What is Bumblebee?
Bumblebee is a fictional character from the Transformers line of toys, comic books, television shows, movies, and games. He is one of a race of robots, called Transformers, that can transform into other types of machines. Transformers come from the planet Cybertron and are divided into two different classes: the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons. Bumblebee is a small, spunky, yellow and black Autobot who turns into a car. He is one of the best-known Transformers and one of the most well-liked. In fact, he was one of the very first Autobots ever introduced on television. Bumblebee made his TV debut in 1984 in the pilot of the Transformers cartoon. In more recent iterations, Bumblebee befriends young humans on Earth and sometimes seems more comfortable with them than with his Autobot compatriots.
So, what kind of car is Bumblebee? In early comic books set on Cybertron before Bumblebee and the Autobots came to Earth, Bumblebee’s alternate form was a hovercraft. In the first toys, television shows, comics set on Earth, and the 1986 movie, The Transformers: The Movie, he turned into a Volkswagen Beetle. In a 2007 cartoon television series, he transformed into a supermini police car. He has also been a Chrysler ME 412 concept car, a Suzuki Swift Sport, an AMC Pacer, and a fictional muscle car called an Urbana 500. His most well-known forms, however, are the VW Beetle and his more recent form, a flashy yellow Camaro, which he takes in director Michael Bay’s Transformers movie series. In the first Michael Bay Transformers movie, Transformers, released in 2009, Bumblebee first turned into a 1976 Camaro, then later into a 2009 Camaro concept car. In fact, Bumblebee brought the Camaro back into production.
General Motors (GM) had stopped production on the Camaro in 2002. The 2009 Camaro that Bumblebee turned into only existed in the world of the movie. It became so popular, however, that GM rolled out new Camaros starting that year and they have continued to this day.
Bumblebee stayed true to his new transformer car form for subsequent Michael Bay productions. In the second movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, he transformed into a 2010 Camaro concept car. In the third, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, he became a 2011 Camaro. In the fourth movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, his early form was a 1967 Camaro SS and his later form was a 2014 Camaro concept car. In the fifth and final Michael Bay film, Transformers: The Last Knight, his alternate form was a 2016 Camaro. However, in the newest Transformers movie (which came out in 2018), called simply Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight, Bumblebee’s original car form is revived. He becomes a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, coming full circle from his origins.
How did Bumblebee get his name?
Speaking of origins, Bumblebee is not this Autobot’s given name on his home planet of Cybertron. The other Autobots call him B-127. However, he has been known as Bumblebee since the early days of Transformers cartoons. At first, this seemed to be solely based on appearance as he was yellow and black (like a bumble bee) and he turned into a car that is often referred to as a Bug. Furthermore, the doors of his car form became wings in his robot form. In a 2008 cartoon series, he was given the name Bumblebee by a commanding officer in Autobot Boot Camp because he bumbled around and lagged behind the other trainees. Finally, in the newest iteration of the character, 2018’s Bumblebee movie, his human friend, a young woman named Charlie Watson, gives him the name Bumblebee because he makes buzzing noises and is yellow and black.
Bumblebee vs bumble bees and other insects
While Bumblebee is a robot, not an insect, he does share some characteristics with his namesake, the bumble bee, other bees, and even other insects.
Bumblebee’s paint job is yellow and black, much like bumble bees and other bee species, including the honey bee.
Yellowjackets and some other hornets also share this color scheme. Furthermore, as noted by Charlie, he makes buzzing sounds. This is due to his machinery, however, while insects buzz, in part, because their wings beat very fast.
Bumblebee also, coincidentally, follows the naming conventions of the Entomological Society of America. According to their widely accepted rule for insect common names, if a species is what its name describes, the name should be given in two words. For example, a bumble bee is a bee. Therefore, “bumble” and “bee” must be separate. If, however, a species is not what its name describes, the name is given as one word. For example, a yellowjacket is not a jacket; it is a wasp. Thus, the term “yellowjacket” should be all one word. Bumblebee is not a bee; he is a robot. While this was undoubtedly unintentional, perhaps it will serve as a good mnemonic device to remember insect names.
One interesting aspect of the new version of Bumblebee is that, unlike the other Autobots, he can’t speak. His voice box was destroyed by a Decepticon. As a result, in the latest Transformers movies and comics, he must communicate via music and audio clips. He uses his car radio to play songs and short clips from movies, speeches, and TV shows as a form of speech. While bees don’t have broken voice boxes or communicate by playing recorded music, honey bees communicate by dancing. They perform what entomologists call a “waggle dance” with different motions corresponding to different pieces of information, including direction and distance to nectar sources.
Finally, although bees are not beetles, Bumblebee’s original and newest car forms share their name with the latter group of insects.
Bumblebee is a beloved character in the Transformers franchise. He is small, spunky, and has a cute name. His alternate forms are typically a muscle car or an instantly recognizable sporty coupe. He often befriends humans and communicates via music. His coloring is much like that of the bumble bee – a fuzzy black and yellow bee – and other bee and wasp species. He also buzzes like they do, though not for the same reasons. We hope you’ve enjoyed this foray in the world of Bumblebee and learned a thing or two along the way!