Buzz Pollination: Bumblebees Sing For Their Supper

What kind of music do you enjoy? Opera? Heavy metal? Or maybe a touch of punk? I have eclectic musical tastes. A visit to my iTunes library reveals some folky leanings tempered with a good dash of Tainted Love. I sing a little bit too. Mostly, I’m a solo singer. Infrequently, I inflict my singing on others. I’ve been told that my voice isn’t too bad, and I haven’t cracked any windows with it yet. However, no one’s ever offered to pay me for singing. Everything would change if I were a bumblebee. You see, through a wonderful bartering process called buzz pollination, the bumblebees buzz at a certain pitch and the plants give the bumblebees pollen.

Now, bumblebees may not seem to rock the planet when it comes to their sound, but have you ever listened to one really closely? They have quite a buzz, and if you watch them for a while you’ll notice that their buzzing changes when they visit a flower. They’ll be buzzing along at a low pitch, enter a flower, and start buzzing at a much higher pitch. Check out the bumblebee visiting the blueberries in the video below, and you’ll see what I mean.

As a child, I always thought this was because the bumblebee was doing the human equivalent of shouting into a tunnel. Now I know about the wonders of buzz pollination. What is it? Well, the bumblebee heads into the flower. It buzzes to the flower at a specific pitch. This buzzing triggers the flower to release its pollen. The bee now heads to another flower, and it does the same thing. Flowers in the tomato and pepper family are especially in tune with the bees, and they prefer buzz pollination.

Imagine if every time you guessed someone’s favorite song, they gave you a pie. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Mmm, pie. Ok, I digress. On a more serious note, buzz pollination reminds me of the reasons we need our bees. Certain plants and animals are closely connected to each other in amazing ways that we don’t fully understand. If we get rid of bumblebee nests, will you be the one singing to your tomatoes? The neighbors might complain, so we’d better keep those bumblebees around.

Watch & Listen To Buzz Pollination

buzz pollination and bumblebees

Image Credits: [James Sheep] [BrandyCorc]