is mostly black with distinctive yellow markings on the front of its thorax and top of its head. It has a solid black abdomen with just a touch of white at the tip, and an inverted U-shaped design between its wing bases,In contrast, the yellow-faced bumble bee has a yellow face. its thorax and abdomen are mostly black but it has yellow band near the tip of the abdomen.
So, bottom line, if you see a bumble bee with yellow on its face and a yellow band at the tip of the abdomen, it's not our buddy, Franklin's bumble bee.
To check a puzzling identity, email your photo to Robbin Thorp at firstname.lastname@example.org
As Thorp told reporter Sowell: "The more eyes that are looking for it, the better it's going to be."
Franklin's Bumble Bee Still Elusive (Link to PDF of Douglas County Insect Sightings Create Buzz)
Franklin's Bumble Bee May Soon Be Listed as Endangered
Declining Bumble Bee Population Alarming
Robbin Thorp's Bumble Bee Research Yields Dickson Award
Mission to Save Franklin's Bumble Bee
California’s List of Endangered Species
Bumble Bees in Decline (Xerces Society)
Bumble Bees in California (UC Berkeley)
Watch Robbin Thorp's Webinar on bumble bees
A recent trip to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, yielded spectacular views of the ocean, but something else also proved spectacular--the honey bees and bumble bees foraging on borage.
Borage (Borago officinalis) is a blue starflower with distinguishing black anthers, coupled with hairy, bristly stems and leaves. Borage is often used as a vegetable or herb in culinary dishes, such as salads and soups. It's also used to garnish a cocktail, flavor hot tea and to fill pasta ravioli.
Some folks swear by its medicinal purposes--its anti-inflammatory properties reportedly help you recover from a respiratory infection, or alleviate mild depression.
Your great-grandmother may have embroidered the likeness of a borage on her pillowcases or painted it on canvas or arranged the colorful flowers in a vase.
If you stroll through the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, you'll see borage lining one side of a traditional vegetable plot.
Honey bees and bumble bees can't get enough it.
Neither can photographers.