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Bumblebees Nectar Robbing

Flowering plants have a mutually beneficial arrangement with pollinators.  Insects and other pollinators that visit flowers inadvertently pollinate them when they retrieve nectar and pollen – a win-win situation for both flower and pollinator. Occasionally, however, creatures opt for a short cut to a flower’s nectaries and instead of entering the flower through its natural opening, they bite “robbing holes” that lead directly to the nectaries, bypassing the flower’s reproductive structures; consequently they do not pollinate the flower.

Charles Darwin refers to bumble bees “stealing” nectar from flowers in this manner in his 1859 book, The Origin of Species. Nectar robbers include species of carpenter bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, wasps, ants, hummingbirds, and some songbirds. In this photograph a bumble bee is chewing a hole at the base of a Cardinal Flower in order to access the flower’s nectaries more directly.

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5 responses

  1. And Darwin observed this! Wow! Such attention to detail(s)…
    (I just can’t get over how many wonderful little (and huge) things there are in the natural world (and in the world of human beings, as well) that are waiting to be learned about!
    Thanks for sending out yet another!

    September 2, 2022 at 9:20 am

  2. Dear Mary, as I reflect on Darwin’s and your attention to details, it makes me think of this, by Mary Oliver:
    “This is the first, the wildest, and the wisest thing I know:
    that the soul exists and is built entirely on attentiveness.”

    September 2, 2022 at 9:46 am

    • I love that quote, Dell. Mary Oliver was the queen of attentiveness!

      September 2, 2022 at 9:52 am

  3. Alice

    Maybe because Bumble doesn’t fit into the flower…thus the shortcut? I see Bumbles snuffling really deep into Cuphea flowers, which is really such fun to watch & photograph!

    September 2, 2022 at 9:55 am

  4. Betsy stewart

    Maybe the nectar has’ run out’ the usual way but this way they can get a final slug.

    September 2, 2022 at 10:18 am

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