Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Bumblebee Facts

Although it does not directly relate to honeybees, the book I am currently reading is pretty good. It is about bumblebees. More specifically, it is about how bumblebees survive in a world of limited resources. Here is a hint: like the rest of us, they learn to be efficient. I had never heard of this book before I picked it up at Borders in the insect section, but anyone who knows about my other blog might find this sentence from the preface somewhat interesting:

"Ironically, while the work on bumblebees in Bumblebee Economics was used as a scientific justification for capitalism as espoused by political free-market advocates...".

Anyway, here are some interesting things that you might not know about bumblebees, and how the evolutionary strategy of bumblebees differ from honeybees:

1. All female bumblebees, like the queen honeybee, have a stinger that is not barbed. This means they can sting multiple times. (OK, most people learn this when they are 5 years old and barefoot.)

2. Bumblebees do not swarm. They produce multiple queens, who mate in the late summer and then find a place to hibernate underground. In the spring, the queens locate a new nest (usually an abandoned mouse nest) and start a new colony. Initially, the queen does all the work until brood is established, including collection nectar and pollen. As the colony grows, the queen devotes more time to laying eggs. In honeybees, of course, the queen is nothing but an egg layer.

3. Bumblebee queens do not lay eggs in cells of honeycomb. Instead, they basically make a clump on pollen, put it on the floor of the nest, and lay eggs on it. The larvae spins their own cocoons which are later cleaned and reused for storing honey and pollen.

4. Bumblebees are tundra adapted insects. Their evolutionary forefathers were from very cold climates.

5. If the queen dies, the workers will lay eggs which become drones (this can happen with honeybees as well).

Cool stuff.
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