The importance of the humble bumble bee explained to group

The members of the Aboyne & District Ladies Probus Club were told about ‘The Importance of Bumble Bees’ by Laura Smith, who lives at Torphins.

She admits to being an enthusiastic supporter of the ‘wee beasties’ since childhood - certainly her breadth of knowledge of the subject conveys this.

It is only recently that the service the bumble bee does for us has been recognised and if they were to disappear, life would change as we know it. There would be much less food for us to eat, so the human population would decline.

Bumble bees are mostly found in the northern hemisphere, though a few native species are found in South America and New Zealand. However, they are now being commercially bred to pollinate glasshouses, so it seems probable that they will eventually be worldwide.

The bumble bee colony has a yearly life cycle, this begins when the mated queen emerges from hibernation in the spring and searches for a nest site. When a suitable site is found she lays her fertilised eggs which are the female workers. It takes 4-5 weeks from egg to adult bee, although a worker’s life is short, only four weeks, they forage and provide nectar for the colony which will thrive.

The queen lays a second batch of female worker eggs, before laying the unfertilised male eggs - this will mark the start of the colony’s decline, because the adult males will eat all the food.

After this, the queen may produce a new queen, these are just female larvae which develop into a queen. Studies have shown that 75% of colonies fail to produce a new queen, so the failure rate of the bumble bee colonies is high.

The adult males and new queens will mate, and the colony will disintegrate when the old queen, workers and males die. The newly-mated new queen will then hibernate until the next spring.

Laura Smith answered many questions asked by members, including ‘do bumble bees sting?’ ‘Yes!’ was the answer, ‘but very reluctantly, as they will die after doing so.’

At the next meeting on April 3, Lorraine Hawkins will talk about ‘Salmon and the River Dee Trust.’