By Corrine Johnston

Bumble bee (Bombus spp)

There are about 250 species of bumble bees in the world and 15 to 18 of those species can be found in Michigan and surrounding states. The most common type of bumble bee you will see in Michigan is bombus impatiens. 

Bumble bees are not likely to sting, usually only if aggravated. Unlike honeybees, bumble bees do not die when they sting.

A bumble bee queen in Michigan will overwinter inside small creavices in leaves or soil. Around April/May she wakes up and tries to find a new nest. Once she finds one, she will gather food (nectar and pollen) to feed her brood (the larvae). When the workers emerge (which are all female and also sterile) they will forage for food to bring back to the colony. The queen will remain in the nest to lay and raise more brood. Around September there may be anywhere from 300-700 workers. A new queen will be produced, mate, then find shelter for winter. All the workers, drones (males) and the old queen will die during winter. Only the new mated queen will survive.

Bumble bees can fly at cooler temperatures and can be seen foraging earlier and later hours than honeybees. It has also been reported that bumble bees can collect food from flowers faster than honeybees. They do this by shaking pollen loose from flowers by vibrating their bodies which is sometimes called ‘buzz pollination’. This method is more efficient for the pollination of certain crops such as eggplants, tomatoes, and blueberries.

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