Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/33

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21
THE GUESTS OF THE MAYFLOWER.

not serve the purpose, so that the insects only are left. It might at first seem that so early in the spring as the may flower appears

PSM V45 D033 Orange banded bumblebee.jpg
Fig. 4. — Orange-banded Bumblebee.

there would be few insects abroad not enough to accomplish the desired results. But centuries of experience have taught the plant that the nectar hidden beneath her blushing petals will attract many visitors. On Blueberry Hill the most useful and abundant visitor is the beautiful orange-banded bumblebee.[1] Dozens of the large females, which have wintered over in some sheltered nook, are usually present, busily gathering the nectar concealed in the bases of the corollas. Each bee stops but a few seconds at a flower, and

PSM V45 D033 Bombus bifarius hind leg.jpg
Fig. 5.—Bombus bifarious. Hind leg.

visits on an average three or four bunches of blossoms a minute. After alighting either on a flower or the leaves, or the ground between, the bee crawls from blossom to blossom, poking its nose, so to speak, down under the leaves that none shall be missed, and often visiting a dozen heads before taking to wings again. When the wind blows hard a frequent occurrence on such hilltops Madame Bombus (these early spring forms are all females, the so-called queens) flies still more rarely, crawling long distances instead. The tongue of this bee is two fifths of an inch long, and its tip readily reaches the bottom of the corolla, being thrust quickly down between the hairs. There are generally several blossoms in a single head, and, as a rule, each is plundered before the visitor departs. I saw one bee visit six heads in ninety seconds, and another seven heads in the same length of time. On the supposition that there were five blossoms per head, the first bee was plundering twenty flowers a minute. Supposing that half of each hour was spent between

  1. Bombus bifarious Cr.