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BUMBLEBEES, THE HIGH-FLYING CROWD.

The Osgood File. This is Charles Osgood.

Bumblebees seem to be anything but majestic as they bobble from flower to flower...

( NAT / Bumblebees )

And yet, while they may not be the most graceful flyers, bumblebees apparently are experts at scaling mountains - and that ability may help them thrive where others can't.

The story after this...

((( BREAK )))

Michael Dillon wanted to see how high bumblebees could fly.

Dillon - who is a professor of zoology at the University of Wyoming - says bumblebees were already known to prefer mountainous regions...

SOT - Prof. Michael Dillon
"Bumblebees, it turns out, if you go to mountainous regions all over the world - you can go to the Rockies, the Andes, Western China where we worked - you find lots of lots of bumblebees - and lots of different types of bumblebees, as well." (:12)

So, to try to answer his question, Dillon captured about a half-dozen bumblebees in Western China - and placed them in flight chambers, manipulating what the air would be like at higher distances.

SOT - Prof. Michael Dillon
"So, we can actually pull the air out of the chamber - and simulate moving the bee up and down the mountain." (:05)

For many mountain climbers, the summit of Mount Everest would be considered the limit of how high we humans could reach before the air becomes too thin to survive.

But Dillon says bumblebees don't have that problem...

SOT - Michael Dillon
"These bees are flying - and flight is a much more difficult proposition. And yet, we found that there are several bees that flew upwards of 9,000 meters in elevation. So, over the top of Everest, which is 8,848." (:12)

Dillon says the bumblebees change their wing-flapping pattern at high altitudes to help them climb through the thin air. And he suggests that they might have learned that ability in order to give them an edge over other insects for the job they are best suited for...

SOT - Michael Dillon
"The job of a bumblebee is essentially to go out and visit as many flowers as possible - bring back as much nectar and pollen as possible to the colony to raise new young..." (:09)

For bumblebees, the sky really is the limit...

The Osgood File. I'll see you online at Facebook, Twitter and at theosgoodfile.com. This is Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.
Charles Osgood
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