Thursday, 17 March 2011


I love serendipity. Earlier today, Frank of The Early Birder fame, posted a message that he'd seen quite a few more Bumblebees out and more active over the last few days, the daytime temperatures having lifted just enough to get them going. I then spotted this large and beautiful Bumblebee on the gravel drive next to my car. It was barely moving and, when very gently touched, was disinclined or unable to move off. Clearly, it needed warming up a little and I was able to achieve two ends: I would be able to get these hurriedly taken shots and the bee would get the chance to get some warmth into its muscles. I also took a moment to do a little research and hadn't realised that the bee's buzzing is not, in fact, caused by the movement of its wings, but by the bee actually vibrating its flight muscles. And – rather like it's best to allow a car engine to warm up on a cold morning – they must do this if the ambient temperature is low before they are able to take to the air. To achieve this they can do something rather cool – like a car can be revved in neutral, so the the Bumblebee is able to de-couple its wings from the muscle attachments, so it can warm up the thoracic powerhouse ready for flight. Rather, I imagine, like us being able to shiver in overdrive. Indeed, so effective is this adaptation in the bee that internal temperatures around the flight muscles can reach a staggering 30ºC (or 86ºF in old money). I should also add that, after a few minutes under a lamp in the office, the bee did indeed manage to reach optimum temperature again and, returned to the honeysuckle outside, flew off with gusto.


  1. A nice tale Tim and whilst I have seen my first Wheatear I have not seen a bumble yet this spring - too cold up here.

  2. Beautiful bumble, your images amazing.
    I have a passion for dumbledores....that goes beyond the norm!!

    Have viewed some of your previous posts. I like your style.....

  3. Thanks both for your comments. With the warmer weather arriving, let's hope for more of these beautiful creatures – Tim