Buddleia is one of the most popular flowers in the world. It grows naturally in tropical regions of South America, Africa and Asia. Buddleias are native to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. They have been cultivated since ancient times and they were used as medicine by Native Americans. The genus name means “to kiss” or “kissing.” Bumble bees use them to pollinate their flowers. They are not aggressive toward humans and do not sting.
The flower buds are small, oval shaped, white with pink centers and red edges. The petals (petioles) are short, yellowish green and the sepals (sepules) are long, orange-red and the stamens (stigmas) are long, blackish purple. Flower color varies from pale pink to deep crimson.
Flowers are produced in clusters of up to 20 flowers each and bloom for approximately one month.
Buddleia is a member of the mint family. There are several species of bumble bee in the genus Bombus, but only two belong to the genus Bumblebeea: Bombus terrestris and Bombus affinis. Bumble bees are often confused with honey bees.
They belong to the same superfamily and are in the same insect order but differ in many ways. The stinger of a bumble bee is not barbed like a honeybee’s, so it can sting you more than once.
The female bumble bee collects pollen and nectar for her young (they do not produce honey). She makes a ball-shaped bundle of pollen and leaves it in an underground chamber for her offspring. She makes several trips, each time collecting more nectar until the chamber is filled with the nutritious substance.
The common name “bumble bee” comes from Old English meaning “drone bee”. They are often larger than honey bees, with a thicker coat of black and yellow hair and a deeper, stronger buzz that sounds like a bumblebee.
Bumble bees can be found in most areas where there are flowering plants. Most bumble bees do not survive the winter, so they are common in agricultural areas where flowering plants and trees are present all year long. They tend to prefer open or semi-open areas, such as meadows and fields, but can also be found in deciduous woodlands.
The queen prepares the cells in her underground nest for the spring by laying eggs in them. She feeds the young bumble bees with “royal jelly” (which is different from honey bee royal jelly) until they are ready to emerge from their eggs. She then feeds them with pollen and honey she has collected.
Worker bumble bees are all female and have physical traits that allow them to forage for food.
The queen emerges in the spring to search for a spot to begin her underground nest. She is usually not isolated, so she does not have an opportunity to eat much or rest often. She uses scents to mark areas that she does not want other insects to use for their own nest.
She cleans a patch of ground and makes a small hole in it with her body and flaps her wings for several minutes to make the hole wide enough for her to enter.
The females are not equipped to sting; instead, they use their hind legs to kick poisonous saliva into the eyes of predators or humans that threaten them. The poison can cause temporary blindness if it gets in their own eyes as well. When the nest is complete it will consist of 15 to 600 hexagonal cells made of mud.
Once the queen has stocked the cells with eggs she continues to collect pollen and nectar for her larvae. She visits flowers for this purpose and wraps the pollen grains in wax dust to save for her offspring.
Workers mature in summer and leave the nest to find their own territories. They instinctively gather around sources of available water, such as fountains or swimming pools, where they use scents to communicate with one another and defend their collective territory from other bumble bees.
Aggressive hives can have up to 300 workers. They feed on flowers, especially those of the foxglove, and can travel up to 6 miles in a single day.
Bumble bees usually prefer sweeter nectar such as that of the foxglove, but they can adapt to other foods when necessary. They have been spotted drinking sap from trees and sugar solutions used by humans. They are sometimes attracted to rotting fruit.
They tend to visit the same food sources each day.
Bumble bees do not sting as many times as a honey bee because their barbed stingers get stuck in the victim’s skin and therefore cannot be re-used.
During the winter months, bumble bees stay in their nests. The queen overwinters in a chamber specially made for her. If the nest has no queen, one of the workers takes her place or else the colony dies out.
The queen lays eggs from spring to autumn and during the winter she rests. When flowers begin to bloom again in the spring, she is ready to lay more eggs.
Bumble bees are solitary insects. Each female bee finds her own nest and raises her young without any help from others of her kind. She is a virgin when she first emerges from her cocoon.
She must find and kill (or drive away) any other females that have hatched before her if she is to be the queen of her colony.
Bumble bees do not produce large quantities of honey like their cousin the honey bee. There is rarely enough in one nest to bother harvesting. They are mainly important because they help plants reproduce by transporting pollen grains from flower to flower.
Insects have a network of thousands of scent glands on their abdomen. They use these to leave a trail for other bees to follow when they are foraging.
A queen bumble bee uses pheromones, or scents, to control her colony. Each bee responds to the specific blend of chemicals given off by its mother. This helps her find her own colony’s scent and avoids mixing with other bumble bees.
The bumble bee has been known to travel up to 3 miles in a single trip when it goes out to collect food for its larvae.
The smallest bee in Britain is the humble bumble bee. It is the only bee species that does not have pollen baskets on its rear legs to carry pollen back to its nest. This task is left to the other worker bees.
Bumble bees do not produce honey, like other species of bee. Their name comes from the buzzing noise they make when flying.
Females are the only ones that sting. Male bumble bees do not have a stinger at all and the females lose theirs after stinging.
Bumble bees hibernate during the winter in their nests. The queen is the only one to survive the cold weather. She lays eggs which hatch when spring arrives.
Bumble bees need to keep warm and so vibrate their wing muscles to generate body heat. This is called ‘buzzing’.
Bumble bees cannot sting people through their thick coats of fur. Native Americans and early North American settlers used to wear bumble bee nests, attached to their clothing, as natural protective padding.
Bumble bees are not native to the Americas. They are thought to have been brought over by the earliest settlers crossing the Bering Strait from Siberia.
Bumble bees are the only type of bee that can sting more than once. The stinger breaks off in the skin and leaves the poison sac behind so the bumble bee dies soon afterwards.
Bumble bees are essential to the cross-pollination of many plants and crops. This helps to produce larger fruit and seeds.
Bumble bees have been disappearing from the countryside for many years. Several species are now extinct in Britain and others are classed as endangered.
When a bumble bee visits a flower, it touches the pollen-bearing parts with its head and gathers any pollen before flying to another flower.
In 1993, the US Government listed the western bumble bee as an endangered species. In 2013, seven types of bumble bee were placed on the endangered species list.
The rusty-patched bumble bee used to be found in the eastern and central parts of the United States, but has not been spotted since the 1990s. It is thought that it is extinct.
A colony of bees can contain up to 4000 bees. There are typically around 60 – 80 workers in a colony, with a single queen.
A honey bee will fly up to 15 miles from the hive when foraging for food.
Bees have five eyes, but cannot see very well. They can only see things in black and white.
A honey bee can smell a scent up to 5 miles away and will usually be the first to alert other bees to the location of good food source via ‘dancing’.
The average worker bee lives for about a month during the summer, but this can increase to as long as six months during the winter. The queen can live up to three or four years.
Every year, the honey bee must visit 50 – 100 thousand flowers in order to make just one pound of honey.
The buzz that is heard when a bee flies is actually the sound of its wings beating 200 times per second. A large swarm of bees can create a constant buzzing sound that is heard from up to a mile away.
Bees are not attracted to yellow flowers.
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