Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bumble Bees and Bumble Tales

The Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens). 

Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) are a faunal group that we have focused on in E-Fauna BC. We have added Bumble Bee atlas pages for our 32 species, and are now working on adding photos to illustrate them (18 covered so far, more to go). This work on Bumble Bees has inspired some of us to pay more attention to them--they are an easy group to watch and photograph. For example, in taking photos of Bumble Bees for E-Fauna BC, citizen scientists have managed to photograph and document the presence of the Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) in BC.   Photos records also document the increasing occurrence of the Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) in BC.  This species was first reported in BC by Buckell in 1951 from the Thompson-Okanagan, but it has recently spread and is now found throughout the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.  One citizen scientist, Iris Bitterlich, contributes Bumble Bee photos to E-Fauna and has recently made some interesting observations on Bumble Bee behaviour.   Read more below:

"I was walking by a cherry laural this morning and noticed a large number of bumble bees buzzing around it. At first I thought there might be a nest in the laurel hedge, but when I looked closer I saw that the bees were going to the undersides of the leaves. When I looked still closer I saw that there were 4 to 6 nectaries on the underside of each new, green leaf. The bees were going to these to have a little sip. I still have to research this, but my working theory is that the plant may actually provide the nectar for ants, with the idea that the ants protect the plant from herbivores such as caterpillars. The bees might just be stealling from the ants!   I was able to find a 6 second video of the behavior on the internet at: taken in England. It shows a queen Bombus having a sip."


"I was cleaning out the nest from a chickadee nest box recently [in our garden], when out tumbled a very unhappy Bombus mixtus  (Tri-coloured Bumble Bee) queen who buzzed around angrily. I felt badly for her, but just remounted the box. The chickadees started building a nest, but guess what? Back came the queen, and the chickadees reluctantly relinquished it to her, after that they spent many hours listening outside the entrance. So now we have a resident colony making males and Queens (but unfortunately no photos). Next year I plan to get a bumble bee nest box with live stream camera from The chickadees also ended up happy when I put up a nest box for them, in which they immediately took up residence, though they occasionally still have a listen at the bee nest. That's my little wildlife adventure for this spring!"

 Nectaring Bumble Bee, photo by Iris Bitterlich

The bird houses in Iris's garden: the one on the left is the chickadee box and the one on the right is the Bumble Bee box with the Bombus mixtus nest.  Photo by Iris Bitterlich
The Tricoloured Bumble Bee (Bombus mixtus) nesting in a bird house.

View our E-Fauna BC photo gallery for Bumble Bees here.

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