Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bombus-ed BeeBalm

ProfessorRoush was "beeing" busy in search of bees this weekend.  After my last post, when I included a photograph showing a bumblebee on an 'Applejack' blossom, it occurred to me that although I have seen plenty of "bumblebees" around the yard this year, I haven't seen a single honeybee.  Nor could I find one this past Sunday as I specifically searched for them, albeit on a cloudy day with occasional sprinkles in the air.

Honeybees should surely be visiting nearby, because Monarda fistulosa, otherwise known as Wild Bergamot, is blooming all over the prairie.  I've written before of my garden Monardas, and the native prairie species lives up to its common name, "Beebalm," but the balm exuded by Monarda only seems to be attracting the American Bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) this year.

Monarda fistulosa with Bombus pensylvanicus
Bombus pensylvanicus (Bombus, what a neat name for the ungainly genus comprising bumblebees!) was once the most prevalent bumblebee in the United States, but Wikipedia notes that it is recently declining in population.  Nationally, that may be true, but they seem to be as prevalent as ever in Kansas.  I'm not an insect expert by any means, but there are two species of bumblebees found in Kansas and I believe they're different enough that I've got this one correct.  Mostly black abdomen.  Check.  Black stripe behind wings.  Check, Check.  Certainly they were everywhere on my patch of native prairie today, feasting on the Wild Bergamot and the Asclepias tuberosa that is blooming everywhere.  The Monarda is such an ungainly, unkempt flower, that I think it matches the non-aerodynamic bumblebee.

'Jacob Cline' Monarda and Knautia macedonia
I haven't jumped onto the "glyphosate will destroy the world" train since the science says otherwise, and those of you who read this blog regularly know that I do believe in climate change but that I remain unconvinced that Man is primarily responsible for it (given the sure and certain evidence that it really was a lot warmer in 10000 B.C. than it is now and we just weren't around in enough numbers then to get the blame for it).   That all being said, I do worry a lot about the declining bee populations and I think Man probably has a lot to do with that one.  Whether it is disease or pesticide or habitat destruction, I have no idea, but on my little patch of prairie, I can tell you that the native Monarda clumps usually have a visiting bee, while the 'Jacob Cline' Monarda in my front landscaping hasn't a bee, bumble- or honey- in sight, everytime I've checked.  It seems that my preference for bright red flowers, and my happiness with the tough nature of the nearby Knautia macedonia, isn't shared by the bumblebees in my environment.  Perhaps I should turn over a new leaf...er...uh...flower, and encourage the Wild Bergamot to spread from the prairie to my landscaping.  When visitors complain about the insipid colors, I'll tell them simply that it looks delicious when viewed through a bee's eyes instead of those in a falsely-discriminating human.          

1 comment:

  1. Here in northern Indiana, I have there is noticeble drop off in the number of honey and bumble bees too. Quite strange.


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