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Bumble Bees

Bumble Bees – Bombus

There are nearly 50 species of native bumble bees in North America. Bumble bees are a social species, with one egg laying female; she raises a colony that is active for one season. During early spring, if you see a bumble bee while the apple is in bloom, it is most likely the overwintering queen preparing to establish a colony.   She is larger than the workers that will populate a colony consisting of 50 to 200 worker bees.

The brown belted bumble bee (Bombus grisceolis) is commonly seen in the Hudson Valley.  This one enjoys the purple coneflower.

Many varieties of bumble bees can be found throughout the summer; the most commonly seen is the Eastern bumble bee.  Other common varieties in the Hudson Valley include the confusing bumblebee, two spotted bumble bee and brown belted bumble bee. Many other bumble bees have become less common.

The Confusing Bumble Bee (Bombus perplexus) flying in for a landing at Milkweed.  This bee is a fairly common sight in early summer in the Hudson Valley.

Like many of our native bees, bumble bees have the ability to “buzz pollinate” by vibrating their wing muscles with such force that it shakes the pollen free from flowers such as azaleas, blueberries, and members of the nightshade family like tomatoes and eggplant. Honey bees are unable to pollinate these flowers.

The tri-colored Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius) is a commonly seen in the Catskills and Adirondacks. This one was seen pollinating goldenrod at the base of Lyon Mountain.

Bumble bees are generalists, meaning they pollinate a variety of flowers.  However, some flowers are solely dependent on bumble bee pollination.  One such example is the Dutchman’s breeches that relies specifically on the queen bumble bee.  She is active earlier in the season than the worker bees she must rear. 

This northern amber bumble bee (Bombus borealis) an uncommon species is seen visiting a turtlehead flower in the Au Sable River Valley in the Eastern Adirondacks.

This yellow banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola) is seen visiting Joe Pye weed growing on an abandoned beaver dam near the West Branch of the Au Sable River in the Adirondacks.

More about Bumble Bees at the links below:

Bumblebees of the Adirondacks 

Bumble Bees Suffer from Climate Change

The Queen Bee and the Dutchman’s Breeches

A common Eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) seen buzz pollinating a tomato flower.

A half black bumble bee (Bombus vagans) queen looking for a place to nest near Dutchman’s Breeches at Stony Kill Farm in the Hudson Valley.

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