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The Humble Bumble Bees

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We belong to the genus Bombus, part of the Apidae family, which includes our friends, the honeybees, carpenter bees, digger bees, orchid bees, and many more. You can spot us by our large bodies with yellow and black stripes and the buzzing sound we make. Our body has a lot of fuzzy hair, which the pollen sticks to. It gives us the ability to carry 25% of our body weight in pollen and sometimes even more than 75%!

As we fly around collecting nectar, we leave a scent behind on the flowers. This scent signals our friends that the nectar there has already been used. What a time saver!

How many eyes do we bees have? If you guessed five, then you would be correct! Our two main eyes have around 6,000 facets, and the other three sit on top of our heads very close together. With this powerful set of eyes, we can see colors, shapes, UV markings, and even spatial relationships between objects around us to determine which flowers are best to harvest pollen. We also estimate the temperatures of flowers and figure out which parts of these blossoming beauties are cooler or warmer. Another clever thing we can do is detect the nutritional value of pollen in flowers to choose the best ones for our dietary needs.

We are also known as the “humble bees.” William Shakespeare mentioned our folk in his play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with “The honie-bags steale from the humble Bees.” We are also quite popular in music and literature. Another poem about us was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (vegetarian), “The Humble-Bee” (1847).

Our folk are vital to the health of the natural world. In Europe alone, four out of five crops and wildflowers depend on pollination. If the decline of our insect population is not stopped, it will cause food shortages and even threaten the survival of humanity.

Here are some things you can do to help protect our bumblebee kingdom from decline. Planting native plants with varying blooming times throughout the seasons will provide us with the nectar and pollen we need to survive. Since we mostly nest underground in holes made by rodent-people, cavities of trees, and vacated bird-people nests, you can look out for us when cleaning your yard and be careful not to destroy our nests.
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