What big bees we have!

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As Spring begins, we hear the bustle of bees of all species buzzing around us as we enjoy the outdoors.  One sound that is most prominent and attention grabbing, is that of the bumble bees.

Bumble bees are those large furry bees that make you duck as they whiz past your head due to their shocking size. Their furry bodies allow them to fly at cooler temperatures because the fur (setae) keeps them warm and insulated.

Bumblebees are gentle with no intention of harming you, but can sting multiple times, if need be, without sacrificing their own life. Maybe nature could’ve swapped this trait between bumble bees and honey bees in this instance, as honey bees have a sweet treat to protect and are forced to sting more frequently.

Here is a great visual of one example of a bumble bee nest. Image was taken by David Goulson, Stirling University, for http://www.winnipegfreepress.com

Bumble bees nest underground in abandoned rodent burrows, in holes in trees, in tall grass, abandoned nests, basically anything that will provide a foundational structure for the nest.  They like to use moss, straw, grass and other items a bird or rodent might use to build a nest. Unlike other bee species, their nests consist of a, seemingly, disorganized arrangement of cells.  You won’t find perfectly stacked hexagons in this nest, but the cells are made of wax the bees make and excrete from their abdomens. 

A colony will consist of 50-400 members, which are produced by the queen in the Spring.  Unlike honey bees, bumble bee colonies do not overwinter by packing in together and building honey stores.

Here is a fantastic photo of a queen warming her eggs with a honey pot on the left. Provided by: http://dkphoto.photoshelter.com.

Bumble bee queens create a new colony every Spring, and she makes honey, but only enough to feed herself while she waits for her colony to develop, never again after.  

More on this super cool species tomorrow!  Thank you for following and joining the movement!