Queens return to rule the nest
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.
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The bumble bee seen in early spring is always a fertilised queen