Sailors of the Atmosphere: Queens of Spring

In this blog, I will touch on happenings around the Museum, exhibitions, conservation, natural history, the wildlife sanctuary, and much more. One of my main passions and areas of interests in addition to birds, education, and art is with pollinators, especially our diverse and amazing species of native bees (did you know there are more than 360 species of native bees in Massachusetts alone). First, I’d like to talk a little bit about the humble bumble bee.


Common Eastern Bumble bee visiting goldenrod. Photo credit: Sean Kent

“Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;”

Emerson: The Humble-bee

As spring slowly turns into summer, the fragrant flowering trees and their gently falling flowers wash winter away and signal an end to our hibernation from 7 feet of snow. As the streets buzz with activity and people eagerly greet the sun’s warm rays, my daughter eagerly points out, the

Bloom apple flowers at the Museum of American Bird Art. Photo Credit: Sean Kent

Bloom apple flowers at the Museum of American Bird Art. Photo Credit: Sean Kent

streets buzz not only with people, but with one of the first and most important native wild pollinators to emerge. The furry, booming bumble bees.

Bumble bees are in the genus, Bombus, which means “booming”, and captures the cacophonous and frenzied pace of a bumble bee racing from flower to flower. It’s called flight of the bumble bee for a reason.

In the spring, you’ll probably notice that the bumble bees are much larger than you would see in the summer because the bumble bees flying around, searching for a nest site, and collecting nectar and pollen at cherry, apple, or holly flowers – to name a few – are queen bees, beginning their epic quest to start their own colony.

Once queens emerge from hibernation (dormancy), they need to stock up on nectar and pollen and find a suitable nesting site to form a colony. However, it can be really cold in the spring and life is very precious for newly emerged queens. Bumble bees can warm themselves up and get moving on cool spring days.  Check out this fantastic BBC video narrated by Sir David Attenborough and watch the thermal images of a bumble bee on a cold spring morning:

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