The Beekeepers: How Humans Changed the World of Bumble Bees


If you are looking for a book about bumbles bees that the whole family might enjoy, check out the middle grade title, The Beekeepers: How Humans Changed the World of Bumble Bees by Dana L. Church.

Why bumble bees? Honey bees have gotten a lot of press lately, but bumble bees are also important pollinators.

Public domain photograph of a Solanum flower from USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr Page

In fact, bumble bees are much better at pollinating certain plants, especially tomatoes and other members of the genus Solanum.


After briefly describing the history of studying and keeping bumble bees, Church discusses the business of selling bumble bees to pollinate plants in greenhouses. She explains that the bumble bee you see in your yard may be a native one or may be an import that has escaped from a nearby tomato-growing operation.

Later chapters explore some marvels of bumble bee behavior, before revealing how some species of bumble bees are waning in numbers and on the brink of disappearing. The last chapter summarizes some of the things that are being done to protect and encourage bumble bees. The author also has a page of information for helping wild bees on her website.


Public domain photograph of Bombus huntii from USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr Page

Back Story/Discussion:

I have to admit, it wasn’t love at first glance with this book.  When I found it in the juvenile nonfiction section of the library, I didn’t know quite what to make of it. Written for middle grades (8-12 year olds), it stood out among the sea of picture books because it is 308 pages long. I thought someone had shelved it in the wrong place.

The title was also a bit confusing, too. Although it can refer to any bee, the term beekeeping usually brings to mind honey bees rather than bumble bees. But, who can resist a book with a bumble bee on the cover?

The Beekeepers would be of interest to adults who enjoy popular science. Because it was written with a younger audience in mind, it is a quick and enjoyable read.  It would also be appropriate for middle graders and young adults who are interested in science and nature, and especially insects. It would also be a great jumping off point for a research paper or science fair project on bumble bees. Check out a copy today.

Reading age : 8 – 12 years
Publisher : Scholastic Focus (March 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1338565540
ISBN-13 : 978-1338565546

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and title links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Two New Guides to Identifying Bumble Bees

On a trip to western New York in October, I was taken by how many bumble bees there were.


Some were resting on leaves, etc.


Others were collecting pollen and nectar. Because there were so many, in fact, I soon wished I knew how to identify bumble bees better.

It not uncommon to have difficulty identifying bumble bees. Some species vary quite a bit in color and don’t have a lot of distinct morphological differences. Much of the bumble bee literature is quite old and the keys are out of date.

Fortunately The USDA Forest Service and The Pollinator Partnership recently have created two identification guides for bumble bees:  Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States by Sheila Colla, Leif Richardson and Paul Williams and Bumble Bees of the Western United States by Jonathan Koch, James Strange and Paul Williams

The two guides can be downloaded as free .pdfs at The Xerces Society (scroll to bottom of page).

(There are free downloadable bumble bee posters at the USDA Forest Service, too -scroll down.)

Looking through the Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States guide, I believe the bumble bee above on the thistle flower is Bombus impatiens, the common eastern bumble bee.



I can’t wait to give the western one a try on the species here in the Southwest.

Have you seen these guides? What kind of bumble bees do you see regularly?

Also, does anyone know of a rather small bumble bee that may have been introduced to western New York?

Weigela Flowers Change Color To Increase Pollination

Did you guess what the bumble bees were doing in the post earlier this week?



It seemed like the bees were only visiting the light-colored flowers and were ignoring the dark pink ones.

A little research confirmed this for another species, Weigela middendorffiana. According to Ida and Kudo, the flowers change color from yellow to red inside as they age. This species also is pollinated by bumble bees and the bees ignore the older, red flowers. The color-changed flowers did not provide a nectar reward. The authors suggest the color change may increase pollination success by reducing successive visits to the same flower.

Lupines and lantana also change color after pollination. Do you know of any other plants that do this?


Ida T.Y, and G, Kudo. (2003). Floral color change in Weigela middendorffiana (Caprifoliaceae): reduction of geitonogamous pollination by bumble bees. Am J Bot. 90(12):1751-7. (full text)