The adult male bumblebee has only one function in life and that is to mate. However, research shows that only one out of seven males are successful in this endeavor. When mating does take place, it is more complex than one might imagine.
In most species, the male bumblebees fly in a circuit depositing a queen-attracting scent (pheromone) from a gland in their head onto vegetation and prominent structures such as trees and rocks. This usually takes place in the morning, and if it rains, the scent is replaced. The males then patrol the area, with each species of bee flying at a specific height. Once a (virgin) queen has been attracted, mating takes place on the ground or vegetation, and lasts anywhere from 10 to 80 minutes. After the male’s sperm has been deposited he inserts a genital plug in the queen which, when hardened, prevents the sperm of other males from entering her for up to three days. (Photo by Heather Thompson: queen bumblebee with several smaller male suitors)
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