Common Eastern Bumblebees

Common Eastern Bumblebees

Common Eastern Bumblebees 5

Common Eastern Bumblebees

A Common Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, drinks nectar from the tubular flowers of this delicately scented, lavender Bee Balm, Monarda fistulosa.

Common Eastern Bumblebee

Bee Balm or Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, is a native perennial. Also known as the Bee Flower because it attracts so many species of bees, the deep-throated tubular flowers are a rich source nectar and provide pollen grains for pollinators like this hard-working bumblebee.

Flower choices are determined as the bee matches the length of its proboscis with the depth of the flower tube. The proboscis is a tube-like structure that sucks up liquid nectar with lapping motions.

Bombus impatiens on Echinacea

A Bombus impatiens unfolds the proboscis from a sheath-like, hairy structure and dips into the rich nectar and pollen around the quills at the center of this Coneflower. The round grains of yellow pollen cling to the fine leg and body hairs to carry back to the hive; however along the way, some grains invariably fall off as the bee flies from plant to plant—thus ensuring survival of that particular plant species through the miracle of pollination.

The bumblebee builds up an electrostatic charge when flying. Because most flowers are grounded, pollen is attracted to the bee’s furry hairs— called pile. As the bee flies to the next flower, the attached pollen grains fall onto neighboring flowers. The charged pollen is attracted to the stigma located within the female part of the flower called a pistil; this happens because it is better grounded than the other parts of the flower. This ensures seed production and survival of the plant.

The female bumblebee crawls around flower heads to collect pollen grains which are then placed into the pollen baskets on each hind leg.

Pollen basket of Bombus impatiens

The pollen basket is a yellow shiny sac surrounded by long hairs. As the bumblebee crawls around each flower, she packs this with pollen. This sac is located on the back legs of the female bumblebee. Lacking the pollen basket, male bumblebees do not collect pollen.

Once the pollen baskets on the hind legs are full of pollen, the industrious female worker returns to the hive to deliver her precious cargo like a delivery vehicle. This pollen is carried off and placed in special cells where it is then processed by male bumblebees to feed their larvae.

Bombus impatiens on Monarda Fistulosa

The male bumblebee does not collect pollen, but drinks nectar from the tubular flowers of this Bee Balm. Once the male bumblebees leave the nest in late summer to seek a young queen to mate and regenerate the next year’s hive. Males seldom return to the hive.

As bees crawl around the flower tubes, the furry body hairs gather pollen grains that are then carried onto the female parts – called pistils – of other flowers. It is a simple and priceless job. Without the dedicated work of these important, agricultural pollinators, there would be few flowers for us to enjoy, and a lot less food at the grocery store.

Bombus impatiens on Hollyhock

Pollen grains stick to the furry bumblebee because of an electrostatic charge that is generated during flight.

Please, ask before you buy! Choose only pesticide-free flowers from known retailers. We can help the plight of the bees by avoiding any products that contain neonicotinoids, proven harmful to all living organisms. Without bees, the produce section in grocery stores would quickly lose over 25 fruits and vegetables.

Xylocopa virginica

Easily confused with bumblebees of the Bombus species, this big bee, Xylocopa virginica, is a pollinator workhorse within each garden. The male Eastern Carpenter bee has a white spot on the face. The shiny spot on the back and shiny abdomen is the best way to distinguish between the two types of bees. The fall-blooming asters like this Tatarian Daisy provide nectar and pollen for all bees to survive the coming winter.

“Bumblebees are key factors in our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit.” Sir David Attenbourough


Authors: Kathleen Hird Kostner and Ricardo Kostner
© Hird and Kostner | Image reproduction only with written permission from the authors.

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