Bumblebees Also Unwell

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Today’s image: more insects and flowers. You were warned.

Good news: at this particular stand of assorted native plants, pollinators were abundant–especially, as I’m finding more and more commonly, the Bumblebees far outnumer the honeybees, though there were an encouraging number of the latter here the day this photo was taken.

You can see from the conspicuous orange stash in its “pollen buckets” that it’s been busy. I’m not sure that the second bee here is actually a honeybee though it is about the same size; its markings were different.

I didn’t realize that there are commercial bumblebee hives whose services are marketed to greenhouses for things like tomatos. I do know that if it were not for bumblebees in our garden, there would be precious few others to do the job.

And darned if wild bumblebees aren’t in jeopardy–from infection picked up by greenhouse bees. The parasite robs bees of their ability to distinguish between flowers that contain nectar and those that don’t, so an infected bumblebee revisits the same flower again and again and slowly starves to death.

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About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting catch, Fred, but I think the bumblebees are “managed” bumblebees and not “commercial bumblebee hives”. I don’t think bumblebees live in hives at all, and, hence, are not territorial. They are much easier to get along with than honeybees or hornets or wasps or yellow jackets who all have something to defend.

    With respect to the original article about disoriented bees found around commercial nurseries where managed bumblebees were used. Could it be there were few disoriented bees out in the wild because they can’t make it out there and don’t reproduce (ie, they die) rather than the implied conclusion that sooner or later all bumblebees will become disoriented leading to a major population collapse. Methinks it’s much more complicated and dynamic than that. Still I wish the bumblebees well.

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