The Plight of the Bumble Bee

My first experience with a bumblebee nest was a surprise.  My son, Jonathan, and I had just finished a project for Cub Scouts that was aimed at obtaining a badge for nature study. He worked hard with me to build a really neat birdhouse.  Excitedly, he climbed a ladder and placed the birdhouse between limbs in the very large Maple Tree in the backyard.

Jonathan was hoping that soon a bird would choose his birdhouse, and he could watch from his window the coming and going of the birds making their nest. He had watched every day, but no birds seem to even come close to the nest. I thought that there might be a problem with the positioning of the opening and the birds would not be able to get in through the hole.

I got the ladder out of the shed.  I placed it upon the tree ready to climb up to see what was wrong with the birdhouse, a bird’s eye view so to speak. To my surprise, I heard a buzzing sound just about halfway up the ladder.  I noticed right away to my surprise two bumblebees buzzing around me.  I have seen the bumblebees at work in the yard as we have a flower and victory garden full of bees, of all types, every day, throughout the summer.  I have never been stung or bothered by them, as long as you let them do their work, they seem to leave us alone.

When I looked up I noticed not a bird in the birdhouse but a buzzing hive of bumblebees!  I yelled to Jonathan to run into the house.  I chose a quick jump to the ground and was on Jonathan’s heals as we both ran for the door.

The bumblebees let us know we did not belong near their nest.  That prompted me to learn about these bees and what to expect from them while they were in the back yard. As I found out unless they nest in the house near people, they pretty much do not bother humans, but I found that they are very important to us as pollinators.

These bees, as with most types of bees, go from flower to flower. In the process, they pick up pollen which is the male sperm of a plant. This allows flowers to become fertilized with the flowers’ egg cells. It is very important to us that the flowers produce fruits, which we all enjoy, and allows for propagation of the plant. I also learned that the bumblebee buzz allows it to vibrate pollen on to its body, which pollinates flowers, as well as helps feed bees at the hive along with nectar gathered during the visit.

Bumblebees live in small hives, in the ground where rodents might have had a den, or in small holes in woodpiles. In our case it was our birdhouse, or should I say a bee house.

Published byJohn Larabee

John Larabee received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1973 and his Master Degree in Mathematics and Science Education in 1983, both from Ohio University. He began teaching in 1973 and finished 35 years of teaching in elementary and Junior High English, Science, and Mathematics prior to his retirement in 2008. During his years in the classroom, John developed innovative ways to assist student learning through the development of creative, interactive science units and attention to each student's unique learning style.

2 Comments

  • Eddy

    June 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm Reply

    This is an exceptional article. I love this John.

    • John Larabee

      June 26, 2017 at 1:18 am Reply

      Thanks Eddy,
      If you looked at the pollinators currently in my gardens, honey bees are almost nil. The bees I see the most are small and large bumble bees. I wrote about them because they can end up making nests in the oddest places. I know some people who fear them so much, and will destroy nests, when they could just avoid them until they move on in the fall. We really need them for pollinating flowers and vegetables.
      I am glad you liked my very true story and enjoyed it as much as I liked writing it.

      John Larabee…I even have bee in my last name.

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