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Life on Alcatraz

Bumblebee visiting a flower on Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island is located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay and is a National Recreation Area with a notorious history. We visited there recently and from far away, it seemed like it was a pretty lifeless, rocky place, but we found out that it has some amazing wildlife! There are sea lions, gulls, cormorants, and of course, insects.

We found this bumblebee (genus Bombus) feeding on nectar in the gardens along the cliffs. Do you see the yellow balls on the sides of her back legs? They are special baskets on her tibia, called corbicula, and they store pollen from the flowers! Imagine being able to carry things around in a pocket on your calf– come to think of it, bees invented cargo pants! The hairs on her fuzzy body collect pollen too, which mixes between each flower she visits. She’s not just gathering food for the bumblebee larvae, she is also pollinating the garden. This way she is helping to keep Alcatraz Island beautiful and buzzing with life!

 

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