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July 3, 2007 > Pat Kite's Garden

Pat Kite's Garden

Bumble Bees

By Pat Kite

Have you noticed more busy bumble bees in your garden? While our smaller brownish honey bees continue suffering pesticide blitz and concrete pave over, the fuzzy larger black and yellow Bumble Bees somehow persist in doing their extremely vital job of pollinating. Pollinating means the transfer of pollen, that yellow powdery-looking stuff, from male to female flower, so we can have more flowers, fruit and veggies. You can see the pollen "baskets" on their legs. A Bumble Bee may work 20 hours a day, or more, gathering pollen. Considering that a bee's wings beat about 200 times a minute, this is, indeed, a true garden workaholic.

Bumble Bees seen in your garden began their life in early spring. A queen bee locates a hollow area in the earth and brings over teensy plant strands to line her little cradle home. She visits garden flowers, hauling home protein-rich yellow pollen dust to the nest then lays eight to 12 eggs.

The Queen Bumble Bee also creates a "honey pot" with special wax from her glands. Into it will go flower nectar, a mixture of flower sugars and water. Mother bee carries this nectar home in her expandable "stomach and deposits the nectar in her nest honey pot. Her young will now have food when they emerge. Until then, Mother bumble bee sits on her eggs, keeping them warm with her furry body.

When the chubby white larvae, or young, emerge, they feed on the pollen and nectar. Should the supply get low, the female goes out and brings back more. Within two weeks, the larvae are full size and each makes a cocoon. From the first batch of cocoons, worker daughters chew their way out. They help their parent get food. On just one summer day, these daughters may make 2000 trips to find and bring back nectar and pollen. The Queen Bumble Bee is busy laying more eggs, and does need some help. Eventually males and sexy females emerge from the eggs.

In the fall, these females and males mate. The males, worker daughters, and parent queen bee die and the new prospective queen females find a comfy ground level hiding place. They emerge in the early spring to start the cycle again.

If you are fascinated by the Bumble Bees populating your garden, check out the "Bumblebee Conservation Trust" in England at www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk. Some Bumble Bee species, or types, have become extinct, and knowledgeable people are worried.

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