Garden Friend: The Bumble Bee!

bumblebeefaceThe bumble bee is a conspicuous insect at this time of year. It is large, over an inch long, with lots of long hair colored black and yellow and/or orange.bumbleprofile There are 47 species of Bumble bee in North and Central America, with maybe 15 species in the Catskills region.





bumbleforage2Bumble bees form small annual colonies with one queen and usually around 50 workers. The mated queens overwinter to start new colonies in the spring. The workers do not overwinter. In early spring, one usually sees bumble bee queens foraging for pollen and nectar to feed their new brood of workers.




bumbleforage1The bumble bee is an important part of the ecology of the garden and of the pollination ecology of many Catskills wildflowers. Check out my previous posts on the special relationship between bumble bees and Foxgloves and Dutchman’s Breeches. Sometimes it makes a very loud buzzzzzz when it is reaching into a flower; the bumblebee isn’t stuck inside; it is very hungry, and twitches its wings to vibrate the flower to shake loose the last grains of pollen.

The bumble bee is economically important as a pollinator as well; it is used to pollinate greenhouse crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and summer squashes.


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  1. I am very concerned about the lack of honey bee habitat (hives) in NY. Do you know if any state or local agencies help with the cost of starting a hive? I would love to have a few hives to help my own gardens pollination of course but to help ALL gardens and orchards! Any info you can help me with would be greatly appreciated!

    • I would start with your County Cooperative Extension office. Also the following website has a lot of great info:

      I hope this is helpful.

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