Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A Fresh Bumblebee

An unexpected creature sat warming itself in the sun on the patio this morning: a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)


Its long yellow "hairs" and textured black body appeared fresh and new, as if it had just emerged into adulthood. No pollen clung to its body. Every wing and limb shone iridescent black in the sunlight. Where did it come from? 

Bumble bees typically nest in a cavity in the ground. Waxy cells, each packed with food resources, house the eggs and then developing larva. Once, 14 years ago western bumble bees nested in a birdhouse.

Where did this yellow-faced bumble bee emerge from? This area of the patio is edged with a concrete brick wall along one side and the house on the other. The cold bee was not able to fly; it would've had to walk a distance of 10 or more feet to find this dappled place in the sun.

The large bumble bee sat basking for a good 10 minutes before its body was warmed up enough to fly. Then off it went.

Identifiable by its fuzzy yellow head and a black abdomen with a narrow yellow band on the fourth section (nearly the tip), the yellow-faced bumble bee is a valuable pollinator. Like all bumble bees, however, they struggle to find suitable habitat. The mother of this bumble bee must have appreciated the native plants and undisturbed areas of soil that could provide for her offspring.

On this cool February morning, it seems early for bumble bees to be leaving the safety of their nests. Yet, the morning also brings the spring's first western swallowtail, fiery skipper, and California sister butterflies down into the yard. I wish the bumble bee well and hope we will see it among the sage and coffeeberry.