By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 May 2012
On the basis of the wonderfully, hot, sunny, and bright bank holiday weekend we are having (I really hope you’re not the kind of audience that doesn’t appreciate extreme levels of sarcasm) I thought we should celebrate one of the most summery animals known to Britain. Never seen in winter (unless it is having a really bad day), this species is furry, beautiful, and is most often seen enjoying the flowers in the sunshine of summer. This week’s specimen of the week is…
***!!The bumble bee!!***
1) Bumblebees don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or eat fast food, yet sadly most of them only live for a year. The queen kicks the annual cycle off in the spring when she begins construction work on a new nest. She then flies around stockpiling pollen and nectar, before laying her first (of many) batch of eggs.
2) Once the queen has laid her eggs she will sit over them and ‘shiver’. Not solely because British summers are so cold, she does this to incubate the eggs. Rapidly contracting and relaxing her muscles produces enough warmth for the eggs to develop. The fetching white grubs that hatch, eat the stockpiled pollen and nectar before pupating and transforming into the more aesthetic buzzy bee stage of its life that we all know and love.
3) The newly hatched bees are workers and immediately set about continuing the queen’s building plans by expanding the nest. They also gather more food to feed the next wave of hatchlings. By mid-summer, the nest can contain more than 400 worker bees. Not bad going Ms Queen.
4) So, it is all going well, and then the end of the summer comes. As we pull out our umbrellas and wellies (no need to dust them off as we probably used them both the week before), the female workers fly off as newly graduated queen bees. The males and the original queen however, will die by Autumn. Ooooh. Sad face.
5) Due to their tireless efforts of pollen collection, bumblebees are integral for the pollination of flowers and subsequently extremely important to our ecosystem. Within the last 70 years however, two species of bumblebee have become extinct within the UK, and sadly, other species are currently in dramatic decline. So if you are looking for a new hobby, bee-keeping would be a good’un and given that most of our food is grown, or eats things that are grown, it is not just the marketers of Valentine’s Day that would thank you.