Bees everywhere are struggling to survive, and that is bad news for humans since we depend on bees for every third bite of food we eat. Maurice Maeterlinck, author of The Life of a Bee, wrote that if bees were to disappear, we would only have four years left to live.
Recent data statistics tell us that we are 50% less likely to see a bumblebee now in North America than we were in 1974 or earlier. The rusty patched bumblebee is on the endangered species list and is the ‘poster bee’ to educate us on what is happening to our bumblers.
Are these fuzzy bumblebees dying from overheating or are they starving because their habitat is wilting and withering in the heat? Are they moving to locations with less extreme heat haze or are they dying out? There are no conclusive answers yet.
This super short video is 1:21-minutes long and reveals the bumblebee's super power:
Bumblebees are particularly badly affected by the many challenges faced by bees today, from deadly pesticides like neonicotinoids to the spread of diseases and pathogens, and pests like Varroa mites from the commercial non-native bee industry. Monocultures that alter their wild landscape harm bumblebees as much as complete habitat destruction and lack of the wildflowers that sustain them. Invasive species can drive them out, as well as natural pest or predator populations that come in waves and cycles. Even climate change, or as National Geographic refers to it, ‘climate chaos,’ dictates what is on their foraging menu and when it is available. This can lead to bumblebee starvation. Bumblebees like Bombus impatiens don’t function well in extreme heat and we’ve just had five of the hottest summers in recorded history.
Bumblebees are noble insects and are particularly hypnotizing in their “fuzzy suits” and superior hovering abilities. Have you ever seen these sweet little insects hover and then zone in on a Persian violet, spring dandelions or a patch of clover? If you are blessed to be able to gaze at them during “buzz pollination” where they literally vibrate a plant so it will part with its treasures, this is a true treat.
This video is 3:48-minutes long and has awesome bumblebee footage:
Bumblebees have many human fans who love them. Knowing the queen and worker bumblebees can sting leads us to respect their space, but we don’t show them the respect they deserve regarding their daily survival needs.
These are the creatures that inspired the orchestral Flight of the Bumblebee, by composer Nikalai Rimsky-Korsakov. This music prompts you to envision bees in flight.
British culture and literature have been very fond of the bumblebee. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, envisioned Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, as a music lover walking around the grounds humming like a bee. It is no mistake she named him Dumbledore, an 18 century word meaning bumblebee. British author Beatrix Potter, in her Tales of Mrs. Tittlemouse, created the character Babbitty Bumble. He is one of several bumblebees living in the mouse’s house.
Several horror movies were produced about bees, which hasn’t helped relations between people and bees and incited much fear, distrust and dislike of bees. The Swarm was about killer bees invading Texas. The film was a wipe out, but the cunning general in the story wanted to “get ‘em all in one area and then zap ‘em.”
Let's improve the image of all bees by educating young and old about how to cherish bees while we still have them.
Seek out an experience with a bumblebee this spring or summer, you’ll be delighted you did! :)