Outdoors Journal: Mobile bumblebees stay busy

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT
  • Updated: July 30, 2009 - 9:31 PM


There are two groups of social bees in North America, the native bumblebee and the honey bee. The most common of the many species of bumblebees usually can be recognized by their robust shape, hairy bodies and black and yellow markings, with some having orange markings. The bees are large, three-fourths of an inch long or longer. Most nest in the ground, usually in a vacated animal burrow.

On observing bumblebees in flight, people are surprised that these giants insects can actually make progress through the air on such small wings. Antoine Magnan, a French zoologist, made some very careful studies of bumblebee flight in 1934 and concluded that because of their size, they should not be able to fly at all.

Bumblebees, which collect both pollen and nectar at the same time and are, therefore, very good pollenators, are the busiest of all bees. They are said to visit twice as many flowers in an equal amount of time as other bees. Every year we have a multi-billion dollar job performed for us, virtually free of charge: Because bumblebees and other insects carry pollen, we have fruits and vegetables.


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