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The Pretty Colors of Big, Busy Bumble Bees

Have you ever seen a bumble bee? If you have, you know that they are big, fuzzy and busy. Believe it or not, some scientists spend all day long studying bumble bees. They do that work in the office or in their laboratory or, best of all, outdoors!

Jim Cane, a scientist in Utah, has studied bumble bees. One day he decided to make a wallet-sized card that would have diagrams of different bumble bees on it. That way he would not forgot who was who when he was looking at a bumble bee.

He decided that he would put the card in his shirt pocket. That way, the card would be handy when he was outdoors taking a walk or a hike.

You can see the card on this screen. It shows 11 bumble bees. These bees live in northern Utah.

The diagrams show all of the bright colors and pretty markings on these bees. The card also shows their scientific names.

All of the bees have the same first name. It is Bombus (say BOM-bus). On the card it is shown simply as "B." The drawings  give you an idea of what the bees look like. Their chubby bodies are divided into little segments.

The drawings help people see where those segments are. Bumble bees bring pollen to flowers so that the flowers can produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, or other foods. A bumble bee might visit the flowers on a tomato plant, for example. When a bumble bee does that, the bee helps make sure there are going to be lots of wonderful tomatoes on the plant.

Scientists who study insects such as bumble bees are known as entomologists (say EN-toe-mall-oh-jists). If you like insects, maybe you will want to be an entomologist some day.

--ByMarcia Wood, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff.

Some things for you to do:

Look very carefully at the bumble bees on the card. How many different shapes can you find on the heads of the bumble bees?  Find two bumble bees that you think look very much alike. Then find two things about them that make them different from each other.

The next time you see a bumble bee that is visiting a flower, watch it work. Do not get too close to it or touch it, because a bumble bee can sting (ouch!). Look at the colors and shapes on the bumble bee.  See if you can make a diagram or picture of what the bumble bee looks like.