The bumble bee is a distant cousin of the honey bee and most people often confuse the two. Unlike the honey bee, the bumble bee is slow and gentle. This is because it goes about collecting nectar and pollen in a very slow manner as opposed to the honey bee which dashes about everywhere. The bumble bee is round and furry. It has black and yellow hair patterns on its abdomen.
There are three kinds of bumble of bees, the queen, the tiny
male or drone bee and the small female worker bee. They are all seen at different
times of the year and it is only the large queen and worker bees that have a
sting. They also have pollen baskets on their hind legs.
The fertilized queen survives the winter, selects an
underground nesting area in the spring and then constructs a nest where the
worker bees are raised. The queen lays eggs that hatch into larvae and they develop
through a number of stages before turning into a pupa. The male and female bees
are produced later on in the summer. In the fall, all the members of colony die
except for the fertilized queens.
Nesting for bumble bees includes old bird nests, clumps of dry grass, abandoned rodent burrows, car cushions, old mattresses or even abandoned buildings. Their nest is about 12 inches in diameter and has several entrances. Most colonies comprise of 2,000 bees. The foraging worker bees use their long tongues to pollinate flowers and clovers. They also collect nectar and pollen, which they take back to the hive for the colony to feed on. The honey produced is stored in the nest. Foraging activities only occur during the daylight hours.
- Since they live in relatively small nests, bumble bees don’t swarm. This makes it possible for you to have one or two nests in your garden.
- Unlike their honey bee cousins, bumble bees do not produce sufficient amounts of honey required for commercial purposes. They produce just few grams at a time in order to feed their young.
- Only particular bumble bees have a sting. Drones, which are the smaller male bumble bees, have no sting at all. They hatch in mid-summer.
- The biggest threat to bumble bees is probably pesticide sprays. The harsh chemicals found in such sprays pose a serious threat to the bees.
- Bumble bees are not as aggressive as honey bees. In most cases, they will not attack a human unless they feel threatened. In case you encounter a bumble bee, you should not wave your arms wildly at it, just stand quietly and once they smell that you are obviously not a flower, they will move on.
- Honey bees lose their sting and die if they use it, which is not the case for bumble bees.
- Encouraging bumble bees into your farm or garden will help to pollinate your flowers, vegetables and fruits, which is quite a good thing.
Help the Bees - Unfortunately, it seems like our civilization has declared war on native bees. Over-development, habitat destruction, and diminishing plant diversity have all negatively impacted our native bee populations, here are a few things you can do to help the bees.