Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New Bumblebee

   I love bees. I'm sure few people get as excited as I do when I find and identify a new-to-me species. First, I have to rewind a few weeks, when Jeff and I went up Blacksburg to the Friendly Garden Tour.  At the first garden we visited, there were huge mass plantings of hostas in full bloom with purple flowers. They were covered in bees, most notably bumblebees. I wish I'd taken my camera! The wacky thing was, the bumblebees on those hostas were not the same species of bumblebee that I have in my yard, which is the Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), of which I didn't see any in Blacksburg. They were much larger and had a yellow abdomen, the Common Eastern has a black abdomen. Roanoke and Blacksburg are only a 45 minute drive apart from each other, but somehow we have different bumblebee species?
   Fast forward to Sunday night, I go out after dinner to look around the yard, to see what there is to see, and...holy cow! There's a yellow butt bumblebee! (I didn't know what else to call it, since ours have black butts, and Carpenter Bees are shiny butts) Luckily I had the camera since the evening has proven to be a great time to look for things and the light is great for photographs. I managed to get just this one photo in focus before it flew away. The plant it's sitting on is spotted knapweed, a non-native invasive growing along the golf course. I'm pretty sure it's the same kind of bumblebee that we saw up in Blacksburg, and it appears to be a Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus). Maybe we do have them after all and I've just never seen them, or maybe they prefer a habitat different than what our property provides. I have since seen one again in the same area, also on spotted knapweed.
   I'm obviously not a biologist or an entomologist so maybe this isn't unusual. What is unusual and frustrating is we have two properties full of native flowers and native-cultivars, and I had to find that bee on a non-native invasive plant. Drives me nuts. (short drive, you're probably thinking) Do they not co-exist well with other species when that other species is much more dominant in number? All of our other bees seem to get along well, and we have a lot of bees. In any case, I hope it stays and lays eggs. And makes it way up the hill to our very bee friendly garden.

A blurry photo of one of our regular resident bumbles, Common Eastern, note the black abdomen

*As always, if you think I've made an error in identification, feel free to correct me, I'm not a professional.


  1. My only thought is that the bigger bumble prefers the Blacksburg habitat (lots of open field in the Va Tech area) or the elevation (B'burg being about 1000-1200 feet higher than Roanoke). *** Also not a professional***

  2. It's not dying I'm talking about...It's livin'.