Plight of the Bumble Bee Part V: What I’ve Learned

Time to wrap up my Bombus segment. I hope that you enjoyed reading about the bumble bees and maybe even learned a couple things. I certainly did. A quick recap, a la “what I have learned:”

1. Our Southern Neighbors

In Plight of the Bumble Bee Part III: Not-So-Impossible-Giants, I posted this photo of a beautiful bumble bee I saw on a trip to Patagonia:

La Gigante Imposible (c) 2012 MRS


I mentioned that, while I was sure this bee was in the genus Bombus; (the bumble bee genus), I didn’t know which species it was.  Well just last week I stumbled across an article (incidentally also titled Plight of the Bumblebee so I guess I’m not as clever as I thought) that says there is only one bumble bee native to Patagonia, Bombus dahlbomii. This bee is the largest bumble bee in the world.

Our poor Southern neighbor appears to be suffering from similar issues to her North American cousins (see my post The Plight of the Bumble Bee Part IV: Pandora’s Bee Box, as described in this Science article.

2. Tricky Bee ID

The Mystery Bee Among the Blossoms

I was very flattered to receive a site visit from the highly esteemed Robbin Thorp of UC Davis, who happens to be the bee identification guru. He informed me that the conclusion I drew from my Is it a bumble? quiz, that the bee in question was most likely Bombus impatiens, was incorrect, and that the mystery bee was actually a male Eastern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica. The reason that the bee did not have any scopae (pollen collecting hairs) was because this individual was, in fact, a male (see The Dastardly Deeds of Male Bees, and while the male Eastern Carpenter Bee is often mistaken for the Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens, certain aspects of the leg morphology can be used to tell them apart (for those of you keeping score, the hind tibia is swollen and shorter than the basitarsus).

In this blog, I will probably not be able to give positive identifications to a lot of the live bees I photograph. This is because I am still learning how to identify bees, and even for bee identification gurus, much of the time bees are nearly impossible to identify on the wing (the specimen must be taken for examination under a microscope). So I am always grateful to those wiser than I who are around to correct my mistakes. Thank you, Robbin Thorp!

Tune in next time for more photos of bees, large and small.


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