Howdy. I hope you didn’t miss me too much yesterday, but I was too zonked once I got home from the Master Naturalist Conference to write anything, and I did want to spend some bonding time with Lee, since I won’t see him again until November.
The blog title tells you two big things that made me happy yesterday, learning about bumblebees and our Chapter’s brochure winning the best brochure award at the conference. Everyone worked SO hard on it (yes, including me) that it just felt great.
Of course, I was busy loading my stuff in the car when the announcement was made, but my colleagues valiantly handled it themselves.
As for Bumblebees
My main session yesterday morning was about bumblebees, which will be the Texas creature featured on next year’s re-certification pin (by the way, we FINALLY got our golden-cheeked warblers for this year). It turns out I didn’t know much about bumblebees. Now, I do!
There are 8 species of bombas in Texas, some more rare than others. If you get one to hold still long enough, they are fairly easy to tell apart.
We also learned how to tell a bumblebee from some of the flies and other bees that can be mistaken for them. The main thing to remember is that bumblebees are four-winged, hairy, and not shiny, while flies don’t have hair, have giant eyes and just two wings.
We learned that bumblebees don’t always just sip nectar and passively pick up pollen. No, they grab a hold of a flower and buzz like crazy, which knocks pollen out of stubborn plants in the tomato family and into their pollen-collecting “saddlebags.”
They only live a year (though they are remarkably cold tolerant), and each new queen starts out alone, finding a place to make a hive and raise her first workers. This explains why you usually see really big bumblebees early in spring and smaller ones later. Huh.
Pesticides that get into plants, especially the systemic ones, are the biggest reason bumblebees are in decline, especially in the corn-growing areas. I sure hope something is done to start their range back to where it originally was, because these native bees (among other natives) are what pollinate most of our wildflowers and native plants. That’s important!
Our merry band had a great trip back home from Dallas. Thank goodness I-35 was too crowded, so we had to go the other way, which featured I-45 (almost empty) and a long stretch along Highway 14. We went through a bunch of really pretty small towns, and my fellow passengers told me so many stories about their families, the history of these places, and fun local lore, that the miles flew by.
We also counted road kill, and debated at length about whether we should stop and photograph them for the Texas Roadkill iNaturalist project. We didn’t. I think our iNaturalist and Texas Nature Watch friends and speakers will forgive us for wanting to go on home! After all, Sam Kieschnick, the iNaturalist guru, gave me the idea to do “bioblitzes” of each park and cemetery in Milam County as an ongoing Chapter project. That will fill in some missing data holes!