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Bumble Bees

Bumble Bees are large robust insects with black and yellow coloration. The bumble bee has a black or yellow hairy abdomen which is a character that can be used to differentiate it from a carpenter bee which has a black shiny, hairless abdomen.

Bumble bees

Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are social insects that generally nest underground (in soil and/or under debris, e.g., refuse dumps, etc.). They obtain their food almost exclusively from flowers. Although they make honey, they usually store it in such small quantities as to be impractical for commercial purposes.

They are, however, very beneficial as pollinators of several plant species, but are not as important to commercial crops as are honey bees. Only a few crop systems in cooler temperate areas rely on bumble bees for effective pollination.

The foraging bumble bee has a large pollen basket on each hind leg that is often loaded with pollen. The bumble bee queens are typically twice as large as workers or males. A female bumble bee has a pointed abdomen with a stinger. Males do not have a stinger and the tip of the abdomen is rounded.

Life Cycle: The bumble bee colony is made up of three types of individuals (queen, undeveloped female workers, and males). Bumble bees produce annual colonies in South Carolina. Only the mated queens overwinter. Nests are started in early spring by these solitary, fertilized queens. These queens are often seen feeding on spring flowers or searching for a suitable nest site.

Get rid of bumble bees

Bumble Bees Nest

Nests are established in an abandoned rodent or bird nest in the ground. The solitary queen begins the colony by collecting pollen and forming it into a small lump. She lays 6-8 worker eggs on this pollen. After 4-5 days, the eggs hatch into larvae, which begin to feed on the lump of pollen.

The young larvae receive all the fats, minerals, proteins, and vitamins that are necessary for growth from the pollen. The queen collects more pollen and nectar to feed this first brood cycle. It takes about 21 days to develop from egg to adult. Once the first brood develops, they take over all the colony duties except egg laying. The adult workers defend the colony, collect pollen and nectar, and feed the larvae. Nectar is collected and stored in small sac like “honey pots” built from wax and pollen.

The workers enlarge the nest and by midsummer the colony will have 20-100 workers. The colony produces reproductives (new queens and males) in late summer. They leave the nest to take mating flights. The successfully mated queens fly to the ground and hibernate 2-5 inches deep in the soil. The production of reproductives signals the end of the colony’s life. The overwintering queens emerge the next spring to complete the life cycle.

Pollination: Bumble bees are efficient and important pollinators of many native wildflowers and crops such as cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, squash, and melons.

bumble bees for Pollination

Buzz Pollination

Bumble bees ensure the perfection of tomatoes by performing a special feat called “buzz pollination.” The bumble bee grabs the anther cone (the flower part containing the pollen) and shakes it, releasing pollen that would otherwise stay trapped in the anther cone. The pollen is then available to fertilize flowers so that fruit can be produced. Good pollination produces large, evenly shaped, attractive fruits

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