The 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. There are 47 species of Bumble bee in North and Central America, with maybe 15 species in the Catskills region.
Bumble 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.
The 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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