There are 50 native bumblebee species in North America and they are very important pollinators. Bumblebees do a major share of the pollination of many of our food crops, native plants and even the flowers we grown in our yards. They are considered to be much more efficient than the non-native honey bees that they are used in several commercial food crops including tomatoes and blueberries.
Though they are much less aggressive than the non-native honey bees, people often don’t realize this and kill them. In fact, the drones (those are the small male bees) don’t even have a stinger! I can vouch for their non-aggressiveness as I photographed at close distances and worked around dozens of them on my sunflowers and had no stings.
Not only do they look different from honey bees they are move much slower. The website Bumblebee.org describes them as “large, hairy social insects with a lazy buzz and clumsy, bumbling flight.
“Bumblebees Taking a Nosedive in North America”, the title of an article in National Geographic Daily News, sums up the status of this important pollinator. A recent study found that 4 of the North American bumblebee species have experienced severe declines of up to 96% of their populations just in the past 20 years!
We can all help bumblebees out, and be rewarded by their pollination service, by planting flowers that attract them. They prefer prefer pink, purple, and yellow flowers. Reduce use of pesticides, which is important for all of the pollinators including hummingbirds. SaveBumblebees.com has more information on how you can help.