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
There is also one of my old favourites – a weighty
by Ted Benton, not to mention small field guides.
I proceeded to write the whole of my website, joining the two words together to form one word – bumblebee.
Nevertheless, it appeared odd to me that we have ‘mason bees’, and ‘leafcutter bees’ written as two words – it seemed 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 Paul H. Williams, research entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London, England; Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis; Leif L. Richardson, doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College; and Sheila R. Colla, an NSERC post doctoral fellow at Wildlife Preservation Canada.
More recently, authors of The Bees In Your Backyard, Wilson and Messenger Carril, actually tackle the question of whether we should write bumble bee or bumblebee, directly, and to my mind, most satisfactorily. They write:
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 (I join them – i.e. concatenate them) and 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 a tall ash tree......Hoping to find a humble-bee nest inside, I looiked in, but could not see any chamber."
Later, a book written in 1912, by F. W. L. Sladen’s The Humble Bee. Interestingly, uses the term ‘humble’, he does the same for honey bee, which he writes as honey-bee.
However, 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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