Bumblebees of the Adirondacks

The Adirondack Region Supports a Diverse Bumble Bee Population.

On a recent trip home to the Adirondacks, I stopped along the East branch of the Ausable River and discovered the flood plain was filled with a diverse variety of flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants.  The wildflowers hosted a  surprisingly diverse population of bumble bee species.  In the mid-Hudson Valley where I now reside, I’ve find that about four species of bumblebees dominate but here along the banks of the Ausable River I quickly found at least six species of bumble bees.  The tri-colored bumble bee, northern amber bumble bee, half black bumble bee and the yellow banded bumble bee joined the more familiar brown belted bumble bee, two spotted bumble bee and the common eastern bumble bee.

The Ausable River near Keene Valley

The Ausable River near Keene Valley

Why is there a greater diversity of bumble bees here in the northern wilderness?  I theorize that this region of New York is less disturbed and the ecosystem more closely resembles its natural state.  In a wilderness region, riverbeds and beaver meadows are probably where the mid-summer flowers were historically found before roads and power lines dissected the countryside.  The natural forces of flooding from high waters and the abrasive power of spring ice jams and ice flows continue to provide the natural disturbance that keeps the forest at bay and prepares the seed beds for herbaceous plants.  Flood plains would naturally be the regions where bees and other pollinators would forage.


Yellow Banded Bumble Bee on Joe-Pye Weed

In today’s world, the Adirondack region’s continuous and unbroken forest contains less invasive plant species than other regions of the state.  Within, the confines of this wilderness, the natural forces continue as they have over the eons.  In other regions, human activity has altered the landscape more so than in this mountainous area, perhaps, favoring some bumble bee species.  The Adirondacks are not immune to human disturbance and activity as evidenced by the many non-native plants such as knapweed and birdsfoot trefoil that have since become naturalized to the region.

Northern amber bumbe bee

Northern amber bumble bee on native bee balm

In a very short visit, I discovered many bumble bees that I just haven’t seen in my daily observations in the Hudson Valley.  I will continue to allow nature to reveal her secret’s as to why in a world where bumble bee diversity is diminishing, it has not done so in the Adirondack Region of New York State.


Half Black Bumble Bee on Fireweed

 Do you want to get involved in a citizen science project that helps bumblebees?  Bumblebee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees.  Visit http://www.bumblebeewatch.org to find out how you can get involved just by taking a photograph.