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Buzzing around By Sharon Moffat

The hard working bumblebees (above) and honey bees are incredibly important to our food production.

in children’s stories and poems as friendly, happy characters that seldom cause trouble. Their name “bumble” derives from Latin roots meaning “to buzz or drone” which clearly describes the sounds heard from bumblebees. In a more modern sense, “bumble” also means to move awkwardly or ineptly which characterizes the manner in which bumblebees seem to fly around from flower to flower. They appear more relaxed in their efforts than their hard-working honey bee cousins. Bumblebees (Bombus) are easily


recognized by their quite large, plump- looking size and their distinctive black and yellow banding, which sometimes includes orange markings as well. Their

30 • Spring 2016

here are few insects that are as kindly thought of than bumble bees. They are often portrayed

roundish bodies are very well covered with hairs that are quite soft and fuzzy feeling. They are rarely territorial or aggressive like wasps and generally don’t sting people but will if they feel threatened enough. Social insects

Bumblebees are social insects in the

insect order Hymenoptera which includes other highly social insects such as wasps and ants. Just like honey bees, bumble bees live in colonies with a queen, work- ers and drones, but their colonies are much smaller in number than those of the honey bees. Bumblebee colonies, or nests, are typically found in the ground in the abandoned nests of other crea- tures such as mice and burrowing birds. In Canada, bumblebee nests are newly created on an annual basis. Only ferti- lized queens will overwinter and in the

spring these queens will each find a suit- able nesting site to build their colonies. Important pollinators

Bumblebee workers forage for nectar

and pollen to feed themselves and the young in the colony. They have long, hairy tongues to gather nectar from flowers and are especially good for help- ing to pollinate plants with deep flow- ers such as some of the commercially grown clovers. The hind leg of the female bumble-

bee is modified to have an area with a pollen basket. This is a bare area that is surrounded by hairs and it is in this spot that bumblebees transport the pollen they collect from the many, many flow- ers they visit every day. They can carry relatively large amounts of pollen which can be very easily seen on almost any bumblebee a person encounters.

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