#269 Franklin's Bumblebee

Critically Endangered

Around the World in 80 Days - Day 61

We are not near enough to the coast of the US to even be able to see it. These bees would be nowhere near our ship then, and wouldn't fly out to where we are. They have one of the smallest ranges of any bumblebee. Their territory is just 190 miles running from Southern Oregon into Northern California, and is only 70 miles wide! There was an entomologist named Robbin Thorp who was pretty much the biggest fan of the Franklin's Bee. He is the last person to have seen one, back in 2006. They are not as fuzzy as some bumblebees you see. They also don't have the stripes you think of when you imagine a bee. The females have a black face and abdomen. The males have a little yellow on their face, though not much, and the last segment on their abdomen (T6) has a bit of light hairs on the sides. It is not really known why they might have gone extinct. They began to disappear in the 2000's. The thing is, their habitat is not really going away, certainly not enough to make them disappear. Their flowers haven't been sprayed with pesticides either, and there are plenty of flowers for them. One thought is that it is from nearby greenhouse farms that use commercially raised bumblebees. The greenhouses try to make sure none of the bees escape, but they aren't in airtight buildings, greenhouses have vents. The queens are kept trapped, and the hive is "incinerated" (now I don't want to ever eat anything raised in a hothouse) after 8 weeks, but even with those measures there could be bees that escape. The commercial bees are not local and could easily spread disease to the bees here, causing hive collapse and leading to the Franklin's Bumblebee vanishing.


I absolutely love when I'm researching an animal and I not only learn why the animal is at risk or why they went extinct. I have said before that I'm a collector of information tidbits. I got a great one in my research today! Bumblebees don't pollinate like honeybees do. Bumbles go to the flower and essentially vibrates like a cell phone, causing the pollen to fall. The frequency that most bumblebees buzz at is a C. I didn't know that, and I find it fascinating. Now I want to get a tuning fork and see if maybe pollen is more likely to fall off a flower at a C than an F or something like that. I also wonder if maybe when doing hydroponics (which I want to get started soon) if it would be better to use something that hits a good C note rather than the electric toothbrush or paintbrush lots of people use. My oldest son when I told him about the bumblebees said he's surprised they don't hit a B note instead. I'm so proud, he's obviously inherited my sense of humour and is well on his way to being prepared for when he has to tell dad jokes.


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