Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Buzzing Humble Bumble Bee

I will be returning to Colorado soon, in June, the best time of year for Colorado. Yes, it is also tornado season, but June is when the flowers bloom, the birds sing, the baby antelope prance and play on the prairies, and the parks are filled with laughing children.

It is also the best time of year to photograph one of my favorites subjects, the Bumble Bee. They photograph very well. I love those "grab" moments when a bee pulls it's head from the center of a flower and is covered with pollen, and I love listening to their buzz as they move from plant to plant, completely oblivious to the camera's lens.

In Shakespeare's time, in fact, right up to around World War I, Bumble Bees were called Humble Bees. Charles Darwin referred to Bumble Bees as Humble Bees in The Origin of the Species.

I much prefer the Humble Bee. They are not pretentious creatures, begging for attention, flapping and calling and showing off the way some geese might do. No, they simply move from flower to flower, sharing the love.

I haven't seen a single bee this year, that I recall. Though we seem to have a shortage of flowers around the house we are renting, we certainly do not have a shortage of wasps! The red wasps are everywhere, and in Texas, some of these wasps are as big as longhorn cattle!

And I miss the sound of the Humble Bumble Bee, though I know I will hear it again soon. A remarkable little bit of trivia that I just learned: The Humble Bee's humming sound does not come from the beating of its wings, but from the vibration of its flight muscles.

Another bit of trivia, contrary to popular myth, it is not a scientific mystery as to why the Humble Bee manages to fly in spite of its heavy body weight compared to the lightness of its wings. The wings of the Humble Bumble Bee function in a similar fashion to those of the hummingbird, like reverse-pitch, semirotary helicopter blades. Hummingbird wings are often compared to helicopter blades.

I can picture the moment when a bright, young scientist, perhaps an aviation engineer, a dreamer who believed in miracles, who understood the perfection of all God's creatures, sitting on his back porch, his coffee cup in one hand, a piece of toast in the other, glanced over at a flower, at the Humble Bumble Bee moving near his head, just close enough for the scientist to see the rotation of its wings, and the scientist said, "Hey, I wonder if..."

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