The familiar buzz of a bumble bee is one of those summer sounds that is easy to take for granted. But for the bees, buzzing has a purpose. They may buzz during courtship, or out of alarm if they are caught or trapped. Another reason is to collect pollen.
Some flowering plants hide their pollen in structures called anthers, and to get it, bumble bees (and other bees) bite the anthers and then hang on and buzz until the vibration causes the anther to spill out particles of pollen.
The process is called sonication, or buzz pollination. Studies support this behavior to be innate rather than learned. This seems to come naturally to the bees.
■ Grab on to anther with mandibles.
■ Buzz until doused with pollen.
■ Groom pollen off front legs and other parts of body and stick onto pollen baskets on rear legs.
So next time you hear a bee buzz….