Queens re­turn to rule the nest

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - COUNTRYFILE -

MUCH has been writ­ten about the in­cred­i­bly early spring and the mildest win­ter on record, not to men­tion the rain­fall lev­els. I have seen more bum­ble bees in this first quar­ter of the year so far, than in any other pre­vi­ous year. The tra­di­tional bum­ble bee of golden and brown stripes is the familiar species and is the one bum­ble bee species I have been watch­ing most in gar­dens so far. The life cy­cle of a bum­ble bee is worth men­tion­ing here. The bum­ble bees you see early in the spring are the fer­tilised queen bum­ble bees. They spend time feed­ing on flow­ers like rose­mary and heather in gar­dens, to build up en­ergy re­serves. The queen bee looks for a suit­able nest site and col­lects pollen and starts stor­ing the pollen in a pollen loaf. Around this small loaf she lays eggs. The lar­vae hatch and feed on the pollen. The queen also cre­ates a nec­tar pot within the nest as well. When the lar­vae de­velop into bees, they are work­ers and take over the nec­tar and pollen jobs of the queen. All the work­ers are fe­males at this early sum­mer stage. Later, as the nest de­vel­ops, new queens and males emerge and the nest grad­u­ally de­clines. The fer­tilised queens then find refuge for the win­ter be­fore emerg­ing in the early spring, while the males die.

If you have any ques­tions about Na­ture Notes call Owen Leyshon on 01797 367934 or visit www.rmcp.co.uk

The bum­ble bee seen in early spring is al­ways a fer­tilised queen

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