www.bumblebee.org home page

Welcome to www.bumblebee.org. The menu above and on the left will take you to the major sections of the web site. If you are not sure which page you should be looking at try the search box at the top right of this, and every page.

www.bumblebee.org is divided into major areas:

    Bumblebees. This is where you are now. This section deals solely with bumblebees, and was the original part of the site. The main menu is above, and there is a more detailed menu to your left. Invertebrates.

    Invertebrates. This section deals with all the other invertebrates. And if you don't know what you have but you know that it isn't a bumblebee, and it doesn't have a backbone, there is a simple identification list that will lead you in the right direction.

    Homework answers. This is where you'll find hints and tips to common questions set as biology, ecology, botany, zoology homework, there are also definitions of common terms in biology. This part of the site was set up as I kept getting email that was obviously set questions, and the same questions came up again and again.

    Window box gardens. This was started when we were exiled to central Paris (I got no sympathy, but I'm an Aberdonian, and like my rain, hail and snow to come at me in a horizontal manner. Also the croissant is a poor substitute for an Aitken's rowie), and 2 north-facing window boxes were all the garden available, however it was amazing the wildlife those window boxes attracted. You'll find plant lists, hints and tips, etc. that you can use for window boxes, pots, or even gardens.

    Torphins. This is the village in north-east Scotland where we are now located. In this part of the site you can find photographs of invertebrates found locally, where to see them and when, also links to pages with more detailed information.

    Dowloads. This is where you can download ebooks and some drawings, and buy the guide to the most common bumblebees.

    Shop. This is the newest section. It is sponsored by Amazon, and www.bumblebee.org will get a small percentage of anything you buy here, or anything you buy from Amazon that leads off the shop pages. The money is used to run the site. There are no bumblebee nest boxes in the shop as I don't think the success rate is high enough for me to recommend them. The stuff that is on the pages is just what I buy and like so much that I am willing to say so in public.

What is a bumblebee?

Bumblebees are large, hairy social insects with a lazy buzz and clumsy, bumbling flight. Many of them are black and yellow, and along with ladybirds and butterflies are perhaps the only insects that almost everyone likes.

Queen and worker bumblebees can sting, and the photograph above right shows the extended sting of a Bombus lapidarius queen. You don't often see stings as bumblebees are reluctant to use them, and in all my years of working with them I have yet to be stung. For more on stings go to the sting page.

It is believed that the earliest fossilized bumblebee dates from the Oligocene, around 30 million years ago.

Bees and Einstein

It has been widely reported that Einstein said that without bees to pollinate our food crops humans would die off in just 4 years. Apparently Einstein never said this at all. It is just another urban myth. However if bees do die off it is fairly certain that life as we know it will cease with in a short time, and that there will be far fewer humans around, as there will be so much less for them to eat. So a world without bees will probably also be a world with far fewer humans.

For more on what we are doing to our world you can read my rant on global warming and pollution at the bottom of the Invertebrate page.

Where are bumblebees found?

Bumblebees are found mainly in northern temperate regions, though there are a few native South American species and New Zealand has some naturalised species that were introduced around 100 years ago to pollinate red clover. They range much further north than honey bees, and colonies can be found on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, only 880 km from the north pole!

With the recent popularity of using bumblebees in glasshouse pollination they will probably be found in most parts of the world before long (see below), especially Bombus terrestris which seems to be the most popular species sold for this purpose.

Recently there have been proposals to introduce bumblebees into Australia to pollinate crops in glasshouses. Now, though I dearly love bumblebees, I do think that this might not be a very good idea. No matter what security measures are taken, mated queens WILL escape eventually and that will probably lead to their establishment in the wild. And yet another non-native invasion of a country that has suffered more than most from such things. This invasion may or may not be benign, but isn't it better to err on the side of caution?

Apparently there are already colonies of Bombus terrestris on Tasmania, so I suppose it is now only a matter of time before they reach the mainland.

bumblebee sting
above the sting of a Bombus lapidarius queen, and below a Bombus terrestris/lucorum worker foraging.

List of crops pollinated by bumblebees.

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A summer spent following bumblebees

Pink38 is the name of the bumblebee pictured on the right. I caught and marked her just after 10 o'clock on the morning of 4th August 1995 while she was foraging on Cirsium arvense (thistle). I saw her another 10 times over the next few days, always on the same clump of thistles, or on a nearby clump of Centaurea nigra (knapweed).

Pink38 wasn't special in any way. I marked, measured tongue length, head length and width of 232 bumblebees between the 2nd and 6th of August 1995, and saw 58.6% again at least once.

A week or two later, after I'd finished all the work for my BSc Hons thesis, I went out with my camera to find the lane still full of bumblebees with numbers on their backs. Pink38 was just outside the door as usual, on her clump of thistles, so I took her photograph.

Everything you read on this site stems from that summer measuring tongue lengths, marking, following and recording flowers visited by bumblebees foraging in a farm lane in North East Scotland. I owe it all to the tolerance and good nature of a few hundred bumblebees who allowed my to interrupt and shadow them while they worked.

Pink bee, marked bumblebee

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