Bumble Bees

Bumble Bees – Bombus

There are nearly 50 species of native bumble bees in North America. Bumble bees are a social species, with one egg laying female; she raises a colony that is active for one season. During early spring, if you see a bumble bee while the apple is in bloom, it is most likely the overwintering queen preparing to establish a colony.   She is larger than the workers that will populate a colony consisting of 50 to 200 worker bees.

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Brown Belted Bumble Bee on Coneflower

Many varieties of bumble bees can be found throughout the summer; the most commonly seen is the Eastern bumble bee.  Other common varieties in the Hudson Valley include the confusing bumblebee, two spotted bumble bee and brown belted bumble bee. Many other bumble bees have become less common.

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Confusing Bumble Bee on Milkweed

Like many of our native bees, bumble bees have the ability to “buzz pollinate” by vibrating their wing muscles with such force that it shakes the pollen free from flowers such as azaleas, blueberries, and members of the nightshade family like tomatoes and eggplant. Honey bees are unable to pollinate these flowers.

Yellow Banded Bumble Bee
Yellow Banded Bumble Bee on Joe Pye Weed

Bumble bees are generalists, meaning they pollinate a variety of flowers.  However, some flowers are solely dependent on bumble bee pollination.  One such example is the Dutchman’s breeches that relies specifically on the queen bumble bee.  She is active earlier in the season than the worker bees she must rear. 

Tri-colored Bumble Bee on Goldenrod
Tri-colored Bumble Bee on Goldenrod

More about Bumble Bees at the links below:

Bumblebees of the Adirondacks 

Bumble Bees Suffer from Climate Change

The Queen Bee and the Dutchman’s Breeches

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