mason bees wild bees and native bees

A journalist’s bumble

I was scanning my news feed yesterday when I saw an interesting headline, “The Most Fascinating Facts About Mason Bees.” I eagerly clicked on the link, thinking I might learn something.

Just below the headline of the article was a gorgeous photo of a big fat bumble bee. Okay, I’m willing to play along. Maybe this article is going to reveal some mysterious bumble-mason connection. So I begin to read.

Long about the third paragraph, the author writes, “While honey bees tend to get all the headlines regarding colony collapse disorder . . . mason bees are also heavily affected by CCD.” The article says nothing more on this subject, and I am left wondering how a creature that doesn’t live in a colony can get colony collapse disorder. It’s like my dog contracting deformed wing virus.

To make things worse, he then writes, “Mason bees are super cute—just look at that photo above and tell me I’m wrong.” When I return to the aforementioned photo, I still see a big fat bumble bee. Am I missing something here?

More puzzling still is that partway through the article there is a photo of an actual orchard mason bee. A quick glance between the two photos reveals that the two insects look nothing alike.

Next he explains that mason bees are solitary and every female is a queen. Well, I disagree with that too. The word “queen” is generally reserved for the dominant reproductive female in a colony of a eusocial bees. A queen needs subjects—or at least workers—so a queen occurs when you have more than one caste of females. Honey bees have queens, bumble bees have queens, but female solitary bees are just females.

I’m not trying to embarrass the guy, so I won’t publish a link. But please, when you want to learn about bees—or anything else—consider the source. Not every journalist is a bee expert—some just bumble along.



Cute as a button. The photo of a bumble bee misidentified in the story. Photo by Photogirl7.1.


  • Rusty,

    You are too kind! Me, I would have, politely mind ya, corrected the misinformation, if not for the author, for the other readers of the article.

    I have been trying to educate people for years that there are differences in wasps, hornets and bees… but yet they call them all bees! And so the honey bee gets the credit for the picnic sting instead of the yellowjacket.

    That’s my two cent worth.


  • A minor concern – If the photo you included in your article is the one of a bumble bee used in error in the reviewed article you may be inadvertantly perpetuating the author’s mistake when others Google an image of a mason bee and your photo pops up because the caption was “cute as a button mason bee.”

  • The journalist in question, probably normally worked reporting on politics and just got into the habit of writing misinformation. Sad!

    Anyway, power to your elbow for putting things right.

    I hope you also wrote to the person in question and directed them to read articles on The Honeybee Suite to get some bee education.

  • You are absolutely too kind! (I read the post about the plastic too.) This also happens with plants. Wrong names, wrong illustrations and photos, wrong attributes. Don’t get me started on Google Photos! For plants there is a fun website,
    which addresses these inaccuracies. I’m glad you’re pointing out the bee ID! Keep up the good work!

  • Let’s paint with a broad brush and say that unless they themselves are experts in a given area, journalists are ignorant about most things they write about. They will often twist facts or only use a partial information to make their less-than-solid points and/or promote an agenda. Usually they’re writing opinions and not reporting.

    With all the information available to us today, one would think that those who choose to bring information to the public would do a better job.

  • I came across this video on the weather channel website and it reminded me of this post and Rusty’s comment about journalistic bumbling.

    This is a link to a video entitled Plight of the Bumblebee:

    Is it me or are the very first views of bees actually honey bees? Before they even show the 1st Bumblebee, there’s at least 2 videos of what appear to be honeybees walking around on comb. On the 2nd clip, the voice-over is actually talking about Bumblebees while the viewer is seeing honey bees. Later in the video, you see a guy walking in his apiary lighting up a smoker…and they are still talking about Bumblebees. When they finally do show what looks like a Bumblebee on a flower, the very next thing they show is 2 insects that don’t look like Bumblebees at all to me…I don’t know what they are. Maybe someone here can tell me.

    If they had just renamed the video to Plight of the Bees and simply mentioned Bumblebees as one of the many bees that are having problems today, the video probably wouldn’t be a journalistic bumble.

    • Chris,

      Yup, you are right. Honey bees, a bumble bee or two and the rest are squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa).

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