Slugs or Bees?

Photo courtesy of Q. Pense

Photo courtesy of Q. Pense

This week I’m torn between wanting to write about slugs or bees. I had been planning to write about slugs. These seemingly useless creatures that slowly move around the garden, eating hostas, daffodils and other tender perennials. I often feel in competition with them for my delicious Tom Thumb lettuces. But yesterday,  I had the fun to witness Jerry the Bee Guy taking away a colony of bumblebees from a neighbor’s attic. They turned out to be the Black-rumped Bumble Bee (Bombus melanopygus). These bees look pretty typically bumble-beeish, but have an orange belt around their middle and their rump is black. I found some great photos at the Bees, Birds and Butterflies blog. (You can click on the link I provided for the photos I liked or go to Bees, Birds, and Butterflies homepage at This blog also links to Washington’s xerxes society. More than once, one of these Black-rumps have settled into my vegetable garden while I’ve been weeding or planting. It would land on the ground near me and just sit there while I worked around it. I’ve often wondered why it landed near me and settled for seemingly hours. I had the occasion to ask a beekeeper last year and she said it probably was just resting. She mentioned Bumbles often lose their way or need a rest and they’ll find the nearest hospitable spot & hang out for awhile. It was fun to notice the Bumble just sitting there, breathing – completely unbothered by my activity. In fact, while working on my raspberry patch canes this weekend, I was surrounded by three types of bees. We all worked on our own tasks – bees pollinating and me trying to tie the canes up (yes, I am behind schedule this year!).  I had Bombus mixtus, Bombus sitkensis, and I think Bombus vandykei (probably Bombus vosnesenskii) all working alongside me. Turns out Bumbles really like pollinating raspberries – I say, come on out! We love that fruit too!

Here’s the complete Xerxes Field Guide to Western Bees. Have some fun learning more about bees.

What pollinators are working near you?

This entry was posted in Bees, Flowers, Garden Creatures, Vegetable Gardening and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Slugs or Bees?

  1. Thanks for mentioning our blog. Our blog address is a bit confusing to spell, but it is – so named because we are based in Olympia – and we go by the name Bees, Birds, and Butterflies.

    A couple of thoughts about your resting bumbles. We often notice bumblebee queens show up when we’re working the garden, attracted to the smell of fresh dirt and the possibility of a usable nest site – most nest underground. I’ve also seen many worker bees out until dusk who then just pick a place to rest — some flower to tuck into or stem to grab — and return to the hive only the next day.

    Maybe Bombus melanopygus camps overnight because she is a very early-season bee, and with short days she just works can’t-see to can’t-see. These queens are more commonly above-ground nesters, and they more than most species of bumbles are very testy around their nests. One night I relocated a repurposed former birdhouse and the next day found the old site clustered with confused workers who’d returned after an overnight sojourn, hopelessly lost. I tried to move some of the overnighters to their new home, but they sharply declined my offer; experience has since shown me that these bees do not easily relocate, although some other species do.

    Glen Buschmann

    • Thanks Glen. I updated my post with your correct details. Thanks for your explanation on the resting Bombus melanopygus in my garden. I believe I’ve noticed one or two near me every year since I put in that bed. It is something I look forward to. I’ll have to notice what time of day I see them.

      I’ve been wondering why I didn’t notice any Bombus melanopygus near me while working on my raspberry canes? I was busy with the canes just the day before the hive was removed.

      Thanks again for visiting my blog and for your helpful comments.

  2. Thanks for the mentioning of my work…my thoughts on your bumble bee visits would only be adjusted to say…the third species was most likely bombus vosnesenskii and not Bombus vandykei. The b.vosnesenskii is really one of our most common bees, and to the best of my knowledge the visitor to your garden.

    • Thanks Marvin. That could easily be(e)! To my eye, and looking through the Xerxes guide, I gave it my best go. And I know I didn’t have a chance to look at the underside to see if that third bumble had an orange stripe on it’s underside. After this encounter, I’m noticing more of the markings on bees. Still, I’m surprised that none of the three looked like the Black-Rumped Bumblebee (Bombus melanopygus) with it’s proximity to my garden.

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