The blinking beacon of the Piedras Blancas Light Station isn't the only bright thing at the coast of the white rocks north of San Simeon, California. If you look down at the cliffside flowers, you will see the cheerfully colored yellow-faced bumblebee shining through the fog. These round and fluffy pollinators have no problems finding their way through the mist to stop at seaside wooly yarrow, tree lupine, and dune buckwheat. Their buzzing, the sound of the surf, the wind through the trees, and the sounding of a bell join to make a seaside lullaby.
But the coastal plant habitat was not always so bright and full of sound and motion. Coast guard residents once planted non-native ice plant throughout the Piedras Blancas Light Station land. The bees moved away. When volunteers worked to tear out these plants and replace them with natives like yarrow, the bees returned. Their bobbing yellow faces are now a signal of a healthy habitat.
Check the Piedras Blancas Light Station website for information on guided tours, which feature an interpretive nature walk where ramblers often see yellow-faced bumblebees. Children receive a special small guidebook that highlights the presence of the pollinators.
Bumblebees were once called humblebees simply due to their humming sound. But Beatrix Potter's book, Mrs. Tittlemouse helped to mix in the bumble for the humble by popularizing the buzzing bee character named Babbity Bumble.
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