There are many species of bumblebees found throughout the world. Bumblebees are the only social bees native to North America. A bumblebee is about one inch (2.5 cm) long, and is yellow with black stripes along the back. Bumblebee colonies do not survive the winter. The queen hibernates in her burrow, but the rest of the colony dies. A queen usually lives about five years.Bumblebees are important plant pollinators.
In the spring, the queen selects a nest site, usually a clump of dry grass on the ground. Her body produces wax, which is secreted in thin scales through glands on her abdomen. With her mandibles, the queen uses the wax to build a honey pot, a small container for stores of nectar and pollen. She also uses the wax to build a brood cell, a six-sided structure in which she deposits a ball of pollen. She then lays 6 to 12 eggs on top of the pollen and covers the cell with a wax top. In a few days, the larvae emerge from the eggs and feed on the pollen. After metamorphosis, they become workers. The workers use their mandibles to cut away the wax top and emerge from the cell. They take over the work of gathering food and building new cells for honey and eggs.
The queen then devotes herself entirely to laying eggs. Late in the season, a few larvae develop into new queens. At the same time, a few drones are produced to mate with the queens and carry on the annual cycle.
Bumblebees are of great importance in plant pollination. They are the only bees whose tongues are long enough to reach the nectar of red clover blossoms and are needed to pollinate this important plant. The honey produced by bumblebees has an unpleasant flavor.
Bumble bees, like other bees and wasps, sip nectar. Nectar is that sweet liquid made by flowering plants. Bumble bees have long tongues that can reach deep into flowers of red clover, vetch, and honeysuckle.
While the bumble bees drink the nectar, they also gather pollen from the plants. As they fly from flower to flower, some of the pollen falls off the bees and back onto the plants. This pollinates, or fertilizes, the plants so that they can produce seeds and spread. This, in turn, makes farmers very happy. They use these plants to feed their livestock.