I seem to have an inadvertent theme going this week on bumblebees, if indeed three postings that happen to use the word constitutes a theme. I feel an obligation to post this third one, however, if only to do my part in preventing the dissemination of the particular flavor of Kool-Aid involved.
For background, my post "Trophy Weeding" was cross-posted on GardenRant a couple of days ago, which I appreciate and enjoy because such cross-postings always bring more comments and help me to improve my writing. Even if they do edit out some of the bawdier, and I dare say, funnier, comments before posting there. A reader named "Marie", however, took issue with one of my ill-considered statements and commented as follows:
"For perpetuating the myth that bumblebees are agressive and sting,the writer loses 25 points from from a perfect humor score. BUMBLEBEES DO NOT STING! Yes, I'm shouting. They are docile pollinators and you can probably outrun them. Hornets, some which have ground nests, are reactive and aggressive. They will chase you across the yard and into your house, then sting you if they haven't already. If you read this and still run away from bumbles, you lose 10 points for cowardice. Since not everyone reads the responses, I kindly ask you to consider writing a correction. Your amateur beekeeper, Marie"
Well, now, I must say that I was deeply stung by that comment, Marie, and especially by the deduction from my humor score. And you haven't seen me in person, so you don't know that outrunning them is an iffy risk on my part.
I fully admit that I'm just a rambling blogger, not an expert on anything, except perhaps that I have a minor claim to expertise in small animal veterinary orthopedic surgery, a subject that I choose not to blog about however. So it is entirely probable that I make a multitude of mistakes during my rambles and no one should take the credential "Master Gardener" as a real indicator of anything except the ability to spend a few hours in community service. But since Marie prompted me to provide a retraction after due diligence, I've researched the question to the best of my ability and, in fact, find that BUMBLEBEES CAN SURELY STING! Yes, I'm shouting now too. Quoting such impeccable references as Wikipedia and http://www.bumblebee.org/, I agree that they are normally docile creatures and don't often sting, but according to everything I can find, the queens and workers can sting and will sting in defence of their nest or if harmed, and in fact they can sting repeatedly because their stinger lacks the barbs that cause a honeybee to surrender its weapon with each sting. In fact, website pictures of the bumblebee's barb are quite fearsome.
So we're both partially right, and I'd like a refund please of 15 points back to my humor score and permission to keep running if bumblebees happen to make a beeline for my backside. I'm willing to live and let live and I certainly don't propose that bumblebee nests should be eradicated with Navy SEAL squads ala Bin Laden. And I am tempted to challenge Marie to post a video sitting bare-naked for a period of time on a bumblebee nest, but I'm afraid of the lengths to which a true-believer might take such a challenge and my conscience can't absorb the potential consequences to garden-gnomes and children. So I'll just ask that if everyone can keep an open mind and limit the Kool-Aid to those WEE (wild-eyed environmentalists) wearing Birkenstocks and worshiping their AlGore dolls, we can hopefully just move on to another topic.