The Pollinator Profiles: Volume 1 by Athena Rayne Anderson - HTML preview

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Bumble Bees

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The first set of offspring are all female, and are called workers. They take over foraging and nest maintenance duties so the queen can devote herself to laying and incubating eggs. Depending on the species and location, a bumble bee nest can live for a few weeks or several months. The queen produces young queens and males (drones) near the end of her life, which leave the nest and mate. The old queen, and all workers and drones die before winter. The newly-mated queens then find a shelter in which to hibernate for the winter and start the cycle again in spring.

Bumble bees are considered generalist pollinators because they feed from a wide variety of plants. They are especially important for plants in the bean (Fabaceae), tomato (Solanaceae), and blueberry (Ericaceae) families. Many bees will not go through the work necessary to pollinate the complicated flowers of pea plants, but bumble bees have no trouble with  them. Plants in the Solanaceae and Ericaceae must be sonicated (buzz-pollinated) for pollen to be released. Bumble bees are one of only a few bee genera that can do this. For these reasons, bumble bees are some of the most important pollinators for beans, clover, tomatoes, and blueberries, to name just a few crops.