Bumble Bees are one of the most recognized of all insects. Their yellow and black fuzzy bodies hint at a cute cuddly creature. This is all a wicked deception though, just try grabbing one of these little guys and you will get a nasty sting for your trouble. Bumble bees are in the family of insects Apidae, also within this family are the carpenter bees and honey bees. Bumble bees are the largest bees within this family and can be very intimidating. Many people are very afraid of these large stinging insects, often times this fear is based on misinformation. While these bees can and will sting if provoked, they generally do not pose a problem if you follow a few simple rules and keep in mind a few facts about these furry little beasts. Like all bees when you are near the hive they have the potential to be aggressive. They are guarding a hive and a queen, plus all their siblings. If you stay away from the hive and give them adequate space they should pose no problem at all. If you do happen to anger a hive, keep in mind they are not like honey bees, THEY DO NOT lose their stinger after stinging, which gives them the ability to sting numerous times. One sting can alert the hive and before you know it you may have several of these large bees after you, all stinging over and over. This is a lesson they teach well, and I'm certain you won't forget it. While out flying about in your garden collecting nectar and pollen they pose no threat to you. They have nothing to protect but themselves. As long as you don't antagonize them by swatting at them, or by accidently grabbing them, they won't pay any attention to you at all. I pull weeds in my flower gardens surrounded by literally hundreds of these bees and I have not sustained one sting. I give them their space, and in turn they ignore me. It is a symbiotic relationship, I plant the seeds, water the seeds and weed the flowers. They in turn show their appreciation by pollinating the flowers and not stinging me.
When autumn arrives and the coolness of the season sets in these bees will perish. The only ones to survive will be the bred queens. They have the strength and tenacity to hang on through the winter months. They hide in leaf litter, under bark or anywhere else they can find shelter. In the spring with the return of warmer weather these bred queens will become active and start looking for a suitable site to begin building a hive. She will start the construction of the hive herself, creating little cells within the nest to lay her eggs in. She will feed the newly hatched larva and care for them. Once these larva have reached adult size they will take over the care of the queens offspring and the general care of the hive. From this point on the queens sole job will be to lay eggs.
Late in the summer you may notice an increase in the number of bumble bees present in your gardens. Don't be alarmed, these are the males. The queen will lay eggs that are unfertilized, these eggs are destined to be males. They will leave the hive and seek females to mate with. The males are harmless, their sole focus is to look for a likely female that approves of his attention and will accept his advances. Sort of like human males....
After mating, the males perish and the bred queens seek shelter. Soon after; the males die. The queen and her female workers die as well. While I agree these insects are not something you want to have angry at you. Fortunately I have been very lucky and have not been on the receiving end of these beautiful insects. I look forward to their return each year, as a true sign that spring has returned.