May 20

Bee Day

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Pollen collecting
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"A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly."

~ Traditional 17th century

Historically, beekeepers of old noticed that the earlier in the year that bees swarmed the better because it gave them more time to collect pollen and nectar. Should you decide to try your hand at beekeeping, according to Celtic folklore, you must never buy bees with normal money, only with gold coins! Although, if possible, it is best to barter over them, so as not to offend them, or to receive them as a gift, so that no money changes hands at all. Even if you don't keep bees, you can plant a bee garden and attract these important pollinators. Best loved bee flowers include: Crocus, Hyacinth, Borage, Calendula, and Wild Lilac for spring; Bee Balm, Cosmos, Echinacea, Snapdragons, Foxglove, and Hosta for summer; and Zinnias, Sedum, Asters, Witch Hazel and Goldenrod for fall. Even though humans can see more colors, the busy bees have a much broader range of color vision. Their ability to see ultraviolet light gives them an advantage when seeking nectar. Some flowers such as sunflowers, primroses and pansies have nectar guides that can only be seen in ultra-violet light! Buzz buzz! 🌸🐝🍯

World Bee Day is celebrated on the day Anton Janša, a pioneer of modern apiculture, was born in 1734.  He is noted for his expertise, lectures, and books on the field of beekeeping as well as changing the size and shape of hives to a form where they can be stacked together like blocks. 


The purpose of this international day is to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem.


A cousin to the honey bee, the bumblebee, also written as bumble bee, is a member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae

This tartan, designed by Carol A.L. Martin, is inspired by a bumble bee collecting pollen from pink flowers.

The word "bumblebee" is a compound word of "bumble" + "bee" — "bumble" meaning to hum, buzz, drone, or move ineptly or flounderingly.  

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "bumblebee" was first recorded as having been used  in the 1530 work Lesclarcissement by John Palsgrave, "I bomme, as a bombyll bee dothe."  However, it also states that the term "humblebee" predates it, having first been used in 1450 in Fysshynge wyth Angle, "In Juyll the greshop & the humbylbee in the medow."

The latter term was used in A Midsummer Night's Dream (circa 1600) by William Shakespeare, "The honie-bags steale from the humble Bees."  An old provincial name, "dumbledor", also denoted a buzzing insect such as a bumblebee or cockchafer, "dumble" probably imitating the sound of these insects, while "dor" meant "beetle".


Bumblebees are social insects which form colonies with a single queen. Colonies are smaller than those of honeybees, sometimes as few as 50 individuals in a nest.  Female bumblebees can sting repeatedly, but generally ignore humans and other animals.

Like honeybees, bumblebees feed on nectar and gather nectar to add to the stores in the nest, and pollen to feed their young. They forage using colour and spatial relationships to identify flowers to feed from. Some bumblebees rob nectar, making a hole near the base of a flower to access the nectar while avoiding pollen transfer.

Bumblebees are important pollinators of both crops and wildflowers.  Because bumblebees do not overwinter the entire colony, they do not stockpile honey, so are not useful as honey producers. Bumblebees are increasingly cultured for agricultural use as pollinators, among other reasons because they can pollinate plants such as tomatoes in greenhouses by buzz pollination (moving their flight muscles rapidly to shake loose pollen) whereas other pollinators cannot.

According to late 20th-century folklore which you may have come across, "the laws of aerodynamics prove the bumblebee should be incapable of flight, as it does not have the capacity (in terms of wing size or beats per second) to achieve flight with the degree of wing loading necessary."   For more on the origin of this clearly false claim (and better physics analysis to disprove the obvious), click the bumblebee.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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