In our little San Francisco backyard we have had a regular bee visitor – and it is big. So big that if I’m inside (as much 30-40 feet away from it) I can see it flying around, a big black dot roaming through the air. On many occasions I’ve grabbed my camera and ran outside in an attempt to take a photo of the bee for identification and documentation but unfortunately it will never light long enough for me to be able to take its photo. And it has made me very curious.
I’ve done some research on the web and purchased The Xerces Society’s book, “Attracting Native Pollinators” in an effort to learn more and hopefully ID this bee while it is hanging around. Some good bee ID resources I’ve found are:
As I haven’t been able to get a good photo of the bee, my research seems to lead toward identification as a Bombus sp. (a Bumble Bee), possibly Bombus Vosnesenskii:
– Solitary Queen typically overwinters in ground in small cavity (hibernaculum)
– In spring, Queen emerges and begins flying around looking for a nest site, while stopping to feed on nectar producing flowers
– Once deciding on and settling into her nest site, she remains in the nest (by and large), lays eggs and about a month later eggs start hatching – these are all females and work as foragers, maintain nest, and care for the brood
– THEN, in the fall males are produced and shortly after a number of new queen bees, who all leave the nest mate (then the males die) and the new queens go and find overwintering sites. The reigning queen dies.
So my conclusion is that:
What is flying around now is possibly a recently emerged queen looking for a nest site. We may not see her again if she’s found a nesting site. I guess I’ll be okay with not getting a photo of her if that is the case, and will hope to see other Queens around fall as they’re searching for overwintering sites. I’ll also be on the lookout for the worker bees this summer!