Extreme Macro Gallery - 'Bumblebee Queen' by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Extreme Macro Gallery - 'Bumblebee Queen' by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel

With winter almost over here in England, my kids found this bumblebee in March and I couldn't miss over the opportunity of shooting it. The bumble bee (also written as bumblebee) is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere. Bumble bees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. Bumblebees make an interesting subject for an extreme macro although they are a bit on the large side.

Bumble bees are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a corbicula: a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport). Like all bee tongues, the bumblebee tongue (the proboscis) is a long hairy structure that extends from a sheath-like modified maxilla. The primary action of the tongue is lapping, i.e. repeated dipping of the tongue into liquid. During lapping, nectar is drawn up the proboscis by capillary action. When at rest or flying, the proboscis is kept folded under the head.

The brightly coloured pile of the bumble bee is a form of aposematic signal. Depending on the species and morph, these colours can range from entirely black, to bright yellow, red, orange, white, and pink. Thick pile can also act as insulation to keep the bee warm in cold weather. Further, when flying a bee builds up an electrostatic charge, and as flowers are usually well grounded, pollen is attracted to the bee's pile when it lands. When a pollen-covered bee enters a flower, the charged pollen is preferentially attracted to the stigma because it is better grounded than the other parts of the flower. Bumble bees do not have ears; however, they can feel the vibrations of sounds through wood and other materials.

Queen and worker bumble bees CAN sting! Unlike a honey bee's stinger, a bumble bee's stinger lacks barbs, so it can even sting more than once. But, bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but will sting in defence of their nest, or if harmed. Female cuckoo bumble bees will aggressively attack host colony members, and sting the host queen, but will ignore other animals and humans unless disturbed.

Comments (1)

Article: Bumblebee
Andre Demontigny says...
Good afternoon, i am a new in the art of photography, one of the field that attract me is macro.
i will now read more and follow you webpage. thank you for sharing
28th February 2015 9:48pm
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