Friday, October 17, 2008

The Beez!


Bumble bees are big, fuzzy insects recognized by almost everyone by their robust shape and black and yellow coloration. The common species are 3/4 inch in length or more. Like honey bees, bumble bees live in a colony where the adults care for the young (larvae) produced by a single queen. Bumble bee nests are small compared to honey bees, as each nest contains only a few hundred individuals. Also unlike honey bees, a bumble bee nest is annual and is used only one year and then abandoned.

Bumble bees usually nest in the ground in a deserted mouse nest or bird nest. Occasionally they nest in cavities within a wall or even in the clothes drier vent.

In the spring, the queen selects a nest site and starts the colony by lining an existing cavity with dry grass or moss. Then she collects a mass of pollen and moistens this with nectar to produce a stored food called "bee bread." Her first brood of offspring, numbering 5 to 20, will all be workers (daughters) who take over the colony responsibilities of nest enlargement, food gathering and storage, and feeding and caring for the larvae. The queen continues to lay eggs throughout the summer. By late summer, reproductive males and females are produced. These mate on the wing and the fertilized females move to hibernation sites in the shelter of loose bark, hollow trees or other dry, protected places to lie dormant through the winter. The males and workers still in the colony die with frost or the first hard freeze.

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