The Bumblers Have Returned

I’m referring to the large, fuzzy, pollen-collecting bumblebees, of course.

Not some synonymous “blunderer, botcher, bungler, butcher, fumbler, sad sack, stumbler.”

These bumblebees love the columbine and lupine growing in my wildflower garden beside the house.

Last year they appeared much earlier in June, so I was concerned, wondering if I’d see them again, but it has been cold and stormy lately. It’s not unusual for it to snow here in June. I don’t blame them for waiting. Even with their fuzzy, insulating pile, their flight muscles don’t work properly until the air temperature is 55F (13C) and even then, they have to shiver to warm up before taking flight. My wildflower garden gets the warmth of morning and early afternoon sun, so that’s when I see them.

Wildflower garden of lupine, columbine and chive.
The wildflower garden that attracts bumblers.
Bumblebee feeding on columbine flower.
The smaller of the two types I see, with light yellow pile and black bands.
Large bumblebee flying into closeup of columbine flowers.
One of the larger bumblers photobombing my closeup of columbine flowers.
This one’s pile is orange, with black bands.
Bumblebee feeding on a columbine flower.
That same large, orange-pile bumblebee working a columbine flower.
Bumblebee and pollen pocket collecting more from columbine flowers.
Here you can see the bright yellow “pocket” or “saddlebag” of pollen the bumblebee has collected
and stored on its hind legs.
One of the smaller bumblebees with yellow pile works on a columbine flower with a little competition from an even smaller bumbler of the same type.
Crowding! Three bumblers collecting pollen.

Normally, I give all kinds of bees and wasps wide berth. I’m allergic to bee stings, and while I always keep Benadryl on hand, why risk anaphylactic shock?

But last year, when I first noticed so many bumblebees in this garden, I realized they were so focused on collecting pollen and drinking nectar that they considered me a minor nuisance, something large to have to fly around to get to the next best pollen-laden flower. So today, unafraid of a sting, I spent some time hanging out with the bumblers, experimenting with closeup photos as well as video.

First, a video in slow motion, followed by one in regular speed. Bumblers are hard to keep up with!

A large bumblebee collecting pollen (in slow motion).
Busy bumblebees in real time.

We need bees! We need pollinators! Find out what attracts them in your area and plant those flowers and shrubs to sustain them. Earth, bees, and all of us who live on this planet depend on the plants that require bees for pollination, so sustain and be grateful to bumblebees and honeybees and all pollinators for keeping us all alive and fed.

And entertained.

Feature photo: three bumblebees working the Columbine flowers. All photos taken June 12, 2021.

18 thoughts on “The Bumblers Have Returned”

  1. It’s fun to see them flying in slow motion. Here they often make their nests in holes in the ground. They don’t take kindly to having their hole stepped on. They consider that very rude. I can say from experience that a bumblebee sting is more painful than a honeybee sting. However, I’ve never been stung by one that was flying or collecting pollen. They’re just very touchy about their nests, which is understandable.

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    1. That was my first attempt at slow motion video; it turned out well enough that I’ll keep trying! As for ground-nesting bees and hornets, see my response to Shelle’s comment for how I learned how rude they consider we humans. I was reading that bumblebees can sting multiple times, unlike honeybees (who sting and die), so if their sting is worse, then I’m definitely going to do my best to not annoy them while taking photos/video! I also read that they nest in the ground, so these visiting me now must nest in my field or one nearby. I’ll stay out, not wanting to be rude (or stung)!

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  2. Love the bumble bees. We have a glorious display of poppies and on those warm days the Bumbles are hitting every flower. Love the slow motion. I’m going to play with that with my camera or phone too! I used to be deathly afraid of bees in general after I stepped on a bee nest as I hiked around University of Colorado my first year. I was stung seven times and they even found away up my long sleeved shirt. Needless to say it killed my love of bees and hiking in general. But after about 20 years I lost that fear of the bees and can be around them without panicking.

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    1. Oh, I can relate, Shelle! I’ve never run faster than the time running a remote trails with several friends. Suddenly I heard the two guys several yards ahead of me yell, “Bees! Run fast!” Since I had no clue where the bees or their ground nest were I didn’t think I could go around, so I sprinted but they still got me – legs, arms, head, several stuck in my hair and one between my back and pack. Knowing I’m allergic, I kept running as fast as I could to the car but luckily I didn’t have a reaction. That’s when I learned I’m not allergic to ground hornets (just honeybees and bumblebees), but yeah, I’m not a fan of ground nests and I didn’t return to that trail for a few years, even though it was a favorite. From that day on we all joked that it pays to be the first runner in line on a trail because she/he usually gets by a ground nest unscathed while those following get nailed!

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  3. When they were little, my kids and their friends used to catch bumble bees in their hands. The claimed that they didn’t have stingers. This is false, but those kids never got stung.

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  4. Those videos are great . . that slo-mo especially a favorite.

    Bees ain’t my jam, but I live and let live. And I realize we do need these peeps to stick around if we wish to do the same.

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  5. Rebecca,
    Your flowers are GORGEOUS! And I love those hovering yellow fuzzy copters getting drunk on nectar! Wow. BTW, it seems like it was just a short while back that bees were all in danger of extinction, which meant we were all in danger of extinction. Do you know if the bees and humanity are in the clear now? Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mona! As for impending doom, if the number of bees in my ever-expanding wildflower garden are any indication, all we need to do is have everyone on the planet plant bee-attracting flowers and humanity might have a chance! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, that’s a lot of columbine! The deer eat most of mine. I understand keeping a wide berth from bees if you’re allergic to them. My son is allergic to wasps and hornets and I don’t like being anywhere near them.

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    1. I’ve been amazed that the deer don’t partake of any of my wildflowers, but then, I’ve got two dogs who woof at them if they come anywhere close to the yard, so I guess that keeps my wildflowers safe!

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