Looking for Bumblebees

Bumblebees are among the more common types of bees. An article in The New York Times took a look at the search for a specific type of bumblebee, Bombus polaris. This species is the northernmost species of bee, living above the Arctic circle around the world, and is currently being studied by scientists from UC Riverside.


Bombus polaris feeding on flower blossom.

Photo by Joaquim Alves Gaspar


It was interesting to read about how it has adapted to the cold. It “shivers” its muscles in order to warm itself up for flight, has much thicker “fur” and a larger body, and warms itself in flowers that help focus the sunlight. Interestingly, the Arctic bumblebee also has a parasitic species that follows it around, Bombus hyperboreaus, that lives in the nest of the Arctic bumblebee.

Studying the Arctic bumblebee is important, according to the article, because it can be used as an indicator of climate change. Changes in its population or distribution can indicate changes in climate, but it needs to be better studied, something the scientists are trying to change.

The article also talks about the methods used. They use nets to gather bumblebees and place them in plastic tubs. They then gas them with compressed air, remove the guts to study microbes and place the bodies in ethanol. It was also interesting to read about how they got some of their species from another scientist who happened to have collected some, and how they developed a novel method to “fluff” the bees enough for identification.



Gorman, James. “6 Scientists, 1,000 Miles, 1 Prize: The Arctic Bumblebee.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/11/science/alaska-bumblebee.html>.

Statman-Weil, Zoe, and Vicki Wojcik. “The Arctic Bumblebee (Bombus Polaris).” The Arctic Bumblebee. USDA Forest Service, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016. <http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/bombus_polaris.shtml>.

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