Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bombus terrestris

Did you know that bumble bees had such things as "pollen baskets"? I didn't before this weekend. Read this awesome response to my email query from a kindly entomologist at the University of Stirling in Scotland.

From: Christie
Date: Jun 3, 2007 6:43 PM
Subject: question about bumble bee ID

Dear Bumble Bee Conservation Trust,

We were watching bumble bees in our garden this weekend and I'm wondering if you can ID the following bee--it was the only one we saw with such striking, bright orange pollen baskets (it was feeding on periwinkle flowers).


From: Beewatch
Date: Jun 6, 2007 10:45 AM
Subject: RE: question about bumble bee ID
To: Christie

Dear Christie,

Many thanks for the record. The bee in your photo is a buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).

The pollen baskets of the bee are the black, shiny indentations on the hind legs. These are surrounded by long hairs to help hold the pollen in place. When the bee finds a good source of pollen, she will collect it, moisten it with nectar and pack it into these baskets, moulding it into a lump like the one seen on your bee. Pollen varies in colour from flower to flower, with most being a variant of yellow or beige, however some plants have very red pollen (presumably periwinkles do) and others have a blue-black pollen (such as vipers bugloss). Collecting these types of pollen gives bees an extremely striking appearance!

Best Wishes,
Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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