Tongue under Chin

By Mary Free, Certified Master Gardener

To end Pollinator Week we bring you a tongue-under-chin story.

In this short video, a queen Bombus impatiens (common eastern bumble bee) rests on the petals of a hydrangea. She straightens out her proboscis, which she keeps folded beneath her head, and slides it back and forth between the mandibles. The proboscis comprises the mouth appendages. A horny sheath formed by the palps and maxillae protects the soft, reddish hairy tongue, which stretches and acts as a straw to draw up nectar. The mandibles act like teeth or pliers to chew wood, cut flower parts, or grasp enemies.

Speaking of enemies, what looks like a male Megachile sculpturalis (giant resin bee) attacks the queen from behind. This non-native bee first collected in the U.S. in North Carolina in 1994 has since spread to most states east of the Mississippi River and into Canada. It can be aggressive toward our native carpenter bees, sometimes attacking and displacing them in their nesting sites. The female giant resin bee grows almost one-inch long–larger than the native common eastern bumble bee queen. Luckily Queen Bombus recovers and avoids the next attack.


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