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Bumblebees Mating

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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9 responses

  1. Thanks Mary–Do you know how many species of bumble bees there are in NE. I’m assuming most we see are male Common Eastern bumble bees. Thanks for the info.

    October 11, 2019 at 10:44 am

    • Hi Barbara,
      I know there are 22 species of bumble bees in the Northeast, and I believe 15 in New England.

      October 11, 2019 at 2:18 pm

  2. Alice

    That’s one Queen getting a lot of attention! Such interesting info, again!

    October 11, 2019 at 1:14 pm

  3. Margo Nutt

    Wow! That’s an amazing photograph!

    October 11, 2019 at 2:27 pm

  4. Cheron barton

    Very interesting!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    October 11, 2019 at 3:09 pm

  5. How wonderfully complex—thanks!

    October 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm

  6. Bonnie Adams

    Hi Mary.

    My Husband and I are long time fans of your Naturally Curious blog and have one of your Naturally Curious books, given to me by one of my staff who is now also a fan.

    Yesterday, as I was putting a couple of my gardens to bed, I noticed an odd looking leaf on the ground.  I can’t for the life of me imagine how this leaf came to be so perfectly ‘quilted’.  Do you have any ideas?

    Also, I have a video which I took last year of what looked like an army of teeny, tiny spiders emerging from the ground.  I enlarged the area on my cell phone and took a video.  Turns out they were hundreds of little lady bugs emerging.  Pretty cool.

    Thanks Mary. Bonnie Adams Hampton, N.B., Canada

    October 12, 2019 at 10:52 am

    • Hi Bonnie, WordPress doesn’t allow photos to come through. I’d love to see the leaf photo if you felt like sending it to me at!

      Sent from my iPhone


      October 14, 2019 at 12:52 pm

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