Many of us know about honey bees and orchard mason bees but what
about other bees in our area?
The following website gives a host of information about bees of
all kinds, including photos of each of the bees described.
The website also has information on spiders and other insects if
you’d like to find out even more about the insect world and the
other crawling, creeping critters that inhabit this niche in our
Over the next few days I’ll post information about the
various bees in our area.
Bumble bees are the first pollinators to
emerge each spring and the last to disappear from gardens in late
fall. Bumble bees have very plump bodies covered with dense fuzz.
Scientists say their size and heat-conserving bodies help them stay
warm. Bumble bees can shiver their flight muscles to warm
themselves. It’s believed this is how they can fly and function at
When not out collecting pollen bumble
bees spend their time underground, nesting in colonies in cavities
left behind by mice and other ground burrowing critters. Their
nesting chambers only have one opening. Brian Griffin, author of
“Humble Bumblebee” says bumble bees will nest in containers left
out in the garden, such as an old cracked ceramic tea pot found in
his own garden many years ago. Several local nurseries now carry
bumble bee houses along with mason bee houses.
Each colony has a single queen. Each queen
winters over to populate the new colony each year. Colonies are
composed of a queen who lays eggs that become workers. At the end
of the season she’ll produce drones and more queens. The drones
fertilize the queens who fly off in search of places to hibernate
to start up new colonies for the next year.
Bumble bees are used commercially to
pollinate: cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries,
cane berries, melons and squash. These bees are able to work at
temperatures below 50 degrees and also can work in very warm
temperatures too. Bumble bees carry pollen in a concave surface on
their hind legs, commonly called a pollen pocket. The hair on their
bodies and legs captures pollen too. They work faster and visit
more flowers per minute than a honey bee and can definitely carry
Even though bees collect pollen for their own
uses they are amazing pollinators because they move the pollen
around on the plants, transferring it from pistils to stamens on
individual blossoms but also moving it from plant to plant as they
fly about on their gathering missions.
For more information on Bumble Bees check out the book “Humble
Bumble Bee” by Brian Griffiths, found at local KRL branches.
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