Gardens & Ecology

Common Pollinators :: the life cycle of Bumble Bees

Summer flowers are blooming their last colorful flowers and I am so impressed with how well the zinnias did this season, despite having planted them so late. And also impressed with all the pollinators they attract especially larger insects like these bumble bees. I will certainly be planting more zinnias (both wild & garden variety) next year and, meanwhile, here is a little fun fact about bumble bees.

In bumble bee society only the queens survive the winter. Nearing the end of summer & fall, queen bumble bees produce several young queens who then go out looking for local male bumble bees. Having mated several times & with all the genetic material she will need for the coming year, these young queens go into hibernation until spring.

Sadly, the rest of the colony, including the former queen, workers, and males won’t survive the winter. They will however live on (in a way) inside these young slumbering queens.

When spring comes again, or if it is spring where you live, the queens wake from hibernation and go out looking for a good spot to make a nest. This could be an abandoned home of a small rodent, a tree hallow, or even just some folded over grass.

Bumble bee colonies tend to consist of 50 to a couple hundred bees and the queen. The majority of the colony are females and all members are children of the queen, the exact numbers depending on the species.

It is interesting to me that bumble bees and honey bees are the only bees that live in colonies, all of the others (thousands of species) are solitary bees. And I will be posting about other solitary bees like carpenter bees and mason bees soon!! Until then I will leaves you with a couple of cute bumble bees pics I have taken in our garden & a nearby field. Happy Earth day everyone!!

A common bumble bee pollinating a cucumber flower.
A yellow bumble bee & lavender.

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