Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Bumblebee on my Hand

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Bumblebee on my hand.

Photographed in Helsinki, Finland.

Image: GrrlScientist, 23 July 2009 [larger view]. (raw image)

I am sure I must have looked like I was insane when, walking down the sidewalk, I spied this bumblebee sitting on the concrete. I plopped myself down onto my hands and knees on the sidewalk and spent a few minutes nose-to-nose with her, trying to figure out if she was dying because she was hurt or old (or maybe she was just resting?). She looked to be in good repair, so I got her onto my hand to photograph her. It’s not easy to photograph a small insect that is crawling around on one hand whilst holding the camera in the other hand, but this image isn’t too bad. Can anyone tell me the species? Is this a White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum?

Here’s another look at this bee from the back end;

Bumblebee on my hand.

Photographed in Helsinki, Finland.

Image: GrrlScientist, 23 July 2009 [larger view]. (raw image)

To answer the inevitable question: no, I did not get stung. I’ve never been stung by bumblebees, except when I did something dumb first, like harass or squeeze them.


  1. #1 Andrew
    August 28, 2009

    From everything I’ve seen, workers of B. terrestris and B. lucorum aren’t really distinguishable from each other visually. (The queens of B. terrestris have a dark orange tail, but the workers of both species have the white tail.)

    I’m only really familiar with common British bumblebees, though both those species are common both here and on the continent, so I don’t know if there are any other species found in Finland that might also fit the bill.

  2. #2 biosparite
    August 28, 2009

    Back to petting bumblebees, I see . . .

  3. #3 llewelly
    August 28, 2009

    It always scares me to handle a bee. Nonetheless, I did it many times as a child, and did not get stung (even when i did squeeze them). All my bee stings came from stepping on bees. Wasps, hornets, etc, are much more likely sting, in my experience (though in most cases, the stings are not nearly as severe.)

  4. #4 megan
    August 28, 2009

    Well the key thing you didn’t let us know is how was the bee and did you place it somewhere safe to either die, rest or recuperate? What a waste to give me a picture only to have the person behind you stomp on the poor bee thrown back on the sidewalk. Geesh. Give me follow up.

  5. #5 "GrrlScientist"
    August 29, 2009

    megan: no evil beestompers in this story. i put her on a flower that was next to a tree in a large lawn.

  6. #6 MadScientist
    August 29, 2009

    I miss those big bees; I haven’t seen any yet in the southern hemisphere. I grew up with the yellow and black ones and also a large green one; I used to watch them a lot and didn’t mind them landing on me and walking around. All the varieties I knew were very placid insects; in contrast the honey bees I grew up with were very aggressive.

  7. #7 bill;
    August 29, 2009

    To stop, take a moment to help and appreciate a bumble bee is an act of graciousness. Very simple, very nice post.

    When I was kid we ruptured Shakespeare by saying:

    To bee
    or not to bee!(That’s waht bumble said)

    Thanks for the great post.


  8. #8 megan
    August 30, 2009

    “GrrlScientist” Thanks for letting me know the old girl got a nice place to sit for a spell, better than the cement.
    Yes, petting bumble bees while they are hard at work is my favorite pastime since I was a child. They just get annoyed and take off to another flower. =)

    I had some discover a way into my basement chewing through a rotted board by a back porch. I had to plug the hole but many die because they didn’t know how to get back out after squeezing in. They thought they had found a good space in the ground, not a huge basement.

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