Bumble Bees

Heath-The Bumble Bee

There are more than 250 different species of bee and nearly all of these exist in the Northern Hemisphere. They are social animals with black and yellow hairs which are frequently arranged in stripes on the bee’s body. They might also have orange or red coloring and a few bees are almost completely black. Bumble bees feel and look fuzzy. The thick fuzzy hairs help to keep bumble bees warm through the winter. They gather pollen that’s used to feed their young. In queens which have been fertilized, the ovaries become active when she lays her eggs. The queen is able to store the male’s sperm from mating in a distinctive container called the spermatheca that is used when she’s laying her eggs. Some eggs are fertilized with the sperm and these bumble bees will grow into females or queens while other eggs go unfertilized and become males.
Hormones stimulate the maturation of the ovaries and lack of hormones will suppress ovary development. In worker bees, a deficiency of hormones makes it impossible for them to replicate. Instead of being capable of reproducing, worker bees have salivary glands that secrete saliva and can be mixed with the nectar and pollen that they collect from flowers. The saliva is mixed with the materials used to construct the nest to make them softer. It extends from a sheath and can be used to lap up liquids like nectar. When the bumble bee flies or rests, the tongue has been kept folded up under its head. Wax is secreted from a place under the abdomen. Pollen is gathered by the bumble bee in part through electrostatic charge which builds up on the bee as it is flying through the air. After the bee lands on a flower, the electrostatic charge causes the pollen to be attracted to the bee. Though bees don’t have ears, they do have the ability to feel vibrations.
The bumble bee is generally found more easily at higher latitudes and higher altitudes. There are some tropical species of bumble bees however. They’re also able to remain cool by radiating warmth from the bodies throughout their abdomen.
Bumble bees exist in colonies which are usually smaller than that of honey bees. Mature nests of bees occasionally hold only about 50 individuals. Nests may be found under ground in tunnels made by other animals. They often build a waxy protective canopy that can help insulate the colony through the winter months. A queen bumble bee from a colony will usually survive the winter and then build a new colony in the warmer spring months are she emerges from hibernation. She collects pollen and nectar from flowers and then finds a suitable location for the nest to begin the cycle all over again.

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