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I love bumblebees…

My love affair with bumblebees started years ago when I worked for a ‘design company’ that constructed Santa’s Grottos all year round [horrendous if you don’t like Xmas in the first place!] but also made some seasonal decorations for shopping centres. And for the spring/Easter season some centre up North had ordered 3 giant bumblebees so I spent a few weeks helping another woman construct ginormous bumblebees out of hoola hoops, fake fur and plastic foil.

They were massive things [about 4 feet long and 2 feet in diameter], hanging from the ceiling (and we had to construct cages for them to hang within so they were able to safely travel up North) and they were very sweet and VERY huggable…

queen of the bumblebees

There is a well-known and often repeated myth that scientifically apparently they should not be able to fly.

This myth seems to be based on an incident [fact? story? legend?] that there was a Swiss aerodynamicist [others say it was a German physicist or a French entomologist, depending on sources] who, whilst at a posh dinner, got talking to a biologist who started asking about the flight of bees. So the aerodynamicist [physicist/ entomologist] “scribbled the calculation on the back of a napkin but, seeing as he was at a dinner party (and therefore possibly on the tipsy side and uninterested in talking shop), he simplified it. He assumed that bees have a smooth, rigid wing, like the wing of an airplane, and he had to guess the weight and wing area of Mr Bee. Shockingly, the calculations suggested that the bee generated insufficient lift to be able to fly, but the aerodynamicist had had enough by this point and went back to getting drunk.”

There are many websites discussing the ramifications of this myth, whether it proves scientists’ ignorance and arrogance, a lesson that a mathematical model of something is not the same as the real thing (“the roughness and flexibility of their wings was neglected in this quick calculation. The wings of a bumblebee bend to create vortices that provide lift on both the upward and downward strokes, their wings are nothing like the wings of a plane” says Katie Pennicott) and on the other hand you’ve got the view that bumblebees are miracles defying the laws of nature or paragons of strength and defiance and powerful anthropomorphic symbols of the underdog as they fly despite all predictions…


The bumblebees I love the most are the ones that tend to fly around early in the springtime, those huge droning furry buzzy creatures that rootle around in the undergrowth only to suddenly fly up and then frequently just seem to take off into the sky and for a little while you can follow their roundabout and undulating flightpath, their furry bodies outlined against the sky turning into an ever diminishing dot whilst they zigzag away into the distance. And suddenly you can’t see them anymore, they’re gone.

Apparently those massive spring bumblebees are bumblebee queens that emerge in spring from their hibernation spot and search for a suitable nest site.

So it’s the bumblebee queens that fly up on the first days of spring.

What I most love about them is that buzzing sound, that deep droning that makes the air and everything around you vibrate.

At times it feels to me as if that sound reverberates in my body, buzzes through me, echoes within me.

I decided last year that bumblebees could be seen as a manifestation of Lalita, the tantric zigzag Goddess.

orange Sri Yantra

I could go on at length about Lalita, Goddess of [and manifested within] the Sri Yantra, (keeping one’s glance on the triangles of the Sri Yantra the zigzag effect will occur like an optical illusion; speaking her mantra her vibrational zigzag nature soon will manifest within one’s body)  and how she emanates waves of joy… but actually – this piece is about bumblebees.

And I just wanted to say – I think they are awesome – gentle bumbling furry harbingers of happiness.

Happy spring everyone!

fortean bumblebee

Bumblebee Conservation Trust


  1. Lila Lärchenfeld
    Posted April 16th 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    P.S. I wrote this post a few weeks ago. Then my computer died on me. It now has been resurrected and here is the article…

  2. Gyrus
    Posted April 16th 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone see the Beecab that was apparently zooming around London during last year’s Pestival?

  3. Jenny Peacock
    Posted April 17th 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Lovely piece Lila, particularly as spring has sprung, and a beautiful reminder of that sense of wonder (or the divine or whatever you want to call it) in the smallness as well as the bigness of things. I read this just after watching a sunset over the sea, thinking about the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which has halted human flying. Planes and bees, unbalance and balance in the systems of the world x.