Anti-Caturday: Bumble My Bee

Bumble bee by sani thomas

By request: bumblebees! They’re the cute cousins of honey bees, fatter and more hairy. And they actually need the hair since they live far more north than most honeybees. Like their cousins though, they eat pollen and nectar from flowers, regurgitating it for the larvae to eat. Because of the hair they’re also pretty effective pollinators. They build their nests mostly into holes in the ground burrowed by other animals or into tufts of grass. These nests are nowhere near as extensive as honeybee nests and often a big bumblebee nest is only 50 individuals whereas honeybee colonies grow into the tens of thousands (a typical colony will have some 60 000 worker bees). Beyond the size and the hair, honey bees and bumblebees are pretty much the same physiologically speaking.

What surprised me though are the ways in which bumblebees differ from the honey bees. The biggest of these is that bumblebees, like wasps, abandon their nests when winter starts looming. The queens winter alone in a hole in the ground or in a tree or something. Because summers in the northern parts of the world tend to be short, bumblebee colonies never get a chance to grow very big. There are a few bumblebee species that live in the tropics that are the exception that proves the rule; they will abandon their nests roughly every five years. So even if they did make honey, which they don’t seem to do, they’d be poor workers indeed, leaving the honey farmer without bees at least every five years.

Bumble_Bee_2 by shoebappa

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