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Bee No 4: The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens and some Impatient Bee Waving.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Bee No 4: The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens and some Impatient Bee Waving.

Since starting this project I have been looking for bees here in Orlando and have watched and photographed quite a few of these little cream and black bees. This is the Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens. Name? .. well I am not sure, but I have read that it might be because it likes the “impatiens” flower.  However, observing its darting flight and very short flower stops, maybe it’s because of its impatient nature.  This is a native American Bumble Bee which seems to be the one most studied and most useful for agriculture in the USA. They are certainly very common here in Orlando.

The facts 

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Bombus. Bumblebees
SPECIES: Bombus impatiens


This nice clear photo of pinned specimens shows the comparative sizes of the queen to worker to male. from the University of Maine’s Bilberry growing document here.

Queen: 20 to 21mm in length.
Worker: 9 to 17.5mm in length.
Male: 12.5 to 16mm in length..

This is a wide ranging bee, seen across eastern North America from Ontario to Maine and south to Florida. Their value to agriculture above other bumblebees is because they make large colonies of up to 450 workers and are now bred especially for the pollination of farm vegetables.  They are tireless workers and are not put off by cooler or adverse weather conditions as are honey bees.

 It seems that one factor in the recent decline of bumble bees in general is the loss of wild habitat which is rich in different types of flowers. These bees need to be able to feed from April to November. My snap taken last week is of the Bombus impatiens on the nearby Spotted Horse Mint which is growing enthusiastically on the weedy strip of land around Lake Baldwin and the path. It is covered with bees, flies and wasps.


Growing more bumble bee friendly flowers can help, so grow these: poppies, mint, tomatoes, nettles, convolvulus, any legumes, saxifrage and asters.  There were many many impatiens on the blue Michaelmas daisies at Leu this week.

Alex Wild Photography 

I really struggle to get a good bee photograph, I don't really have the eyesight or the correct macro lenses or a high res camera, so I am in awe of some of the fabulous photos I see on the internet. If you Google “Bombus impatiens” you will inevitably see the photos of Alex Wild. I wrote to Alex to ask his permission to put these on the blog, not only are they charming and wonderful but they demonstrate a nice little bit of bee behaviour.

Taken at the Laboratory colony of B impatiens at the University of Arizona they record an encounter between two bees and show the difference in sizes between worker bees.. not the queen and worker as you might think.






Captioned AAaaaaaahhhhh!!!!! A Bee!!!!!” .. this wonderful photo demonstrates what happens when the impatient bee has run right out of its small allocation of patience. The raising of a middle leg signifies a bee is getting irritated and is showing both alarm and a warning. If I were that little bee I am not sure I would be wanting to annoy my very large companion. I am going to ask Alex what was happening. It’s a good tip to know though, when getting up close and personal with bees. 

Another photo from his portfolio is of a nest of little research B impatiens bees at Arizona. The bees are numbered so scientists can track their individual activities.


See more of his really stunning insect photos at Alex Wild Photography here and on his blog  at He also has some articles on how he achieves his photographs which I really do need to read!


But, back to drawing and some initial sketches of the impatient bumble bee.

bombus impatiens sketches


Bee No 4: The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus Impatiens.

Bombus impatiens sm



Blogger Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

To me, the most extraordinary photo here is of the numbered bees. I wouldn't previously have imagined it was even possible.


10 November 2009 at 16:08  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Hi Lucy.. it's quite amazing isnt it! I know when my parents kept bees, the queen had a red spot ..but I am not sure who applied the spot!

14 November 2009 at 15:48  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi, Val, I love your work. I couldn't find it on your blog using the search feature, so don't know if you know of this other great site for bee ID:

It's British, but they do have a North American section.

16 November 2009 at 14:57  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Hi there Helen.Thanks so much. I do know about and have been in contact with the lady who runs it.. mainly because I hae quoted so much from her great site. I am sorry it didnt come up on the search .. will look at that.

17 November 2009 at 21:08  

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