Posts Tagged: Bombus vosnesenskii
Don't you just love watching bumble bees?
This morning we watched a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging on lavender. It moved quickly from one blossom to another, barely allowing us time for a "bee shoot." It was "bee gone" every time we aimed the camera.
Finally, it cooperated.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, identified it as a male, the first (photo of a male Bombus vosnesenskii) he's seen this season.
He thinks a prize is in order.
Thorp, co-author of the newly published Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton Press), and Davis photographers Gary Zamzow and Allan Jones and yours truly usually have a friendly competition to find and photograph the first bumble bee of the year, of the month, of the day, of the minute. Well, almost. It's "Bumble Bee Alert" a lot. On Christmas Day, I managed to capture an image of a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on jade blossoms at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, Solano County. (The black-tailed bumble bees emerge much earlier than the yellow-faced bumble bees.)
Now a Bumble Bee Watch group has launched a website to track bumble bee populations across the U.S. and Canada. This is a collaborative effort among several conservation groups and universities, according to the website and they need your sightings, including photos. As a spokesperson said: "The information will help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees, and help locate rare or endangered populations. They will also help with identification!"
Well, today, I watched one male Bombus vosnesenskii, and he watched me.
My prize? Just enjoying--and appreciating--nature at its finest.
(Note: How can you distinguish a male from a female Bombus vosnesenskii? Said Robbin Thorp: "Boy bumble bees have an one more segment in the antenna and the abdomen than females do. The tip of the abdomen is also more rounded. Male bees do not have any pollen transport structures. In bumble bees, this means that the hind tibia is much more slender than in females which have corbiculae (pollen baskets). In Bombus vosnesenskii there is a second partial yellow band on the abdomen on T-5."
"The most accurate test of female vs male bumble bees, is to pick up a specimen with a bare hand. If you get stung, it is a female, if not, it is a boy bee. Boy bees can't sting, because they have no stinger. But I do not recommend this test unless you already know the answer! :)"
A male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, appears to be "resting" on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another view of the male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of the male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lavender is what it's all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Peek-a-bee! The male bumble bee peers over a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, is back.
We spotted some overwintering queen bumble bees gathering nectar on a hebe bush last Sunday at the Berkeley marina.
Distinguished by their yellow faces, yellow head pile, black wings, and a bold yellow stripe on their lower abdomen, they bumbled around the hebe as if they were newbie pilots.
The warm weather invited them out of their underground nests. RSVP accepted. The hebe proved to be a good host, enticing them with the sweet scent of nectar. Soon the queens will be starting rearing a colony, and the worker bees will emerge.
Hebe (genus Hebe), a native of New Zealand, grow wells along the coast. Gardeners who tend the marinas around the San Francisco Bay seem to favor it.
So do the bumble bees.
Queen bumble bee nectaring a hebe at the Berkeley marina. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bumble bee is aglow in the afternoon sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Distinguishing yellow stripe on the lower abdomen is barely visible. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native on native.
That's when you get when you see a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on a penstemon, also known as "beard's tongue."
Both the bee and the flower are native to North America.
Native Americans reportedly used the penstemon, formerly classified in the Scrophulariaceae family and now considered a member of the Plantaginaceae family, to relieve toothaches.
Whether it relieves toothaches or not, the penstemon, with its two-lipped tubular flowers, is quite attractive to bumble bees!
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) crawls inside a penstemon "Evelyn." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Just the feet of the yellow-faced bumble bee show. At right, another yellow-faced bumble bee heads off to a flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee emerging from penstemon blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
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...
Male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, appears to be doing a chin up. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's sad to see and say, but like honey bees, the bumble bee population is declining, and that decline is alarming. Public awareness can help turn this around.
That's why we're glad to see that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, based in Portland, Ore., has just published a free downloadable booklet titled Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators.
The booklet outlines "the important role bumble bees play in both agricultural and wild plant pollination, details the threats they face, and provides information on how land managers can create, restore, and enhance high quality habitat," the authors said. "Importantly, these guidelines describe how land managers can adapt current practices to be more in sync with the needs and lifec ycle of bumble bees."
The booklet also includes bumble bee identification guides to both common and imperiled species in each region and lists important bumble bee plants.
One of the many plants they go for is lavender. In our yard we see as many as 10 yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging at one time. The bumble bees share the lavender with honey bees, syrphid flies, drone flies, blue and green bottle flies, carpenter bees, ladybugs, spotted cucumber beetles, butterflies, katydids, grasshoppers and a few predators, including crab spiders and jumping spiders.
Yellow-faced bumble bee nectaring lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)