The Giant Hyssop has been teeming with bumblebees for the past couple of weeks.
More than a dozen bumblebees buzzed the remaining flowers of the Hyssop, usually flying to the bottom of the flowering raceme, climbing to the top and poking their head in flowers as they went, and then flying off to the next raceme.
But the more I looked at them, and tried to photograph them, the more differences I saw between them. In fact, in my collection of images “none of them looked like the others”.
There were different sized bees working the flowers — small, medium, and giant-sized (like the bee on the left). The bumblebee on the right is probably the Common Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens. But what is that big bee on the left?
Initially I thought the mega-bee might the Queen of one of the bumblebee species present. But this critter lacked any “hairy” abdominal segments that bumblebees have at least one of.
With a hairless black abdomen, I think that means it’s a Carpenter Bee, and not a bumblebee at all. Males can bee quite territorial and will fly right up into your face when you get too close. Only females possess the stinger.
Here is yet another color combination of multiple yellow “haired” abdominal segments, that differs from Eastern Bumblebee in the first photo. Unfortunately, I needed a view of the “hair” pattern on the thoracic segment to ID this bee, and didn’t have one.
Orange-brown hairs on the abdominal segments indicates this is a Red-belted bumblebee. This was the only representative of this species that I saw.
The bumblebee ID guides show only two bands of orange-brown haired abdominal segments instead of the four seen here — but apparently the coloration is variable in this species.
What an amazing assortment of bees this long-blooming Hyssop attracts. I wish I had paid more attention to these pollinators earlier in the season when there were actually more flowers.