Bumble Bees

>> Wednesday, June 17, 2009

american-bumble-bee Most of us are familiar with the yellow and black striped bumble bees, often seen on flower blossoms.  They are quite a bit larger than the common honeybee.  They don’t produce large quantities of honey and don’t exist in large colonies like the honeybees.  A bumble bee nest will hold fewer than 50 individuals and is used for only one season, not normally being preserved over the winter.  The nest may be found within tunnels in the ground made by other animals, or in bunches of grass OR within a stack of hay bales!

Monday afternoon Darryl was pulling down several bales of our “mulch hay” to take to a friend when he happened upon a bumble bee nest.  He managed to remove the nest (he thought).  Tuesday morning I went down to do some more mulching in the garden and started to obtain some of the hay.  Right on top of one of the bales was a portion of the bumble bee nest, that Darryl had somehow overlooked.  I used Darryl’s pitchfork and carried it out of the barn but 8 or 10 bumble bees remained, flying about looking for their nest.  I thought that I could swat them down with a piece of board.  I got a few BUT one of the angry female bees got me—stinging me on the left eyelid.

I read in an article that I found on the internet that “social hymenopterans, including yellowjackets, bumble bees, honey bees, and fire ants, have individuals in the colony whose task it is to defend the nest.  If the nest is disturbed, these individuals will defend it vigorously.”  So, I guess the little gal was just doing her job.

I’ve been stung by honeybees, wasps and bumble bees.  I can’t say if one is more painful than another.  I found from my brief research that the major chemical in bee venom that is responsible for the pain is called melittin.  It stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin.  The result is a very painful sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache.  The body responds to a sting by causing fluid from the blood to begin flushing venom components from the area.  This causes redness and swelling at the sting sight.  I can attest to all of this.

IMG_6141 Connie took this photo of me within an hour or so of me being stung.  You can see the redness and swelling around my left eye.  The picture below is a “closeup” shot.  This morning when I got up the swelling was worse, barely able to open my eye at all.  This evening some of the swelling has gone away, although it isn’t completely gone yet.

IMG_6144 There seems to be an epidemic of stings here on the farm.  Malchiah was stung twice on the left arm yesterday by a wasp and then Ramiah was stung on the hand by a wasp today.  We are all doing okay, just having some swelling and redness to deal with once the initial pain went away.

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