Bumblebees – a flower’s best friend
Bumblebees are “humblebees!” This is not a description of the character of bumblebees, but the name some people have given bumblebees because of the humming sound they make as they fly from flower to flower.
Farmers call bumblebees their “best friends” because humming, buzzing bumblebees pollinate plants that are food for the farmer’s livestock. However, they are not considered “best friends” by those who have been stung by these black and yellow, broad-bodied bees that range from 1/2-inch (1.27 centimeters) to 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) long and possess sharp stingers.
Bumblebees live in small colonies. Like wasps, honeybees and ants, they are social insects. The life of a new bumblebee colony always begins in the fall when a young female leaves the nest and mates with a drone (male). He soon dies, but she finds a place in the ground to hibernate during the winter.
When spring comes, the young queen crawls out from a crack in the ground, looking for a place to get a new little bumblebee community humming again. She might choose to build her nest within an abandoned bird nest, or a fieldmouse nest, or in a small hollow in the field, hidden by grass. A bumblebee nest is a small, ball-like structure of moss and grass with only one entrance hole.
In the nest, the queen produces wax and builds two containers. One is for nectar that she stores for her own use during cold or rainy weather. In the other container, she lays 8-14 eggs.
In three weeks, when the eggs hatch, some of the newly emerged worker bumblebees will hunt for pollen and nectar. Other bees expand the nest by building more wax cells for the queen to lay eggs in. Late in the summer, some drones and queens are born. They mate, and then the young queens go off to hibernate, starting the life cycle of a new bumblebee colony anew. The drones, workers and the old queen die, ending the existence of the old colony.