Bumblebee is the most peaceful, almost harmless representative of the bee family. It is a rather large insect with a very beautiful, memorable color. The animal got its unusual name for a reason. It comes from the old Russian word “chmel”, which meant “to buzz, wheeze.” This is how you can characterize the sounds that insects make.
Origin of the species and description
This animal belongs to arthropod insects, to the family of real bees, to the genus of the same name – bumblebees. In Latin, the genus name sounds like “Bombus”. Listed in the subclass of winged insects. Bumblebees are a numerous genus of insects. To date, more than three hundred varieties of bumblebees are known, which belong to fifty subspecies.
Among the species, two are the most famous:
- Bombus lapidarius;
- Bombus terrestris.
Bumblebees have large dimensions, unlike most members of their family. They have a characteristic yellow-black color. It is possible to confuse this insect with others only from afar. A feature of bumblebees are powerful mandibles. They are intended purely for peaceful purposes. For self-defense, such animals, like other bees, use a sting.
Interesting fact: A bumblebee sting is less painful than a bee or wasp sting. This insect is peaceful, rarely bites for no reason. The sting, the animal uses its powerful jaws only when there is a real threat to its life.
This insect is considered warm-blooded. With intense movement, the bumblebee’s body generates heat. Their body temperature can reach forty degrees. All representatives of the bumblebee genus have a pubescent body. This allows them to easily adapt to even very harsh weather conditions. Bumblebees are useful, versatile insects. They pollinate a huge number of flowers, moving quickly from one place to another.
Appearance and features
Representatives of this genus are among the most cold-resistant insects. They easily tolerate small frosts. This was made possible by the presence of a warm fluff and strong chest muscles. An insect can raise its body temperature by rapidly contracting its muscles. Bumblebees are the first to fly out to collect nectar. They do it early in the morning, when the air does not yet have time to warm up to a temperature that is comfortable for the rest of the bee family.
Bumblebees are large insects. Their body length can reach twenty-eight millimeters. Females can boast of such sizes. Males grow up to a maximum of twenty-four millimeters. And only a few species are able to reach a length of thirty-five millimeters. For example, steppe bumblebee. The average weight of a female is 0.85 g, a male is up to 0.6 g.
In most cases, this insect has a characteristic yellow-black striped color. However, in nature, there are species of bumblebees with orange and even red stripes, and some representatives are completely black. It is believed that color variations are associated with two factors: the need for masking, thermoregulation.
The shape of the head of females is slightly elongated, while that of males is almost round. The belly of insects is not bent. The outer surface of the hind legs is designed specifically for easy collection of pollen – it is smooth, shiny, has the shape of a “basket”. The sting of the animal has no notches, it can use it several times without harming itself. When the stinger penetrates the skin, bumblebees release a small amount of poison.
Where does the bumblebee live?
Bumblebees are one of the most widespread insects. They live on all continents. The only exception is Antarctica. However, populations in certain regions are not the same. So, in the Northern Hemisphere, a greater number of bumblebees can be found in temperate latitudes. Only a few species are found beyond the Arctic Circle. In Chukotka, in Greenland, Alaska, the northern and polar bumblebees live. For life, they choose mountains, alpine meadows, and settle near the border of glaciers.
In the tropics, bumblebees are very rare. This is due to the peculiarities of thermoregulation of the body of the animal. They simply become uncomfortable at high ambient temperatures. Bumblebees love cool climates. Only two species live in the Amazon, several varieties can be seen in the tropical part of Asia. These insects are widely settled in South America, excluding the tropics. Also, these animals live in Africa, Russia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and many other countries.
Interesting fact: Bumblebees are not aggressive insects. For this reason, they are widely used in gardens, suburban areas for pollination of various crops. This allows you to significantly increase the level of productivity.
Garden bumblebees were specially brought to Australia. There they are used for pollination of clover, they live only in the state of Tasmania. Several species of these insects live in New Zealand.
What does a bumblebee eat?
These animals are the closest relatives of honey bees. But, despite this, their diet is very different. Wasps have a wider list of “foods” that are suitable for consumption. They eat tree sap, flower nectar, sugar, fruit juice, they can eat jam and honey diluted in water. This diet is not suitable for bumblebees.
Representatives of this genus feed exclusively on nectar and pollen. They collect them from many types of plants. The list of plants is huge, so bumblebees are called universal pollinators. They bring great benefits to human agricultural activities, quickly increasing yields.
Adult bumblebees are also assigned the function of feeding their larvae. To do this, they bring fresh nectar to the nest. Sometimes, instead of nectar, the larvae are offered their own honey. Bumblebees also make honey, but it is somewhat different from the usual bee. Bumblebee honey is much thinner, has a light texture, and a lighter color. It doesn’t taste as sweet and has almost no smell. Such honey is stored very poorly.
An interesting fact: Before dawn, one bumblebee always appears in the nest of bumblebees, which begins to buzz loudly. At first, scientists believed that in this way he encourages the rest of the individuals to get to work. However, it turned out that the bumblebee was just shivering from the cold and trying to keep warm, because in the early morning the air temperature is quite low.
Bumblebees for pollination prefer to choose mostly bright flowers. Only in rare cases can animals eat the sap of a tree. In the process of feeding, these animals carry seeds, which contributes to increased yields. The favorite food of this insect is clover.
Character and lifestyle features
The bumblebee is a social insect. They live their lives with their families. Each family consists of large queens, males and small worker bumblebees. Families live in fairly large nests. These animals build three types of nests:
- Underground. This type of dwelling is preferred by most representatives of the genus. The nest is built in abandoned burrows of small, medium-sized rodents. The smell of such animals especially attracts female bumblebees. To insulate the underground nest, the insect uses materials left over from the rodent: dry grass, wool;
- On the ground. Such nests are built in dense grass, abandoned bird nests, in moss tussocks;
- Above the ground. Some species of bumblebees settle in hollow trees, in various buildings and even in birdhouses.
The bumblebee family is not numerous. Most often, its number has only a hundred individuals. They live together for only one year. After some of the females establish new families, the other part goes for the winter. The lifestyle of bumblebees is quite rich. Each member of the family has its own functions. Working adults do all the “dirty” work. They feed the larvae, get food, protect the dwelling. The uterus is engaged in the deposition of eggs, males – fertilization of females. Having completed the main task, the males do not linger in the nests.
The nature of bumblebees is calm, not aggressive. Unlike most members of their family, these insects never attack people for no reason. Only in the event of a danger that a bumblebee can sting. However, for a person, this will be almost painless.
Social structure and reproduction
The social structure of bumblebees is identical to that of most true bees. In these animals, the main is the uterus. It is she who creates a family, at the first stages she is engaged in the construction of housing, lays eggs. This is followed by males and worker bumblebees, who later feed their offspring and get food.
The female bumblebee is fertilized in the spring. Immediately after fertilization, she begins to actively feed for several weeks. This is necessary for bearing healthy offspring. Next, the female begins to search for a suitable place for laying eggs. At this very time, the eggs in the ovaries of the female begin to mature. Having found a place, the female proceeds to nesting, construction work.
Interesting fact: Not all species of bumblebees bother building a nest. Some members of the genus lead an exclusively parasitic lifestyle. They plant their offspring in the hives of other families.
The female lays about sixteen eggs at a time. All of them have an elongated shape, reaching a maximum of four millimeters in length. After six days, larvae appear from the eggs. The larvae pupate after twenty days. The cocoon matures in about eighteen days. That is, on average, adults appear after laying eggs in thirty days.
An interesting fact: If the queen suddenly dies, then the bumblebee family does not break up. Its functions begin to be performed by working bumblebees. They also lay eggs.
Natural enemies of bumblebees
Bumblebees are fast, agile, harmless insects. However, they also have enough natural enemies. The most basic enemy of bumblebees can be called an ant. This little predator brings great harm to the insect: it steals its honey, eggs, larvae. Ants affect all species that prefer to build nests on the ground. For this reason, many species refuse such dwellings, preferring to settle above ground or underground, where it is difficult for ants to get through.
Some representatives of wasps are also considered enemies of the bumblebee. So, some of them bring only a slight inconvenience, stealing freshly prepared honey, others kill offspring. Paper wasps are engaged in the theft of honey, and German wasps can feast on the brood.
Danger for any bumblebee is carried by canopy flies. They attack the insect in the air. Such a fly can chase its prey for hours. Having reached its goal, the cannabis fly lays its egg directly on the bumblebee. Later, a larva hatches from the egg. She begins to eat her host, which gradually leads to his death.
Significant harm to bumblebee populations is caused by birds and predators. Among birds, the golden bee-eater is considered the main enemy. She skillfully pecks hundreds of insects, destroys a huge number of bumblebees in a year. Dogs, hedgehogs, foxes are not averse to feasting on such insects. They attack nests.
Population and species status
Shemale — the most important pollinator. It brings great benefits to human agricultural activities and to all nature in general, pollinating forest, cultivated, meadow plants. They are universal, “work” much faster than bees. Especially their participation is important in the distribution of legumes, alfalfa, clover. We can safely say that these plants grow in such numbers only thanks to bumblebees. For example, bumblebees were brought to Australia specifically for the purpose of breeding, pollinating clover.
The species of bumblebees is quite numerous. Today alone, there are more than three hundred varieties. These animals live in large numbers on almost all continents of the Earth. The exception is Antarctica. Bumblebees reproduce quite quickly, skillfully disguise themselves, and are sometimes bred by people for agricultural purposes. For these reasons, the population of these animals is stable.
In general, the bumblebee population is not threatened today. The species has been given the status of Least Concern. However, it can be noted that it is impossible to estimate the population of these insects with high accuracy for objective reasons. They are very small, sometimes settle in hard-to-reach places. It is physically impossible to determine the exact number of these animals.
Despite the sufficient population of bumblebees, some representatives of this genus are classified as gradually disappearing insects. Some species of bumblebees are gradually dying out, so they were listed in the Red Books of countries and some cities. It is difficult to name specific reasons for the extinction of these animals.
However, the following factors negatively affect the bumblebee population: a significant deterioration in the ecological situation in the regions, the active influence of natural enemies on insects, the destruction of nests by humans, and lack of food.
A rare species is the Armenian bumblebee. It is listed in the Red Book of Ukraine, Russia. This animal is engaged in pollination of composite plants, legumes. Prefers to settle in forest-steppes, mountain steppes, on the outskirts of forests where pines grow. The common bumblebee is also listed in the Red Book of Russia. In small numbers, it still lives in some regions of the European part of Russia.
Despite the fact that some species of bumblebees are listed in the Red Books. Active measures for their protection are still not carried out. This is due to the fact that there are quite a few other varieties of bumblebees and, in general, this species is safe. However, in order to preserve the remains of rare species, it is necessary to limit in a certain way the conduct of economic activities in their habitats, to prohibit the making of fires, to limit livestock grazing.
Bumblebee is a brightly colored, very useful insect. It is a universal pollinator, does not harm humans, does not show aggression. Bumblebees are widespread throughout almost the entire globe. They easily tolerate a cool climate, avoid the tropics due to the peculiarities of thermoregulation of their own body. This is a unique species of the bee family, which deserves careful and careful attitude on the part of people, because some varieties of bumblebees today are already listed in the Red Books of individual states.