If you want to know all about the bee life cycle, then you've come to the right place!
On this page, I'm going to write about the life cycle of the bumblebee.
However, note that the life cycle of the different types of bees varies greatly, depending on the species. On the one hand, they can be complex, like that of the honey bee. This is no surprise, since honey bee colonies run along the lines of sophisticated societies.
for the different types of bees.
This site is currently still very new, so do keep coming back, as I'm adding more content every day, and will get around to adding pages about solitary bees in due course.
Depending on the species, some of these queen bumblebees will appear in the spring the following year, from March onwards. However, some species may appear as early as February. This is sooner than honey bees and solitary bees.
This is a very vulnerable time for queen bumblebees. Pollen and nectar sources are scarce, and she’ll need to find both very quickly in order to sustain her during these crucial days. The nectar gives her energy whilst the pollen helps her to replace vital body fats. It also provides protein to help her ovaries mature, and is needed later to feed her brood.
During this time, plants such as mahonia, pussy willow, crocuses, rosemary, winter heathers, blackthorn, pussy willow and daffodils provide a vital life line for bumblebees.
Once the queen bumblebee has recovered, her next task is to find a suitable place to nest. An abandoned rodent hole, tussocky grass, or even a bird nest box can provide a suitable home, depending on the species.
Again, depending on the species, there are slight differences in the way broods are reared, however, a general description is as follows:
Once the nest site has been located, the queen bumblebee will build a little wax cup inside it, which she will fill with nectar to sustain her whilst she incubates her eggs. She’ll also create a further wax cell, in which she will deposit a mound of pollen, and then lay her eggs on top of it.
She incubates the eggs by lying on top of them, and again, by vibrating her flight muscles to generate heat up 30 °C!
After about 4 days, the eggs hatch into larvae (these look a little like maggots). The larvae continue to feed and develop, and will go through a number of stages in development (shedding their skin 3 times) until after about 14 days, they produce silken cocoons and pupate. Within the pupae, the larvae shed their skin once more, and undergo metamorphosis. After about 14 days, the little grub-like larvae are transformed into a young bumblebees, which bite their way out of their cocoons.
The first bees to emerge from these cocoons are young female worker bees. Meanwhile, the queen has already laid more eggs that are also in development. The newly emerged workers will be a great help to the queen in rearing the rest of the brood. Within a day or two, these workers will set about helping the queen, initially with nest duties, but some will then go out to forage for pollen and nectar for rearing the next brood (usually more workers). A colony of bumblebees could have between 50 – 500 workers, but will commonly consist of around 120 to 200.
Queens may remain in the nest for a while, laying down fat reserves in preparation for the winter hibernation.
It’s very important to note that fewer than half of all bumblebee colonies survive, so if you come across a bumblebee nest, please try not to disturb it. The nest will not be around for very long, and will provide an excellent pollination service in the neighbourhood. In addition, quite a number of bumblebee species are experiencing worrying declines, with some species endangered. You may even wish to consider providing artificial nest sites.
Find out more about bumblebees and other bee species by clicking on the links below.