bumblebee (Bombus), is a large type of insects, hairy and close relatives of the well-known honey bee. Most species of bumblebees live in colonies, but their colonies are much smaller than those of honey bees or wasps, which can have up to several thousand individuals, the bumblebee colony will only consist of about 50 to 150 individuals. It has a loud hum that you can hear from a distance.

The bumblebee is a friendly insect that lives almost everywhere on the planet.
The bumblebee is a friendly insect that lives almost everywhere on the planet.

Features

We can recognize the bumblebee by its loud buzzing when flyingThey can be seen moving around the flowers and are a good indication that spring has arrived.

They usually have a very characteristic black and yellow color, although they can be red and black or orange and black. Another obvious (but not unique) feature is the smooth nature of the long, branching setae, called piles, which cover their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. The worker bumblebee has a stinger and is capable of stinging although it is never too willing to sting. A male bumblebee does not have a stinger and therefore cannot sting.

A bumblebee does not have ears and it is not known if or how it can hear sound waves passing through the air, however it can feel the vibrations of sounds through wood and other materials. The heart, like in most other insects, runs the entire length of the body. Your fat body is a nutritional store. Before hibernation, queens eat whatever they can to increase their fat body. The fat in cells is depleted during hibernation.

Unlike the honey bee, the worker bumblebee does not leave its stinger on your skin when it has stung, this means that it is capable of stinging you more than once. The venom they inject with a sting is harmless, but can be harmful for people allergic to wasp stings.

Like the mammals, bumblebees control their own body temperature. They can loosen the muscles they use to move their wings. By moving the detached muscles quickly they produce their own body heat. This is why a motionless bumblebee can sometimes be found on the ground or on a flower. She is not dying or sick, but simply warming up her own body and they cannot fly due to the detachment of the wing muscles.

Bumblebees maintain a body temperature of 34 to 38 degrees Celsius, so it is common to see bumblebees even on the coldest and rainiest days of spring and summer. Only in winter, when temperatures drop, do they go into hibernation. However, bees are only activated when temperatures exceed 15 degrees Celsius.

Behavior

They are docile and calm insects, you can catch a bumblebee with your hand and as long as you do not treat it harshly, it will not sting you at all. However, if a bumblebee is lying on its back, it is best not to touch it. This position is defensive and they will feel threatened and prepare to sting.

Habitat

They use the nectar of flowers as a source of fuel, as it is high in sugar. Pollen provides the protein and nutrients necessary for growth and development. Therefore, it is not surprising that the best habitats for bumblebees are those that offer abundant flowers to feed on throughout the active phase of their life cycle (from spring to late summer). This will ensure that there is a good supply of pollen at all crucial times:

  • When the queens are establishing their nests.
  • When the nests are growing.
  • When the nests are producing new queens and males.
  • When queens get fat to hibernate.

It is also important that the flowers present are useful to the bees. Certain plants have flowers that have shapes that bumblebees cannot use. For example, some flowers have petals that form long tunnels that are too long or narrow for them to feed on. Other flowers may not be suitable because they produce little or no pollen and nectar, often as a result of selective breeding by gardeners for their pleasant appearance.

It's very easy to find garden plants that are good for bumblebees.

What do they look for in a nest?

Nesting sites and nest sizes vary by species-

What do they look for in a hibernation site?

Only the new bumblebee queens go into hibernation during the winter. Very little is known about preferences for overwintering sites and differences between species. However, some research suggests that they prefer to hibernate on north-facing banks, where they burrow in vegetation and loose soils. In this soil they form a small chamber, in which they spend the winter. It is not uncommon for people to find bumblebees hibernating in their compost heaps or in the soil beds of their gardens.

Distribution

With so many species, it is no wonder that bumblebees are found all over the world. For example, the largest bumblebee is found in Argentina and Chile and the rusty bumblebee is found in the United States and Canada.

Bumblebees often build their nests close to the ground, under piles of wood, dead leaves, and piles of excrement, or even underground in abandoned rodent tunnels.

Food

The bumblebee does not store food (honey) to survive the winter. What little food they do store is saved to feed the larvae and the egg-producing queen, or used to survive cold, windy, and rainy days. Like their relatives honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar and collect pollen to feed their young, so they are herbivorous animals.

Like social wasps, the bumblebee colony will die in late summer. The new queens will then find a place to hibernate for the winter, usually underground, and will emerge to find a new nesting site ready to start a new colony in spring.

We can appreciate how a bumblebee feeds.
We can appreciate how a bumblebee feeds.

Predators

Parasites are likely to kill more bumblebees than predators. This may be because female bumblebees are armed with a stinger, but it is also due to the protection provided by their warning coloration.

Some Spiders crab ambush bumblebees on flowers. These spiders do not spin webs, instead they sit and wait for their prey to approach. They are well camouflaged.

The flies thieves catch their prey by the wing with their paws. And in North America they have been found to feed on bumblebees.

A few species of birds they can remove the stinger from the bumblebee before eating it, they rub the stinger before eating the abdominal contents which would include the honey stomach.

Pollination

Bumblebees are very important pollinators for many plants, flowers, and fruit trees. It is very interesting to silently observe a bumblebee at work.

They usually visit the flowers that present the pollination syndrome of bees. They can visit flower patches up to 1 or 2 kilometers from their colony. They also tend to visit the same flower patches every day, as long as nectar and pollen are still available. During the search for food, bumblebees can reach speeds of up to 54 kilometers per hour.

In some species of bumblebees, once they have visited a flower, they leave a scent mark on the flower. This scent mark deters other bumblebees from visiting the flower until the fragrance wears off.

Once they have collected the nectar and pollen, they return to the nest and deposit the harvested nectar and pollen in brood cells or wax cells for storage. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees only store food for a few days, making them much more vulnerable to food shortages.

However, because they are much more opportunistic than honey bees, this shortage may have less profound effects. Nectar is stored essentially in the form in which it was collected, rather than being processed into honey as is done with honey bees. Therefore, it is very dilute and watery and is rarely consumed by humans.

Reproduction

The queen is the mother of all the bees in a colony. After awakening from hibernation, the queen finds food and looks for a good place for a nest. Once the nest is found, it lays its eggs and stores food for itself and the babies.

The Queen sits on the eggs for about two weeks to keep them warm. When the eggs hatch, the queen feeds pollen to baby bees, called larvae. At two weeks of age, the larvae spin cocoons around themselves and remain there until they become adult bees.

The queen only takes care of the first batch of babies. The first batch becomes worker bees that will clean and care for the nest, find food, and care for the next batch of baby bees. The queen does nothing but lay and hatch new eggs.

Those born in late summer are males, called drones, and future queens. Both leave the nest as soon as they mature. Males from other nests mate with future queens and then die. After mating, the future queens fatten up and hibernate throughout the winter.

State of conservation

In Europe, until relatively recently, 19 indigenous bumblebee species were recognized wild along with six species of cuckoo bumblebees. Of these, three are now extinct, eight are in serious decline, and only six remain widespread. A decrease in the number of bumblebees could cause large-scale changes in the field, due to improper pollination of certain plants. Bumblebees are an endangered species.

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