Over the past week or so at the Gardens, I have noticed quite the increase in pollinators buzzing around the Kitchen Garden as well as all around the grounds. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds… these hard workers can easily be overlooked, but they play a vital role in the health of Monk Botanical Gardens. Bumblebees and Honeybees are hard at work, and I would like to highlight one specific species of bumblebee that I had actually never seen before this past week.

That species is the Perplexing Bumblebee, or Confusing Bumblebee (Bombus Perplexus). Upon researching these bees after a quick identification using the Seek by iNaturalist app. I learned that this species of bumblebee is actually quite uncommon and has many notable differences from the common bumblebee we are used to seeing.

Perplexing Bumblebee at Monk Gardens

First, Perplexing Bumblebees are (almost) entirely yellow, with a longer and fuzzier coat than other bumblebees. Queens and Workers are usually 3/4 yellow from the head to the lower abdomen, while males are completely yellow, including yellow patches of hair on the face which some call the “mustache” or “beard”. A few more interesting notes about these bees is that they are native to Wisconsin, are huge fans of Hydrangeas and Rhododendron, and are considered uncommon because they are often confused with common bumblebees. Males of this species also lack corbiculae, the pollen transport modules on the legs.

I felt it important to bring up this interesting species because not much is known about them, and with their population in decline, looking out for these “perplexing” little guys to protect them and learn more about them is vital to Wisconsin’s native ecology. If you want to do some more research on your own, I included a source link from University of Wisconsin below that helped me catch some of the fine details about these bees!

https://wisconsinbumblebees.entomology.wisc.edu/online-guide/species/confusing-bumble-bee/

Written by Environmental Education Intern, Victor Anderson

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