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The brilliance of bumblebees

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Did you know that birds are not the only creatures to sit on their eggs to keep them warm? Bumblebees do the same.

The queen bumblebee lays her eggs in a nest she creates from moss, dry grass, or even old birds’ nests. She then prepares for her young by collecting lots and lots of pollen and forms a mound out of it, about the size of a marble, which she sticks together with wax secreted from her body. She also makes a little wax pot, which she fills with collected nectar and positions just in front of the pollen mound in the nest. She then lays her first lot of eggs on the mound and actually sits on them just like a bird. She has to keep them at a specific temperature and so vibrates her wing muscles to create heat, or fans her wings if they get too warm. The nectar pot is just within sipping reach (most bumblebees have quite a long tongue) and she can sip away keeping her energy up until larvae hatch from her eggs. What an efficient way to reproduce!

Bumblebees are not only dedicated mothers but also brilliant pollinators, creating food for us. However, due to increased development, destruction of wild flower areas and increased use of pesticides, their numbers are falling.

But there are ways you can help. You can create a ‘pollen calendar’ identifying gaps in the year where your garden is looking a bit dull. Then plan to grow plants that will flower at those times the following year. By growing pollen-filled flowers throughout the year you will be creating a bumblebee paradise full of food. If you are lucky, they may even nest in your garden and you can watch their fascinating behaviour.

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