Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dying Bumblebee

I found this bumblebee sitting still for long moments, then moving around a little--all the better for photographing, but I think this was probably its last day.

I looked around to see if I could identify it--but no luck so far. And since I'm still not really familiar with bumblebee field marks, I didn't get all the pictures I should have to make identification easier.

The bee is on a dicentra (bleeding heart), not spectabilis, but a more modest, possibly wild variety. I'm attempting to confirm its identity as I write..... Okay, I'm pretty sure it's Dicentra eximia (fringed or wild bleeding heart). It's a very popular plant with the bees.

Wings, worn out


burning silo said...

I rarely see dying bumblebees, but my mother seems to find them quite often in her flower garden. I'm sure they're around here too, but go unnoticed due to the size of the yard and gardens. The ones that my mother sees often have very little left of their wings. I'm not sure about the ID of your bee. There are so many black and yellow species that it's difficult to pin down an ID (sometimes even with markings from the bee's back).

Pamela Martin said...

I got this suggestion in a comment at BugGuide:
"long malar space suggests B. bimaculatus
as does color and distribution of hairs"

After doing a little research I realized that a note or picture of the back would have been helpful, but I think the suggestion of B. bimaculatus is a good one, although I haven't been able to find a clear explanation of "malar space" and have asked the commenter about it.

Looking at another picture of a bumblebee I'd taken around the same time, and watching the bees, I have been surprised to find just how many of these guys have slightly different markings, while giving a very similar overall impression.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pamela,

I too live in Ontario.

This is off-topic, but I ran into your blog, saw the pictures, and I'm curious as to what you think, you being apparently an amateur naturalist and all.

For the past couple weeks, I've had four baby robins at my window sill. I've watched them grow from wee little 'worms' freshly born from their eggs. At one time, I saw both the mother and father at the nest, the one feeding the chicks and the other taking off.

I must say, goofy as it sounds, I've grown attached to the little birds.

This morning, I noticed they were fledgling and getting ready to leave their nests. Suddenly, a large bird swooped in on the nest and *took* one of the babies! I couldn't believe it at first. I counted them again, and they were down to three! Poor little guy.

Then, later on today, I noticed the nest was empty except one little bird was walking on the window sill, and then dropped off.

So, I went down to see whether they were okay.

There were two birds on the ground. One bird looked stunned, but after a few minutes it started walking around on both feet. When I went down, I heard the cacophony of robins on nearby trees obviously insisting on my departure! I think I should have listened!

But, I couldn't leave them alone, as one bird had fallen on the air conditioner and had one of its little legs stuck on the grate. I picked it up, dislodged the leg, and put it back down again and kept my distance - watching all the while. They still noticed me and were trying to hide behind the air conditioner, so I decided that they would have a better chance if I left them alone entirely.

So, I did so for a while. I came back, and noticed that one bird was gone, but the other one was injured and bleeding out of its belly. Not a lot, but there was blood there crusting and I thought to myself, "oh, no. I bet this was the one with its foot caught in the grate!" I thought my feelings were confirmed as it wasn't moving one of its legs.

I decided there was nothing I could do for it. It was obviously afraid of me as it retreated behind some pipes. I thought to myself, "me stressing the bird out cannot possibly be helping it". I couldn't very well take it inside, to the vets, or nurse it back to health! I know, I'm being ridiculous!

I came back out again later just to check, and it was not my intention to touch the thing again.

I saw movement under the pipe and thought to myself, "yay! It's recovering from its injury!".

Took a closer look only to find a garter snake with its mouth on the bloody part of its belly, trying to move it somewhere. The bird was still alive, breathing, but appeared resigned to its fate as its head was hunched into itself and it wasn't even trying to escape. It could have been unconscious. I don't know, but its eyes were still reacting to my presence, looking at me and watching my movements after I had scared the snake away.

It was both remarkable and heartwrenching (I was rooting for it!) to see such a small snake grasping onto a fledgling!

I stood back and watched this bird. Thinking to myself, "I can't watch this thing die". It didn't die when I was there, but it was still bleeding out of its back. I scared the snake away a couple more times as it tried to get back to the bird.

After a few more minutes, I decided to myself, "It's going to die anyways. It would be better if I let the predators eat the thing, then allow it to go through whatever pain it might be experiencing from its wound any longer than it has to."

I know the statistic on fledgling survival is fairly low, but I couldn't help rooting for the creatures.

I noticed after the nest was empty, that the adult birds were cleaning up the nest of small feathers and other bird detritus. Could it be that they will be laying more eggs there soon?

Pamela Martin said...

Hi Sarah:

First, yes the robins will most likely nest again in that nest if they are cleaning it up--though they may decide against it at the last moment. It is sad to see birds you've gotten to know fall to predators (who need to eat too, of course), but robins nest early and often to increase their chances of succeeding with at least a few chicks. In my neighbourhood we've gone from a full complement of robins in other years to just a few more this year--leading to many skirmishes at the edges of squeezed in territories. So while sad, don't worry about the robins!

I was amazed to read that a garter snake was after one of the fledglings--seems like an awfully big mouthful for a snake that size. Interesting story--thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the mouth was small..it was only clasping on to a part of the belly, but the snake was strong enough to drag the bird a little ways.

Really, I was amazed, too. I didn't think snakes that size fed on robin fledglings. I'm going to look up garter snakes on this subject.

viagra online said...

Beautiful photos, Im amazed on how they are disappearing, who knows what is the secret behind that mystery.

David said...

As for the wing damage to bumblebees, it could be normal wear and tear, or it could be collateral damage from Anthidium manicatum. Male Anthidium (wool carder bees) will defend territories of catnip or lamb's ear and will use their barbed "stinger-like" appendages to shred the wings of any animal that flies into the territory (except females Anthidium). This often leads to loads of wingless bumblebees under these territories, very confused as to why they can't fly away anymore.