In North America, there are about 50 different species of bumble bees. They are identifiable by their large, furry bodies that are mostly black with stripes of yellow, white, or sometimes even orange.
Bumble share some traits with honey bees. Like honey bees, bumble bees are sociable bees that live in colonies with one queen and many, many worker bees. However, these colonies are never as big as honey bee colonies. Bumble bees and honey bees both have pollen baskets, called corbiculae, on their hind legs. These corbiculae are more specialized than the pollen baskets on other types of bees, which are called scopae. The shape of the pollen baskets, flattened with long strong hairs along the edges, allow bumble bees and honey bees to mix pollen with saliva and nectar into a large mass, called a orbicular peeled, rather than a loose scattering of pollen.
Bumble bees typically make their nests underground or in low bushes. Often times, the colony will start when a queen bee finds and moves into an abandoned mouse nest or burrow from another small animal. She immediately starts preparing it for the brood by building wax pots filled with pollen and larger cells for the brood. she then lays the eggs, beginning by laying less than a dozen eggs that will grow into sterile female worker bees. Once this initial brood has fully developed, the queen will almost never leave the nest again, as the workers will tend her her needs while the queen focuses on laying eggs.
Though they do not produce enough honey to cultivate, bumble bees are very effective and very important pollinators. They are particularly effective at pollinating tomatoes, so much so that they are often hired by greenhouses that grow tomatoes all year round. However, because tomato plants produce pollen but no nectar to nurture the bees, a sugar water must be supplied. Bumble bees and their pollination are very important to pollination.
- See also: Do bumble bees sting?