Bumble bees are reknown for their robust size and distinct incessant buzz. The black bumble bee is no exception. You’ve probably spotted one in the garden, snacking on nectar, or looking for a potential home.
Bumble bees are large, fuzzy insects with short, stubby wings. It is a puzzle how the bumble bee defies the principles of aerodynamics and manages to maintain flight with such a frame. Its grace, however, is matched with its usefulness.
Black bumble bees are larger than honeybees, but do not produce as much honey. They, however, make for excellent pollinators. In fact, food would not grow without the help of bees. They are the largest insect pollinators, closely followed by butterflies and other insects.
Most bees that thrive on nectar drill holes at the base of the flower and suck out the pollen, leaving the fertilization incomplete.
The black bumble bee’s wings beat at a faster rate than most insect pollinators. This, coupled with their large frame vibrates the flowers till they release pollen. This process is known as buzz pollination. It helps plants produce more fruit and puts black bumble bees ahead of the curve.
With so many bee species, it is almost impossible to tell one from the other. Some bees bear close resemblance due to shared family characteristics. Carpenter bees are often confused for black bumble bees. They are built in the same design, thick black body frame and short wings. They can be told apart by distinct differences.
Black bumble bees are covered by a layer of fur called pile. They have a large structure on their hind legs, called a pollen basket. This helps the bees collect pollen when foraging and are usually full in adults. Females have a pointed abdomen, with a stinger at the tip. Males have a rounded abdomen with no stinger.
A carpenter bee’s body surface is smooth and shiny, with hairs at the base of its legs. The best way to know a carpenter bee is by its very name. It makes its home in wooden exteriors. Black bumble bees build their nests close to the ground, under piles of rotting wood and dead leaves, compost piles or abandoned rodent tunnels.
Black bumble bees eat nectar and pollen made by flowers. The sugary nectar provides them with energy while pollen provides protein. Black bumble bees make their honey by chewing pollen and mixing it with their saliva. The honey is fed to the queen and developing brood.
A colony contains 50-500 bees, ruled by a predominant female, the queen. The other bees serve her and gather food, while caring for developing larvae.The queen only takes care of the first batch of larvae. They will become worker bees that continue to expand the nest.
Bees born in the summer are drones and future queen bees. They leave the nest once past the pupation stage.
Black bumble bees are not aggressive and would only sting when touched or threatened.They are quite possibly amongthe ‘friendly’ bee types.