Years ago, when I began to write this website, I actually
had the same question. I somehow felt
it should be written as two words – i.e. bumble
bee. However, I came across a lot of
books – including text books and natural history books written by experts, that
concatenated the two words (i.e. joined ‘bumble’
and ‘bee’ together) – such as Professor Dave Goulson’s book – Bumblebee Behaviour
And Ecology, and Bernd Heinrich’s Bumblebee Economics.
There is also one of my old favourites by Ted Benton – a weighty
hardback: Bumblebees (Collins New Naturalist)
Then there are small field guides about 'bumblebees'.
I proceeded to write the whole of my website, joining the two words together to form one word – bumblebee.
Nevertheless, it seemed odd to me that we have ‘mason bees’, and ‘leafcutter bees’ written as two words. I felt it appeared to suggest that the first word merely described the type of bee, and in that sense, I wondered whether we should really be writing ‘bumble bee’.
No, indeed, some authors write it as two words, take for example: Bumble Bees Of North America – this was written by:
authors of The Bees In Your Backyard, Wilson and Messenger Carril,
actually tackle the question directly, and to my mind, most satisfactorily.
The authors go on to separate the two words (i.e. bumble bee) within the Bombus section of their book.
To me this makes perfect sense, even though, just as the authors state, both terms are in use (bumblebee and bumble bee).
However, for now I will probably leave all my spellings of bumble bee as they are on pages I have already written (I join them – i.e. concatenate them) because it would be too much work for me to make so many changes on this website!
I was aware that Charles Darwin used the term 'humble-bee'. For example, in his writings "On the routes of the males of Bombus" (from "The Correspondence of Charles Darwin") he says:
"On 8 September 1854 one of my sons saw a few humble-bees going into a hollow at the foot of a tall ash tree......Hoping to find a humble-bee nest inside, I looked in, but could not see any chamber."
Later, a book written in 1912, by F. W. L. Sladen The Humble Bee also uses the term ‘humble’. He also hyphenates honey bee as honey-bee. Within the book, he starts the introduction writing ‘bumble-bee’, but then appears to use both ‘humble’ immediately after:
You can download Sladen’s book for free from this page.
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