Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

So, after what was the dullest, yet neverending winter season I can recall - spring has finally sprung over Philadelphia this weekend. Sunny skies and afternoon highs around 80 each day.

It's amazing what a change in weather can do to a community. As I sit at my desk in my bedroom, I face a window that looks out, over the roof of Fat Tuesday and down Passyunk Avenue. Cars are lined up as far as I can see - always a sure sign that the weather has changed for the better ... since the only time one sees this many cars at once during winter is if it's a Saturday night.

As for me, I spent much of this first weekend of spring indoors. Knowing that everyone and their brother would be out soaking in the day, I found solice in a quiet home and decided to open the windows and let the house exhale the stale air of winter and breathe in the fresh scent of spring.

While at my desk, I've also noticed a family of bumblebees traveling past my window to my roof - the assumption is that they are building a nest under my roof deck. Grant it, I know that bumblebees rarely sting (only if their nest is being threatened) so I am not concerned - however it is truly fascinating to watch these creatures at work - up and down - past my 3rd floor window - toiling away for the Queen. In a month or so, most of these bumblebees will be dead.

Really puts things into perspective.

When reading up on bumblebees, I learned some interesting facts (I've added my two cents, naturally):

The adult male bumblebee (in common with most adult male insects) has only one function in life - that is to mate. (just like a man!) He will fly in a circuit depositing a queen-attracting scent (CK 1) in suitable places (Woody's), usually in the morning, and replacing the scent if it rains.

New queens emerge about a week or so after the males (they're on gay time). The new queens leave the nest to forage for themselves, returning to the nest for shelter, but they do not add to the existing nest provisions. (talk about coasting!) When the new queen is ready to mate she flies to where the attractant chemical has been deposited by the male and waits for a suitable mate (I wonder if she can turn down nonsutable mates?). Then the two mate. (what, no foreplay?!)

Bumblebees queens generally mate only once, though Bombus hypnorum sometimes has multiple mates (she's what ya call a bumble ho').
Not all nests go on to produce males and queens, many fail in the early stages, some are damaged, and some never build up enough reserves to produce reproductives.

Some nests produce only queens (they are located in Chelsea), others only males (ditto), and some nests produce both males and queens (disaster in the making, or another reality series for Bravo). By this time the old queen is almost bald
(hahaha- I got nuttin) and may have lost some of her influence over the persistent or larger workers (so she goes to the local gay dive bar in search of a $pecial $omeone), then gradually the stores dwindle and the remaining workers and old queen die. (roll credits).

I never thought bumblebees were so fascinating.

Happy Spring, Y'all!