Critters: The majestic bumblebee in Mesa County
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Bumble bees — plump, fuzzy, striped relatives of the honeybee — are common to the valley. And though they’re not honey-makers, bumblebees remain important to the pollination process in Mesa County’s agriculture, as well as for native plants.
“A lot of native species wouldn’t survive without native bees, and bumble bees,” Colorado State University Extension’s western Colorado entomology expert Bob Hammon said. “There are eight to 10 species at least in Mesa County.
“They collect pollen and nectar and they make a pollen ball in the nest, laying an egg on it. Larvae consumes the pollen ball.”
Nests are often found in “pre-existing voids in the ground, like a mouse nest,” Hammon added, and bumble bees live together in colonies; workers attend to the young and queens manage reproducing. Favorite foods include thistles, milk thatches and penstemons.
According to a CSU “Colorado Insects of Interest” fact sheet, there are at least 23 species of bumble bee found throughout Colorado.
Hammon particularly loves bumble bees due to their gentle nature, and photogenic looks. He recommends preserving bumble-bee nests if found in nature.
“I’ve never been stung by a bumble bee,” he said, “and I’ve handled lots of them. They’re easy to photograph, and they make great photos. They’re so colorful and cooperative. They’re not going to attack or sting without provocation.”
PALISADE HONEY BEE FESTIVAL
Celebrate the bumble bee’s cousin with the Palisade International Honeybee Festival on Friday and Saturday, April 11-12.
The Blue Pig Gallery will kick off the event Friday, with bee-themed art and appetizers, including honey wines, from 5-8 p.m.
According to Blue Pig gallery owner Kay Crane, last year’s festival attracted up to 1,200 folks to Palisade. Organizers hope for even more attendees in 2014.
The festival’s main event will be held in downtown Palisade Saturday, opening at 10 a.m. with a new event — the “ZooBeelivers” 5K run/walk race, a news release said. Other bee-fest activities include a kids bee costume contest, live music, vendors, a spelling bee, and more.
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