Bumblebees: Understanding The Swarm

There are over 250 different species of bumblebees in the world, each with its own unique characteristics. These insects are usually around 2 cm in length and black with yellow or orange bands. The bumblebee genus is considered to be a social genus. This means that they live in communities, typically in a nest with drones (males), workers, and a queen.

So, how does a hive begin and what are the dynamics of a bumblebee hive? After a cold winter, the queen bee will begin to form a new nest. She will first begin by laying her first group of eggs (6-8 eggs). These larvae will eventually develop into workers and begin to collect pollen and develop the hive. The queen at this point will begin to devote her life to laying eggs and producing the colony. At this point, the queen will continue to lay solely worker bees until a certain population is met. At this point, the queen will produce drones and even other queen bees. This development completes the social community of the hive until the cold weather kills them off and they have to begin again next year using leftover larvae.

One of the things you might wonder is how the queen controls the types of bees she is producing. One of the abilities of the queen is to release pheromones that help determine the sex of her progeny. Although there are other females in the hive, the queen bee is the only one capable of determining the offspring’s sex. The reason for this is because of how she is treated within the community. She is cared for and fed by workers and drones enough to become fully sexually mature. Other female worker bees can produce offspring but they can not determine the sex.

Unlike most people believe, bumblebees can sting but rarely do. They are typically calm and relaxed bees that will only attack when they feel threatened. Unlike other types of bees, however, bumblebees do not swarm. Instead, they can be found individually. Other types of bees are stingless but, instead of having stingers, they have painful bites. So, no matter the type of bee you are handling, always bee careful.