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Bumble Bee Queens Searching For Nest Sites

5-1-17 bumblebee 008This is the time of year when queen bumble bees have emerged from hibernation and are exploring for good nest sites, using both sight and smell. When searching for a suitable place in which to build a nest, a queen bumble bee flies in a distinctive zig-zag pattern low over the ground. If a certain cavity or hole interests her she will land on the ground and investigate by going into the crevice or hole.

Nest sites vary between bumble bee species. Most of the more common species prefer dry, dark cavities. Some nest underground, in places such as abandoned rodent holes, under sheds and in compost heaps. Of those that nest above ground, some make nests in thick grass, while others make nests in bird boxes and in trees.

Bumble bee nests are quite small, as they house only around 400 bumble bees (as opposed to a honey bee hive with a colony of 50,000 bees). At the end of the summer, if the nest has been successful in rearing new queens, they will leave the nest to mate and then go on to hibernate somewhere in the soil – ready to emerge the following spring to start their own colony. The original queen and the rest of the bees die as cold weather approaches.

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5 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Bumbles are awesome, so “big”, always busy and have beautiful iridescent wings.

    May 1, 2017 at 8:39 am

  2. I’ve been hearing them buzzing in the quince hedge. I love that sound!

    May 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm

  3. Emily Silver

    Hi Mary. Are all BB with that coloration Queens? We see lots of them. Joe

    May 1, 2017 at 8:15 pm

  4. No, Joe, coloration has more to do with species — queens are usually very large and out early in the spring as they’re the only ones that overwinter.

    May 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm

  5. Juanita Longwell

    oracstevens@gmail.com

    On Mon, May 1, 2017 at 8:09 AM, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “This is the time of year when queen bumble bees have > emerged from hibernation and are exploring for good nest sites, using both > sight and smell. When searching for a suitable place in which to build a > nest, a queen bumble bee flies in a distinctive zig-za” >

    May 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

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