The larger bee on the left is a new queen common bumblebee who is storing up fat for hibernation. The smaller bee on the right is a worker, who will take pollen and nectar home to the colon to feed any remaining larvae until they metamorphose into the reproductive generation of drones and queens. They are both enjoying resources from common sneezeweed, a native aster. (Contributed photo by Emily Stone.)

My office window looks out onto the museum’s backyard and the pollinator gardens that grow there in tousled abundance. Wildflower season peaked weeks ago, but gems of color still glint in the afternoon sunshine. Once-fragrant bergamot has dried into tufty brown seed heads, but the golden petals of black-eyed susans and lance-leaved coreopsis contrast nicely with the frilly purple petals of asters. Those complementary colors are more beautiful — and more attractive to bees — than either on their own.

And despite chilly nights and damp mornings, there are still bees. I’m watching them fly busily on their rounds as I write this, actually. We’re all reveling in the afternoon sunshine. Earlier this morning, I shuffled through damp grass to see how they were doing, and to observe the insects when they were too cold to zoom away. Sure enough, I found a few fuzzy bumblebees clinging to the tufts of pollen-coated anthers like sleepy toddlers. These bees aren’t young’uns, though; they are nearing the ends of their lives.


Male common bumble bees, known as drones, have fuzzy yellow hairs on their face, while the females have black faces. Males are also smaller. (Contributed photo by Emily Stone.)

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