The Bumblebee (Bombus)
The next common bee in the US we shall look at is the bumblebee (Bombus fervidus) since it is the second best known bee and many people can tell the difference between a honeybee and a bumblebee on sight.
There are over 225 species of bumblebees around the world, and some are smaller than others. They can be between half an inch and 1 inch in length, compared to the Western honeybee which is usually only half an inch long.
The bumble bee is a ‘cute’ bee, and is considered to be charismatic and bombastic. They are often called bumblers because they buzz very loudly and can often be heard from relatively far away. Many people love bumblebees because they seem like little round cotton puffs, rotund, fuzzy, and fluffy. Typically, bumblebees are dark brown or black with yellow or orange stripes.
The incredible intelligence of the bumblebee queen is evident in this short video, as she emerges at the end of winter into the cold and is in a race against time to feed herself to survive so she can start a new bee colony.
This 2:21-minute video by BBC Earth is an amazing peek into the secret world of the queen bumblebee.
Bumblebees love brightly colored flowers, where they collect nectar and pollen. They are particularly known for a strategy they developed, which few other bees can emulate, called ‘buzz pollination.’ This is where they vibrate their wings at such a speed while clutching the bloom that they shake the pollen out of the flower. They do this on flowers that hold tightly to their treasures. In the end, the bumblebee is persistent and gets what she wants.
Bumblebees build nests near the ground, often in abandoned rodent tunnels or in the foundations of structures, and even in piles of dead garden vegetation.
These are social bees, living in colonies of between 50 to 500 bees. They choose a queen, just like the honeybee does, and she rules the colony. Only she can lay eggs. The other bumblebees forage for pollen and nectar and keep themselves fed and make sure the queen has enough to eat.
The bumblebee can sting a person multiple times and live, unlike the honeybee, which dies after one sting. This is because the stinger on the bumblebee is not barbed, so it pulls out easily once the sting has been delivered.
Bumblebees are generally good natured and don’t seek to sting people unless they are nervous about someone getting too close to them or their nests.
Like honeybees, bumblebees face many perils in today's world, and all of them are due to decisions humanity has made. They are also incredibly important pollinators.
Bumblebees are likely to grace you with their presence if you plant some herbs and bright flowers in your garden.
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