Bumblebees - large hairy bees - not to be confused with honey bees. There are five species of bumblebee that frequent The Western Isles or Outer Hebrides
The garden bumblebee, the Great Yellow Bumblebee, The white -tailed bumblebee, the Heath bumblebee and the Moss Carder Bumblebee.
The Great Yellow Bumblebee has of recent years been declining as indeed have many of the bumblebees in Great Britain, mainly due to agricultural changes which has meant that many of the flowers that bumblebees use for nectar have almost ceased to exist.
Nectar is high in sugar content and is a source of fuel for the bees.
The pollen gives proteins and nutrients which the bees need to grow. Bumblebees are closely related to the well know Honeybees
GENERAL BEE FACTS
How did the bumblebee get its name?
If you look in a dictionary you will see that the word "bumble" means either "To move or act in a clumsy, unsteady or incompetent way" or " To make a low humming or droning sound" . Bumble is thought to come from the Middle English word bomblen which means to boom.
Related to The Honeybee
Bumblebees are big and extremely hairy bees. These bees are closely related to the well-known Honeybee.
A bumblebee colony is usually a lot tinier than the colonies of Honeybees or wasps. Honeybees and wasps colonies may have several thousand bees. Most bumblebee colonies have only 50 to 150 bees on them. As they live in small nests bumble bees never swarm.
Temperature is all Important - Body Heat
Bumblebees control their own body temperature. They detach the muscles that they use to move the wings. and move these quickly to make their own body heat.
Still Bumblebee on the Floor - Is it Dead?
Sometimes you will see a bumblebee on the ground or a flower, very still. It isn't dying or sick at all but is just heating up its own body. As the wings have been detached from their muscles the bee isn't capable of flight at that moment. A . Bumblebees keeps its body temperature to 34 to 38 Centigrade.
In winter, when temperatures are really cold the bumblebee isn't able to keep up its body heat so it hibernates instead. Bumblebees can be active on sunny days, while the temperature is still one or two degrees below the freezing point.
Honey - Not Enough Production for Commerciality
Bumble bees don't make enough honey to be of any commercial use, just a few grams at a time to feed their young
Einstein's "bee" statement
It is said that Einstein said that without bees to pollinate our food crops humans would die off in just 4 years It is now believed that it would take 7 years - he wasn't so far wrong was he?
Bumblebees Use Their Tongues
Bumblebees use their tongue like a straw to suck nectar from flowers
All bumblebees are able to sting - but usually they don't choose to do so. Even when handled - as long as they aren't squeezes - they wont stung. Bumblebees that are laying on their backs shouldn't be touched - they are laid on their backs as a defence mechanism and in this position they are telling us that they feel threatened and indeed are ready to sting. A bumblebees stinger will not stay in your skin - which is why a bumblebee may sting more than once. The actual poison is harmless (except if you are allergic to wasp poison). Different species however can cause varying amounts of pain. Drone bees (male)don't sting at all.
Never in The Tropics
You never find bumblebees in the tropics - however some are to be found in arctic conditions. There are 250 species of bumblebees worldwide. Their family name is Bombus.
Size - Queen -Female Worker- Male
The queen bee is the largest bumblebee, then the female worker and lastly the male or drone which is the smallest in size.
Furry and Round
Bumblebees are furry and round (honeybees are wasp shaped)
Lays 8 - 12 eggs
A Queen can lay about 8-12 eggs in the spring.
Nests - Life Cycle of the Bumblebee
The queen will locate finds a suitable place to build her nest. Different species choose different places to build their nests. One of the most common sites are the leaf litter in a hedge bottom or under a stone or under the wooden floor of a garden shed or other building.The nest is usually only a little bigger than half a grapefruit and that's when is is the busiest in the height of summer. The queen lays a few eggs at a time into a ball of pollen and wax - when the eggs hatch they try to eat through the pollen reserve but the queen very cleverly keeps making more.
The grubs pupate and the queen spins a bright yellow cocoon of silk and the emerge a few days later as fully grown worker bees. As soon as their wings are dry the worker bees start their work to support the colony
The queen continues to lay eggs and now the worker bees collect nectar to assist until late spring or summer until the nest is the correct size - then the queen begins to lay eggs that will become the next year queen bees.
The males or drones as they are called leave the nest and are then independent - all they are there for is mate with the young bumble bee queens and the bee cycle therefore continues.
Unlike honey bees the young bumble queens continue to live and work in the colony until the first sharp drop in temperature and frosts which is when the old queen, her workers and the independent drones will die. Only the newly mated queens will survive in hibernation to begin the cycle again the following Spring.
Reasons for The Decline of The Bumblebee
The reason that bumblebees have declined in recent years is that bees feed exclusively on pollen and nectar, and there are far fewer flowers in the countryside than there once were. One reason for the decline of the bumble bee populations is the fact that the places where the bumble bees nest are being disturbed often destroying the bumble bee's nest in the process. Hedges have been done away with, some of the marshes have been drained to make way for modern building and grasslands which were rich in wildflowers have been almost entirely swept away to be replaced by silage and cereal fields
Eco System and Bumblebees
Bumble bees play a valuable part in the eco-system as around 1/3 of what humans eat is pollinated by bees. It is estimated that around 80% of the world's crop species are dependent on the pollination by bees to survive.
There are six types of cuckoo bees in Britain and these bees are parasitic in that they force out queen bees and take over their nests. Cuckoo bumblebees don't produce workers of their own. Each cuckoo species tends to attack a particular species of bumblebees.
Their tongues are long and feathery and this means that they can reach nectar that other insects cant.
The bees legs have hairs and brushes used to gather the pollen off the body hairs and pack it into the pollen baskets to take home to the nest
Bumblebees have two pairs of wings - it might look like they only have one pair as the wings operate together. Their wings are held together, unlike those of dragonflies.
Bumblebees have an exoskeleton - a skeleton on the outside being made up of hard plates of chitin. Chitin is a nitrogenous polysaccharide insoluble in water, alcohol, dilute acids and digestive juices. Having this means that once a bumblebee has hatched out of its cocoon as an adult it cannot get any bigger. The muscles are attached to the inside of the plates. (Humans have an endoskeleton a skeleton on the inside of our body. The muscles are attached to the bone and as the skeleton is inside we can grow in size.
In bumblebees fertilized eggs develop into females (queens or workers), and unfertilized eggs develop into male
A bumblebee has no ear. It isn't actually known whether or how a bumblebee can hear, however they can feel the vibrations of sounds through wood and other materials.
The blood isn't carried in veins and arteries like a humans blood - it just sloshes around. The body organs, heart, muscles, etc. sit in a pool of blood. The heart does pulse blood through its long tube, though which is a sort of circulatory system.
Bumblebees eat nectar and pollen from the flowers. Pollen is eaten mainly by the queen and the grubs although the workers too eat some. Pollen is full of protein. Nectar is mainly water with different types of sugary substances in it. Honey is just nectar that has less water and so the sugar has become more concentrated.
Moss Carder Bumblebee - Bombus Muscorum
This bumblebee - Bombus Muscorum - frequents The Western Isles prefers moorland and is a breed that is a little bit rare and is now found only on a few Hebridean islands. The queen has a body length of 18 mm and workers and males have a 14mm body length. The Moss Carder Bee, has a bright orange upper body and yellowish lower body - it is a truly striking sight.
The adult has hairs on the thorax and abdomen that are mainly ginger, mixed with black on the abdominal segments (however - not on the mainland forms).