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Myth section[edit]

This section is stupid beyond belief. There has never been a myth (obviously) that bumblebees can't fly. Yet the militant(s) controlling this article won't let me delete that section. The whole article is discredited by that ridiculous paragraph. Who cares what some nerd calculated at a dinner party in Switzerland one night. This is an encyclopedia, not a collection of anecdotes. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) August 8, 2007.

Keep. Regardless of the source of the myth, if the myth is widely known then it should be addressed in the article. Personally, I do remember having heard of this myth sometime in the past. I did a quick google for bumblebee myth, and did see many hits related to the subject. So I think that, on the basis of the apparent popularity of the myth through a very crude study, the information should stay until it is proven not notable. If the scope of the myth could be indicated in the article (the country, continent, region, etc where it is known) then that would further justify keeping the myth in the article. And no, I'm not a militant, nor do I have any special interest in this article. --Dan East 11:06, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Having reviewed the history of this article, your removal of this information has been reverted three times by three different people. It is obvious which way the consensus is leaning, so please do not remove it again unless it is supported by the majority as discussed on this talk page. --Dan East 11:11, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Keep. This myth is widely-known, widely-cited, and MORE than qualifies as "notable". Just because it is totally stupid does not mean it does not merit inclusion. Wikipedia, after all, has an article about "Bigfoot", too, and "crop circles", etc. Dyanega 16:28, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Keep. The myth is why I looked up Bumblebee just now. I recalled my father quiping in the early 1960's (Sydney Australia) "According to modern aerodynamic principles the wings of the bumblebee are insufficient to enable it to fly, but the bumblbee, not knowing this, flys." So I looked it up on Wikipedia. If it hadn't been there I would likely have added it. To me it is the most notable thing about them. GraL (talk) 11:19, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
Keep. But why is it regarded as a 'myth'. The date of the explanation as to how they can fly is dated around 2008. So before 2008, there was no consensus as how they actually did so. Obviously, the statement was meant to be apocryphal: if we apply our understanding to date of flight dynamics the bumblebee should not be able to flee. I don't think anyone really believed that someone sat down and proved it though. Macgruder (talk) 15:17, 14 August 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. Sources claiming that it was a myth are wrong. But do we have any sources that explain the widespread error? (talk) 07:35, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
This is a notable myth about bumble bees and one of the commonest modern folklore stories. I heard it at Mensa brunches in the late 1980s. It has been around apparently since 1934. The joke, according to the laws of mathematics bumblebees can't fly but fortunately for bumble bees they don't know that, is used by skeptics to poke fun at taking mathematical proof too seriously but in fact it does point out the error in using the wrong mathematical model to describe a problem (according to formulae used to describe fixed wing aircraft, bumble bees can't fly; but according to formulae developed for helicopters, bumble bees can fly.) Naaman Brown (talk) 22:41, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
Incorrect. It wasn't a myth. Why? Because the math was finally worked out only in 1996, by Ellington and Insect Flight Group at Leeds in the UK, paper published in Nature. SCIENCE: Aerodynamic Secrets of Insect Flight 1996 So, up until 1996 it was actually true that no calculation existed to explain the large lifting force created during insect flight. Insect flight remained a mystery, and it's very odd that numerous sources try to deny this and label it "mythical." Ellington's group discovered a major unsuspected vortex above the flapping wing, and this provided the solution to the missing lift ...which was the topic of the long-running apocryphal story. In other words, it only became a myth in 1996. Discussions prior to that date were valid and non-mythical: our ignorance of the dynamic separation and shed vortex was throwing off our calcs and simulations, and leading to our prediction that insects cannot fly. (Ellington's group only worked with Hawkmoths. Bumblebees were finally explained in 2000.) (talk) 07:35, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

The sentence at the end of the Flight sub-section in the Myths section: "Bees beat their wings approximately 200 times a second, which is 10–20 times as fast as nerve impulses can fire." is not correct. Neural cells can generate action potentials with frequencies exceeding 200 Hz (Guyton & Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology, Elsevier, 2005; or any other neurophysiology textbook or journal article). For this reason the sentence must be simply removed. At this point I do not know what to do with the information about the thorax muscles, it does not deal with the myths about Bumblebee, but at the same time I cannot remove it, because I know nothing about its correctness. AL458 (talk) 00:05, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

Should be renamed "How they fly"

  • the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee should be incapable of flight

Let's remove the sentence above. It has no place in the topic paragraph of this section. No one ever said that aerodynamics proved that the bumblebee couldn't fly. Ironic or jocular references to this notion notwithstanding the point was rather that traditional aerodynamics could not account for the fact that they do indeed fly.

This was usually cited as a critical example of the weakness of scientific theory in general, or sometimes as an admission that we often just don't know enough about real-world phenomena to explain it.

I want to recast the entire section in terms of the historical progression of ideas about how bumblebees fly. If, along the way, some scientist or engineer quipped (or said seriously) that they "can't fly" or "shouldn't be able to fly", we can certainly quote that. But then there wouldn't be a myth, would there? It would either be a joke or a mistake. The history of science is full of mistakes. --Uncle Ed (talk) 15:20, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

Not convinced that is the right approach; the discussion and references above show that the myth is considered to be worth discussing in the article. It was probably never a scientific mistake as such. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:31, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
Okay, I finally got around to revising the myth section. Now mentions people making "ironic" observations, rather than stating flatly that "science" had made any claims. It also points out a (hidden?) assumption: i.e., smooth, rigid wings that don't flap.
Piling irony on irony, people have always known that bumblebees flap their wings: you can hear the buzzing, for one thing.
I'd like some help showing the historical progression of scientific knowledge in this area. --Uncle Ed (talk) 17:50, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Seeing no consensus for these changes I have reverted them. I have also created a new thread to discuss - this thread is eight years old - so please discuss there. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 19:24, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Recent changes to and renaming of "misconceptions" section[edit]

I have reverted the recent changes to the Myth section. These changes were proposed about a year ago (see Myth section thread above) and received no support from anyone other than the editor proposing them. The proposed version is here:

Is there any support for these changes? Mr. Swordfish (talk) 19:21, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

I agree with your reversion, the changes are not substantiated and not encyclopaedic. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:52, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I have no overwhelming opinion - I think I prefer the "misconceptions" way though, but not strongly. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 20:05, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't like it. There is only one notable misconception, and creating a subsection for that lone myth is silly. How about changing the section title to "flight misconception" or something like that? Sophie means wisdom (talk) 19:24, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, there's just the one. It's something between an urban myth, misconception, and history of scientific ideas. There's also a stray final paragraph which is perhaps attempting to resolve the muddle, but sits somewhat oddly. Chiswick Chap (talk) 20:42, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
There used to be a second misconception about the buzzing of their wings, but it was removed. Agreed it's silly to have a "Misconceptions" section and presint only one. I've retitled the section and removed the sub-section. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 00:47, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
That's clearly an improvement. The main challenge for the article, however, is better citation; and probably a degree of reorganization, too. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:17, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

Maybe we need a misconceptions section along with a section or two on "How they fly" or "Source of the buzzing sound". I've always been interested in how insect wings work as compared to bird flight and the airfoil used in planes. Perhaps other readers will share this interest.

In particular, some students might come to Wikipedia, having heard that "bumblebees" can't fly and might like having a choice between "How they Fly" and "Misconceptions". A timeline of changing scientific thought over the years might also be of interest. --Uncle Ed (talk) 16:03, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

A single section, given that this is a subsidiary topic, is certainly all that could be justified without incurring suspicions of WP:COATRACKing. I think you'll find it's reasonably comprehensive now, complete with sources and quotations, and a little history. The history of scientific thought about insect flight is properly the subject of that other article, which is admirably clear on the mechanisms involved. It would not be appropriate to repeat that here. As for the title, I hope you'll agree that "Misconceptions about flight" neatly captures the sorts of search terms that are most likely to be employed. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:49, 21 February 2015 (UTC)


This talk page now has 44 discussion threads, some of which are 8 years old. Does anyone object to implementing auto-archive? Mr. Swordfish (talk) 19:27, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Seeing no objections, I will implement auto-archive. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 21:56, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

Dragonflies eating bumblebees[edit]

I saw a photo today of a dragonfly eating a bumblebee, but I can't find a reliable source that actually says they do. Can anyone find one? Sophie means wisdom (talk) 16:46, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Bumblebee/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: FunkMonk (talk · contribs) 18:03, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Hi, I'll review this one, looks interesting! FunkMonk (talk) 18:03, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
(and @User:Cwmhiraeth) - thanks for taking this on. We think it's a fascinating subject too. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:46, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "These bees obtain pollen from other species of flowers which they "legitimately" visit." Needs citation.
Removed sentence, topic is covered in following cited paragraph.
  • "According to 20th-century folklore, 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." Appears citation comes after quote, but could perhaps need citation as well, as it is a different paragraph.
  • "Bumblebees have been known to reach an internal thoracic temperature of 30 °C (86 °F) using this method." Needs citation.
  • The footnote needs a citation.
  • A long list of books at the end of the last section lacks citations, but I assume you mean the book titles are citations themselves? Not sure what to do there.
Nothing, as you say.
Ok for GA, but I could imagine at FAC they would either want a full citation for each, or a citation to a source that lists them all. FunkMonk (talk) 21:50, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
  • There are many lovely images, but you leave out all growth stages besides adult. What about eggs, larvae, and pupae?
Good point.
-- Pupae are now wikilinked in a nest image.
-- Larvae are now wikilinked in a nest image.
-- Eggs, can't find anything worth including.
  • More to come soon as I read the article.
  • "List of world bumblebee species" Not really about this article, but as it has important links to it, why is "world" included in the title? Seems almost ridiculous. What other planet do they live on?
Done. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 06:28, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "The corbiculate bees are a monophyletic group." What is the clade name, Apidae? Or is there none?
The subfamily is Apinae but this contains about twenty tribes most of which are solitary bees. The Apini, Bombini, Euglossini and Meliponini are social bees and seem to be called "corbiculate" because of the pollen baskets on their hind legs but I cannot make out that it is a formal clade. See this source. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 06:17, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

More comments[edit]

  • I like your phylogeny sections, as this is often lacking in other articles, but can't help but note this "giving rise to controversy, now largely settled". I'd be interested in an example of a previous scheme, just for historical context (I guess I'm a taxonomy nerd).
OK (it does risk confusing the reader): if one wants eusocial behaviour to evolve only once, then the Apini have to be close to the Meliponini, an awkward pairing of dissimilar tribes. Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:18, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Perhaps the article should specifically state that Bombus is the only extant genus in the bombini?
Done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:11, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "a degree of complexity criticised by Williams (2008)." In what sense, due to oversplitting, or overlumping (subgenera instead of just genera)?
Too many subgenera. Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:11, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • As all other subgenera have articles, shouldn't the Bombus subgenus as well? It is after all not identical to the genus, only by name.
Done. I have also put the subgenera in alphabetical order. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 07:14, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • No range map?
See next reply. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 06:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "They are absent from Australia, although they have been introduced to Tasmania, and are found in Africa only north of the Sahara." Does that mean it exists everywhere else? What about South America, for example, or South Asia?
Clarified this. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 06:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Since there's no general description, I can't find what physically sets bumblebees apart from other bees in the article. My first thoughts would be that they seem to be much more robustly built, with rounder bodies and thicker legs, but I would only know from the photos, and I would not know of possible exceptions. Nothing on size/variation if it either. Largest and smallest species?
Added a general description. Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:08, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "Bumblebees form colonies of up to about 400 individuals" Could perhaps be interesting to note how small a colony can be as well?
Well they all start with 1! But they reach maxima of roughly 50 to 400 in different species. Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:19, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "and can lay unfertilised haploid eggs (with only a single set of chromosomes) that develop into viable male bumblebees." Are these males (if they survive) as likely to mate with queens as those born from queens?
The queen in a nest never mates again, so her sons only mate with young queens. Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:23, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "which occur due to the positive static charges generated when bees fly through the air (see Atmospheric electricity)" Wouldn't it be more consistent with the practice elsewhere in the article to to just have (atmospheric electricity)?
Done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:23, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "Bumblebees are also capable of buzz pollination." Could this be briefly explained in-text?
Done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:47, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "with males (drones) which are forcibly driven out of the colony." Where do they live then?
They buzz around but don't live anywhere. After they have performed their function they are redundant and die before winter. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 07:19, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "forcibly (using pheromones and/or physical attacks) "enslaves" the workers of that colony" How, do they think she is the queen?
Edited the sentence to clarify the means, which are physical force and pheromones. Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:26, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "They usually emerge from hibernation later then their host species." Than?
Done. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 07:19, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I recall seeing a bumblebee and a honeybee fight, or one dragging along with the other, as a kid. Do they compete or something like that? And do bumblebees fight each other (not thinking of nest parasites)?
It doesn't seem to be a documented thing; cuckoo bumblebees however certainly attack nestmaking queens. Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:29, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • "from the populations surviving in New Zealand from their introduction there a century earlier." Were they chosen because they descended from the same population, or were there no other populations to take from?
From the same population. Said British-derived.
  • "The queens were checked for freedom from mites" Isn't "freedom" somewhat redundant here?
  • Now there's a large, imageless gap in the first half of the article; not a requirement, but I always fill up such space with additional images of interest...
Added Meliponini (sister group) to Phylogeny section.
  • "consisting often of fewer than 50 individuals in a nest" The article doesn't state this specifically, only the intro.
Done. I've said "growing to", i.e. 1 grows to 50, or whatever.
  • These were my last comments, once I pass it, we can try to make a range map... FunkMonk (talk) 22:05, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
That's great, thank you. Chiswick Chap (talk) 22:29, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Looks good, passed! FunkMonk (talk) 06:47, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your thorough review. Cwmhiraeth (talk) 09:28, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Winter Question[edit]

The section on nesting indicates that the Queen enters diapause during winter and that the drones die off, but does not mention what becomes of the workers. I might deduce that they also die off, but it would be nice if this were explicitly stated. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:40, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

Thank you, good suggestion. Done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 18:00, 2 March 2015 (UTC)