Sunday, June 12, 2016 Bumblebees on Lupine

Seward, Alaska

Large-leafed lupines (Lupinus polyphyllus) are in full bloom, ranging from white-striped lavender to pink-tipped blue, to deep purple. Hidden in their specialized keel, a fusion of the two lower petals, is a pointed sheath containing the pollen-tipped stamens and style. Today, when the sun peeked through the rain clouds, the furry bumblebees made a dash for the flowers.

Frantic, they literally bounced from one flower to another, buzzing around the dense spikes, sipping nectar with their long tongues and collecting pollen. As the hefty worker momentarily landed on the keel to reach the nectar, its weight pushed the keel down, allowing the sheath to poke it in the belly, simultaneously receiving and transferring precious, orange pollen for cross-pollination. Very clever system!

Many of the bumblebees had large orange pollen baskets on their hind legs, bulging with pollen. I did not witness any transfer of pollen; either they were too busy at the time to stop to comb it off their collecting hairs or they were much too quick. It's a wonder they can fly at all, especially with all that additional weight!

Most of the bumblebees wore sleek black sunglasses, black hats, yellow shirts, orange skirts, and six black socks, a striking combination. A few wore all yellow with a black cummerbund and black bikini top with the standard accessories. The orange purses complemented each combination and the lupine backdrop perfectly.

It was fascinating to watch them, these beautiful and phenomenal, industrious insects, at work in such spectacular flowers. Photographing them in action was challenging, but a lot of fun.

Happy Bombus-ing!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird and other things Reporter

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