I saw this bumblebee on the goldenrod so large I had to get my camera. It was as big as the first joint of my thumb. For perspective, the adjacent honeybee. Oh, this totally doesn’t show how large this bee is. She spent the night in this spot too, on the goldenrod.
I found this bedraggled bee sitting on the plastic of my greenhouse. I don’t know what happened, but she was finished. She obviously was at the end of a run (pollen baskets full) without the strength to carry on.
Luckily, I had just made bee syrup for my bees, and (carrying this nearly-dead bee; I’d already picked her up), I went home, dipped my finger in the pot of syrup, and started walking back.
The neatest part was that a second after getting the syrup on my hand, I felt all her feet suddenly grip my skin, grabbing on. Like a hibernating robot- ACTIVATE feet! Before, she would have dropped off if I tipped my hand.
She turned, her tongue came out, and she started sucking greedily. I held her for some minutes, but after deciding I had to care for some other animals, I had to wipe her and a drop of syrup off my finger onto a perch for her to finish on her own.
I used to save bumblebees that got trapped in the house like this, with a drop of honey on a butter knife. Set them outside together and the bee will come back to life.
My observation is that bees are not truly dead unless their tongues are stuck out, however dead they otherwise appear. I examine bees apparently drowned or froze, curled up like death, and if their tongue is not protruding, I set them in the sun, or in the sun in a flower for a snack. They are almost always gone a little later, or I even see them reviving, revving up their wings. If their tongues are out, it’s too late. All over.
I’ve been suspecting that I had bumblebees nesting along our path through the woods. I’ve heard and seen them flying low and sort of furtively in the area, since last year.
Then I learned more about bumblebees and that it’s sort of special to find a nest (they burrow in the ground), so I was keeping a more attentive eye out. Yesterday I happened to be walking out in the morning and caught a medium sized bee in the act of leaving her burrow, rather clumsily and noisily, bzzzZZzzz, like she hadn’t had her coffee yet. I knew it!
I found four little holes in the area, two of which have perfectly clean entrances you can see into before the tunnel curves (so I’m sure those are in use). What do they do in the rain? They remind me of bank-dwelling swallows. They seem to like the clayey soil and the compacted dirt of our path.
I must report to bumblebee watch. It’s going to be awfully hard to figure out what kind of bumblebees live there. It will be a long stakeout, or else I’ll have to set up a trail cam, ararar!
I was watering the garden this morning when I noticed a panicked bumblebee sloshing around in my bucket. I quickly scooped her out and set her on the dry mulch, hoping she’d dry out (to be honest, I thought of the bee as a him, but I’m pretty sure worker bees are actually all female). Every time I checked, she was still stumbling around in the hay, looking drenched and trying to make her wings work.
Twenty minutes later I was half way across the field when a bee lit on my hand. It was the same bee! The feathers of her back were still slicked and glittering with water. She flew from my hand to my other shoulder, and rode there for several minutes while I worked, nibbling a little. I felt blessed, and I knew for sure she’d never sting me.
“Oh hi,” I said, “you’re welcome.”
Even insects know more than we think, I think.