The gorgeous creature shown below is the black-tailed bumble bee, a name that perplexes me no end. I concede that this bee does indeed have a black butt, but is that the standout feature here? When you glance at this bee, is that the first thing you notice? While the name gives you no insight into the bee, it sure tells you a lot about the mind of the entomologist. Those people are weird.
To make things more confusing, some populations of these bees do not have the bright orange rump. However, the tail ends of the black-rumped bees are mostly yellow with a hint of black at the tip. So even in these cases, the name “black-tailed” is a stretch.
Black-tailed bumble bee nests
The black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus) is a species found on the west coast of North America from southern British Columbia down into northern California. It is one of the bumbles that sometimes nests above ground, and it can often be seen in birdhouses, mail boxes, and other cozy structures. It likes insulation and stuffing just as well, and has been found in walls and discarded mattresses. In a pinch, it is also perfectly happy to nest underground.
Here at my place, I must have a nest nearby because hordes (or is it schools? flocks?) of these bumbles are visiting my Ceanothus bush. They are a compelling sight, flashing their black tails as they buzz pollinate the azure flowers. When the Ceanothus is done, they will move to something else. They are generalist, easy-to-please pollinators and lots of fun to watch.
Honey Bee Suite