Bumblebees: vital pollinators of our flowers, food crops and native plants

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.

You can read more about this fuzzy bumblebees at Pollinators Info which was the Blog of the Week recently here at Birds and Blooms

  1. says

    Hi SeEtta,
    Thanks for the link! I love seeing people spread the word about the importance of native bees! I wanted to add that, in addition to purple and yellow, bumble bees are really attracted to white flowers too. :)

  2. says

    Athena, thanks for the information. SaveBumbleBees.com talked about supplying some nectar for bumblebees early in the season. Is that something that would also help in fall as flowers die,, maybe give them a few more days or the queen more fat for the winter?

      • says

        Agreed. And I do still have blooms on several natives (and cultivars that the pollinators love) but the few remaining bees are getting some nectar from my hummingbird feeder I am keeping out for hummingbird stragglers so wondered if bees were similar to hummers in using sugar water to supplement natural nectar feeding

        • says

          Oh, sure they will use any sugar source that appeals to them! But I’ve never heard of bees other than honey bees visiting hummer feeders. I’d love to know if you’ve got honey bees or native bees drinking from the feeder!

          • says

            I was finally home during the day yesterday and got a good photo of the bees on my feeder–you are correct, they were all honey bees. Very enlightening as I never even thought to check them out to see if any native bees were coming to my feeder. Thanks for all the great info!


  1. […] Bees, including honeybees, are among the most famous and effective pollinators. Bees are often fuzzy, and this is no accident.  As they fly from flower to flower collecting nectar, their fuzzy bodies gather pollen along the way. Some of that pollen gets transferred to other flowers as they travel. Bees are so important to pollination that in some areas, fruit farmers will hire beekeepers to bring hives to their gardens in the spring to ensure all their trees are properly pollinated and will set fruit. […]

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