Wild Times: Part Two, You’re going to get stung

I have noticed the last couple of years that the plight of bees has gained national attention. Bees, or pollinators as they are commonly referred, have been tagged as becoming endangered. I have read articles that have stated that our pollinators are in dire straits and that our world as we know it is on the brink of disaster, and I have read articles that have stated that these claims are overstated. What do you believe? I am not sure.

I was curious just what we had in our state for a bee population. I really did not know that there were several species of bumblebees in our state. I just thought a bumblebee was a bumblebee and that they could sting you! As I looked at some pictures of the bumblebee, I noticed that they all look very similar. Perhaps that is why I was surprised that there are several species of them. A bumblebee is probably one of the most recognized insects in the state.

Most people have had a bumblebee experience in their life. If they haven’t they have been warned by someone who has. That telltale yellow and black coloring on that blocky body sends warning signals to all who are close! Throw a bumblebee into a crowd of people and watch how fast that crowd will disperse. You could not get a more frenzied reaction if a grenade were dropped in the middle of the crowd!

The most common bumblebee we have in our state is the common American Bumblebee. It is the largest of the bees that we have in our state. It, along with the Golden Northern Bumblebee, is referred to as the most industrious of our bees. The American Bumblebee is a voracious pollinator. If you are like me, when I think of pollinators I immediately think of the honey bee.

The more I read about bumblebees, the more I found out that they are a key cog in the pollinating cycle in our neck of the woods. They are one of the key pollinators in our gardens, orchards and landscaping. These bees, just like honey bees, produce honey but unlike honey bees, the bumblebees consume their own honey.

They nest on the ground, which explains back in the old days whenever we were baling clover hay in the summer that we were always disturbing a nest and the tractor driver always got stung! Bumblebees have smooth stingers, which allows them to use that stinger multiple times. Getting stung by a bumblebee is like getting hit by a hammer!

Here is something that really surprised me when I read it. The Golden Northern Bumblebee queen bee is the only bee in the hive that will live through the winter. All the other bees in the hive – the drones and the workers – will perish in the winter. The queen emerges in the spring and lays eggs and starts the process all over again!

These are the two most common bumblebees we have in the state, and both of them are very important to our agricultural needs. According to Jeff Whitworth, associate professor of entomology at Kansas State University, bee populations fluctuate over time and even though numbers are now in a down cycle, he is confident that the numbers will rebound in time.

The bumblebee population is not in danger of extinction like you read so commonly. There has been one species of bumblebee, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, that has been put on the Endangered Species list. Whitworth said that this is good, because it raises awareness for all species of pollinators and makes us more conscious of things we can do to help the species. Whitworth further states that he feels for the foreseeable future the bee population is in no danger of extinction and for all of us that is good news.

So the next time you get stung by a bumblebee, be thankful the species is alive and well!

Tim Kellenberger107 Posts

Tim Kellenberger serves as Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for The Sabetha Herald since 2004. He specializes in sports reporting and column writing, as well as sports photography. Tim is a Grace University graduate with a dual degree in agricultural economics and human resource management. He lives in rural Sabetha with his wife and has four grown children and two grandchildren.

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