The bumblebee was traditionally known as the humblebee, after naturalist Charles Darwin began observing and documenting the insects in records dating back to 1841. The name humblebee refers to the humming noise the bees make as they rapidly beat their wings while flying—it is estimated the insects can fly at speeds of approximately 10 miles (16 km) per hour. By the early 20th century, the name gradually was phased out and replaced with the modern name of bumblebee as more scientists began to study the insects. Darwin was among the first to recognize the importance of bumblebees’ role in fertilizing plants as they collected nectar and pollen, and even noted certain plants’ risk for extinction if bumblebees disappeared and were unable to help fertilize.
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