Bumble Bee Tongue

There is a bumble bee whose common name is the Confusing Bumble Bee (Bombus plexipus). Sometimes, even when using  a graphic guide to Bombus species, they are often confusing. That is what we found while trying to determine the bumble bee above. We think it is either an American Bumble Bee (B. pensylvanicus) or a Yellow-banded Bumble Bee (B. terricola). Or one of the species similar to these two.

Both of these important pollinators are thought to becoming much less common in recent years. Pesticides and habitat loss are probable reasons for their decline. In fact the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee is under consideration for protection.

We were photographing large bumble bees foraging on Bee Balm or Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Though there were many Bee Balm plants at two locations, there were very few insects collecting nectar and pollen on a sunny day.

The bumble bees we saw  were moving very fast around the flower clusters and between stems that we thought that nectar was in short supply. While reviewing images this morning we saw that that this bee had its long tongue sheath in one of the individual flowers in a cluster.

Here is a crop to see the tongue and its sheath in the corolla of a single blossom on a Bee Balm cluster. This long corolla suggests that it is a long-tongued bumble bee, probably the American Bumble Bee.

Even at 1/1250 second shutter speed, the wings are blurred. The rest of the bee is in sharp focus with individual hairs discernible. To stop the motion of its wings, Bob would have needed to use flash even at this high shutter speed.

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