A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Bumble Bee

As the weather has improved considerably in the last few days I have had the chance to do some work in my garden, getting rid of weeds and generally tidying up prior to planting all new vegetables for the year. While I was working on my borders and admiring how well my lupins are doing I spotted my first Bumble Bee of the year. When I saw her she gave me a bit of a fright as she was just where I was working, sat on a dead leaf I was about to move; however she wasn't bothered by my presence and actually stopped there for a few seconds so I could admire her. She was a very large Bee and due to size and time of year she must have been a queen. As she sat there I was cursing myself for not having my phone at hand to take a picture of her and then before I knew it she had taken flight and left.

The following day, while I was again working in the garden, I got a further visit from a Bumble Bee. I'm not sure if she was the same one but she was definitely a queen again due to her size. This time she was at the very end of the garden by the holly tree where I was trying to remove invasive brambles. She had landed on the floor and seemed to be walking round sizing the area up for a potential nest site. This time I did have my phone on me so without making any sudden movements got it out of my pocket and started lining up my shot. At that point, just as I was getting her in my view finder, she flew away. Gutting. It does seem like I'm not destined to get a photo of a Bumble Bee this year but will keep trying.

Later on the same day, me and my better half took the baby for a walk around a nearby lake. While walking around I saw a couple of Bumbles and so did my partner. This time I didn't even try to take a picture as they where all in flight at the time we saw them. I have found a nice picture on wikipedia of a Bumble Bee which is shown here. I think this picture is far better than any I would be able to take with the camera on my phone but hope at some point to capture some good shots with my partners camera if I can convince my subjects to stay still long enough and not take flight!

The Bumble Bee differs from Honey Bees in several ways. I will list some of the main differences.
  • Appearance - The most noticeable difference is how they look. Bumble Bees are larger than Honey Bees and quite a lot hairier. The extra hair allows the Bumble to go out foraging in colder weather due to it's added layers of insulation. The hair also picks up a static charge which attracts pollen to it when they land on flowers, aiding pollination. Their colour is most commonly know to be black and yellow striped but can vary from totally black to orange and even pink.
  • Hive Structure - Bumble Bees will also form a colony with the queen as the only egg layer, however with Bumbles the queen does actually start by foraging until she has enough workers to do the work for her, unlike the Honey Bee who's queen pretty much only lays eggs. They do make wax cells that workers develop in but their honey is stored in one large cell or pot, though apparently only a couple of ounces are made at any one time. Honey Bee hives house several thousand Bees while Bumble Bees are only a few hundred at the most.
  • Life Cycle - With a Honey Bee hive when a queen gets old the colony may replace her, while in a Bumble Bee hive the colony dies off each year. At the end of the season the queen lays new queen eggs; When they hatch and leave the hive to mate they then go and hide for the winter, forming new colonies in the summer, while the old queen and all the workers die off.
  • The Sting - Bumble Bees don't have a barb on their sting so can sting more than once if they are provoked enough. Honey Bees do have a barb so die when they sting. A sting from a Bee is relatively rare though from either a Bumble or a Honey Bee; they only sting when they feel threatened or that their hive is under attack 
There are other differences but these are the main ones I could think of.

Another point worthy of note with the Bumble Bees is that they are also said to be in decline. Some species having already died off or are becoming endangered in the UK in recent years,though I sometimes find it hard to believe with the amount I have seen in the last few days alone. Bumbles do suffer from pesticides the same as Honey Bees so I ask anyone who hasn't already followed the links in my previous post titled Save The Bees, to do so now and also copy the sample letter and send to their MP. Bees of all kinds are a benefit to the human race in that their pollination helps provide us with the crops we eat on a daily basis and with growing world population we can't afford for crops to fail. The fate of humanity is in our hands!!

Not to end on such a downer:-

What is a Bees favourite singer? .....Sting!

What is a Bees favourite group? .....The Bee Gees!

What's Black, Yellow and covered in Blackberries? A Bramble Bee!

Where do Bees wait for public transport? At the Buzz stop!

I know these are pretty bad jokes. Feel free to comment any more bee jokes!