Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Summer of Bumble Bees

I had planned to spend the summer stalking bumble bees all over Illinois to take pictures and record on Beespotter at UIUC . That didn't happen. But, our wildlife habitat gardening practices at home are paying off with a bonanza of bees this year,especially bumble bees.

Most of the bumbles look like Bombus fervidus the Golden northern bumble bee
and Bombus impatiens .

Although sitting on a coneflower this bee looks as though it may have been in the Rose of Sharon blooms. Every morning several kinds of bees head for the days newly opening Rose of Sharon blooms then come out looking like they are having trouble flying with all that weight. Some bees land on firm coneflowers or heleopsis and groom themselves before continuing flight.

Click on the pictures to enlarge for a good look at the bees covered in gold flecks. In sunlight the pollen shines like glitter.

A bombus impatiens samples the liatris. We have been seeing these bumbles since very early spring. Cold mornings and easy rain do little to discourage the gathering of pollen and nectar by this bee. It is a favorite of those seeking to find a reliable pollinator.

Bumble bees do well in gardens with a bit of wild space for nests and a garden with many different kinds of flowers spreading blooms over a long season.

I was surprised to see so many bumbles bees with similar markings vary greatly in size. It seems that first born bumble bees fed only by the queen are smaller than later larvae fed by ever increasing numbers of worker bees. More food , bigger bees until maximum size for that bee is reached.

Bombus fervidus is a quick moving bee able to make many landings on many flowers in a short time. It is not picky, landing on many non native as well as native flowers. Its main goal being to collect as much nectar as possible. Late summers warm afternoon sunlight brings out this golden bumble bee.
Susan Harris at Garden Rant and Sustainable Gardening led us to an article in a

Washington Post Newsletter concerning the low numbers of some bumble bees in many areas.
This comes as no surprise. Pesticide use , lack of habitat ,and the spreading of disease when bees are shipped around to aid agricultural pollination, must take a toll. But gardeners can make a difference through their support of public land use policies and garden practices regarding wildlife.


Blogger Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I've just been noticing all the different types of bees visiting the sedums. I've got some type of Bumblebee, Carpenter bees (the giant Bumblebee looking things), honeybees, and the tiny bees that pollinate things like Sweet Alyssum. I'd started to take my bees for granted, but then my aunt visited yesterday & was surprised by how many bees I had. I must be doing something right.
I had to laugh at your photos of the pollen coated bees. I noticed the same thing on the bees in my Rose of Sharon. I guess that's a good enough reason to keep the shrub, even if I really don't like it.

2/9/08 4:20 PM  
Blogger Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I forgot to mention that I'm trying to get the Chicago area garden bloggers together for a meetup soon. If you are interested, leave your email in a comment on my blog. I will delete it promptly & contact you.

2/9/08 4:21 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Flowers do bring plenty of bees although I have not seen any honey bees this year, or the leaf cutter bees that were so abundant last year. Maybe I just missed them as I have not been as active this summer.
There are wasps but not nearly as many as previous years.
I think the Rose of Sharon is pretty but would not have planted any. These were here planted by a past gardener and do so well removing them seems unthinkable.

3/9/08 10:24 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Absolutely fabulous post and something very very close to my heart.........well don for all the help you are giving the bees......

6/9/08 1:41 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Cheryl, I have seen many of your great bumble bee pictures. I think that was how I found your blog as I often google backyard habitats and bees pictures.

7/9/08 5:18 PM  

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