A bumblebee’s tale of spring and summer
The discussion I had with students from St Maurices’ about bumblebees will remain with me forever. For two years I would be stopped in the corridors by one or two students who asked me to repeat the bumblebee’s tale, as they couldn’t get their heads around the genetics of how brothers and sisters are related differently.
It is spring and the new queen emerges from her hibernation carrying with her the sperm packet from her mating with a male the previous year. She will go on the search for nectar-rich flowers that will help her rebuild all energy that she used up during hibernation. She then goes on a hunt for a suitable place to call a nest. These nests are usually in the ground, however some species like the Tree bumblebee nest in trees or old bird boxes so take care when spring cleaning the garden.
Over the coming weeks the queen will lay new eggs in a mound of was and pollen, she gets all cosy here and shivers to build up heat for the larvae, much like a bird using their feathers to incubate chicks in the egg. She will continue the search for pollen that will feed her larvae until she has reared enough workers who can then take over this role.
Some of the workers will find food and some will guard the nest from predators. Once there are enough workers the queen will remain in the nest laying more bee larvae to increase the numbers of workers and keep the nest fed, cleaned and secure.
Tune in for the next instalment of the Humble Bumble……