So, after seeing and hearing about male bumblebees being out and about the past few weeks, I ensconced myself in the Texas Bumblebee Archives tonight and compiled collection data for male and queen American bumblebees (Bombus pensylvanicus) from over a thousand specimens collected from 1910-1999.
This data is far from perfect as it was not obtained in any sort of systematic fashion; it is limited both geographically and time-wise (should be interpreted with a whole shaker of salt). But, hey, it’s all we have.
The mid-summer peak in males does coincide with what is being seen right now in terms of male American bumblebee observations. I just wonder if we will actually see a similar peak this fall.
I wish I could make it out to the Trans-Pecos but distance makes it hard. How are bumblebees doing out there? In particular, is the Sonoran bumblebee being seen? Bumble images would be appreciated from your all’s part of the world. Post to Texas Bumblebees Facebook or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
American bumblebee nest discovered in northeastern Texas by Jessica Womack. The colony was found in a damaged cardboard box and this sturdy wooden box was placed over it to protect the colony from the elements.
American bumblebee this morning at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. A number were working the flowers of tall rosin weed and rattlesnake master.
I have printed an 11″x17″ poster featuring the nine bumblebee species known from Texas. The posters are printed on a sturdy card stock. The total cost for one poster is $4.00 which includes shipping costs. If you want more than one poster, additional copies are 75 cents each.
If you use PayPal, e-mail me at email@example.com and I can provide my PayPal ID. If you want to send a check you can mail it to:
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Wildlife Diversity Program
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Be sure to include your preferred mailing address.
I have a bumblebee article coming out in the July issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. A graphic artist reworked my bumble illustrations for the issue – image below. Really like how they came out. I will be incorporating them into this site soon.
The Xerces Society has produced Conserving Bumble bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators.
PDF copies are available for free download at The Xerces Society.
The Pollinator Partnership has also developed a poster of the Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States. The poster depicts the 21 species that occur east of the Great Plains. Posters are available for purchase from The Pollinator Partnership.
On May 17, 2012, I visited a coastal tallgrass prairie remnant just south of El Campo in Wharton County with Texas Parks and Wildlife Botanist Jason Singhurst (Texas prairies Guru). Unfortunately, most of the prairie had already been hayed but the landowner did leave stripes uncut along the edges and in the center that contained flowering plants. After about 20 minutes surveying the flowers I had my first bumblebee sighting. I snapped up the bumble in a petri dish (my preferred method of capturing bees on flowers). It was an American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus). Over the next hour I spotted three more individuals of that species foraging for pollen along the uncut strips. So, three individuals in all. Not great, but I was excited to see bumbles after last year’s historic drought. I will be hitting a few more coastal prairies this summer – hope to see more bees!
I recently worked with Louisa and Marckley Ehrlich, high school students at The Academy for Global Studies in Austin, on their capstone project for graduation. They had been hearing about the media coverage of declining bee in the U.S. and were interested in working on that problem.
As European honeybees are a non-native species and potentially dangerous, I steered them toward native solitary bees. One way to help native bees in urban areas is to construct and erect bee nesting blocks. These blocks are used by native solitary bees. These bees do not live in colonies but rather lone female bees do all the work of establishing and provisioning nest sites for their larvae. They are also non-aggressive and do not defend their nest sites so these nesting blocks can be placed in urban and suburban yards with no worries of colony defending worker bees.
Typically, these solitary bees nest in holes in dead trees but those sorts of nest sites can be rare in urban situations. Native solitary bees, like leaf-cutter bees and mason bees, will readily take up residence in nesting blocks. A single female will provision a chamber with pollen and eggs, seal it, and then move on to the next chamber. She does not stick around to provide any additional care to her offspring, hence the lack of desire to defend that nest.
The benefit of placing these nesting blocks in your yard, especially if you are a home gardener, is that native solitary bees are typically much more efficient pollinators than honeybees. In some cases, just over 200 native bees can do the same level of pollination as a hive of honeybees containing over 10,000 workers. Plus, they are safer to have around. Now is the perfect time to build and erect your own bee nesting block.
For details on how to make bee nesting blocks see The Xerces Society’s Nests for Native Bees Fact Sheet
I first became interested in bumblebees and their conservation in 2005 while working for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. That state’s bumblebee fauna had not been seriously examined since 1965. I spent the next six years conducting field surveys of bumblebees occurring in Arkansas’s remnant grasslands as well as a two-year citizen-science effort (Arkansas Bumblebee Survey).
I moved to Texas in 2009 and am now the Invertebrate Biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The bumblebees of Texas were last reviewed in 1913, nearly 100 years ago. Given robust evidence of bumblebee declines in portions of North America, I think its important to examine how these insects are doing in Texas, especially given their significant economic contributions to agriculture and critical roles in maintaining native ecosystems.