NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Red-Tailed Bumblebees

new photos 017redRed- tailed bumblebees are delightful to watch in my garden. They are easy to spot, with their bright patch of orange, as they buzz around nectar rich flowers. Colonies, of these bees, number around 200 members. Aren’t they pretty?

2948342526_cf7a110d6f_bThe queens come out of hibernation in early Spring. Queenie lays eggs of worker bees right away. The workers build nests in stone crevasses or , sometimes, in old birds nests. They tend the eggs too. A while later, the male bees hatch to mate with females and carry on the nectar collecting business, which is their source of food. In the Fall, all the males (including worker bees) and the old queen die…the new queens, hatched that year, hibernate in order to start the cycle again in the spring.

These bumblebees are common in the United States and Europe. In recent times, their numbers have diminished as their habitat has been reduced and pesticides have killed some of them off. You can make a difference in their population numbers by keeping nectar rich flowers in your gardens.

Last season, I noticed an alarmingly reduced number of honeybees and red-tailed bumblebees. Part of last year’s dilemma was, in my opinion, the unusually warm and snow-free winter which affected the natural timing of tree flowers with bee hatching. Whatever the reason, my fruit trees bore far fewer fruit due to the absence of pollinators. I have high hopes for this spring to come.

As a footnote, I have never been stung by a bumblebee. One of my favorite childhood activities was catching them in jars, then releasing them. Mom warned that I was asking for stings, yet they never did. The photos above were taken by practically placing my camera lens on the subjects…still no stings. I don’t recommend antagonizing bees but would hope that people avoid them rather than kill them. They are very important to farmers and our produce!



Many of those buzzing insects that keep you on edge are not bees. They are some of the many nature-made copycats. Animals and insects alike, have wonderful imposters. Hoverflies are often mistaken for bees. There are many varieties found world wide. These clever flies have mimicked the appearance of bees to ward off predators.

These insects are quite harmless to people, unless those people trip and fall while ducking and running from what they believe is a bee. 🙂

Many varieties have larvae who feed on aphids. Aphids are responsible for tens of millions of dollars in crop damage each year.

A hoverfly’s value as a pollinator is equal to bees as well. Another name for these beauties is syrphid flies. They feed on nectar and pollen while they hover around flowers.

For quick identification, wasps and bees have two pairs of wings. Hoverflies have only one. After you have looked closely, the differences will be easier to spot.

The next time you consider swatting at a bee, take a closer look. Wouldn’t want to be fooled by Mother Nature , would you?

I’ll be showcasing a large variety of imposters in this series so stay tuned!