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European Bumblebee

Bombus terrestris


Bombus terrestris, the buff-tailed bumblebee or large earth bumblebee is one of the most numerous bumblebee species in Europe. The queen is 2–2.7 cm long, while the workers are 1½–2 cm. The workers are characterized by their white-ended abdomens. Life Cycle: The first bumblebees to be seen in spring are the queens – the queen is the only bumblebee to hibernate through the winter. The queen is much bigger than the workers, which appear later. As soon as the queen has found some nectar, to replenish her energy reserves, she starts looking for a suitable site to build her nest. The nest site is usually underground; an abandoned mouse burrow is often used. Inside, the queen first builds a nectar pot, which will sustain her during bad weather. She also begins to build up a pollen larder, which will feed her brood. The queen then lays a small batch of eggs. Once these hatch she tends the larvae, feeding them with nectar and pollen. When the larvae are grown they pupate, and about 2 weeks later the first worker bumblebees emerge. These workers will forage for nectar and pollen for the colony, and tend later generations of larvae. The queen can now concentrate on egg laying and does not need to leave the nest again. The workers are smaller than the queen, and will only live for a few weeks. The foraging range and frequency of workers depends on the quality and distribution of available forage but most workers forage within a few hundred metres of their nest. Towards the end of summer the queen lays some unfertilized eggs which develop into male bees. Some eggs are also laid which receive extra food and pupate to become new queens. When the males emerge from the nest they do not return, foraging only for themselves. They seek out the new queens and mate with them. B. terrestris is thought to be a mainly singly mating species. This is unusual for social insect queens where mating with several males (polyandry) has been shown to have several benefits. The lack of multiple mating by B. terrestris queens may be caused by male interference in the process. B. terrestris males plug the female's sexual tract with a sticky secretion during mating which appears to temporarily reduce the female's ability to successfully mate with other males for several days. When the autumn cold weather sets in, all but the young queens will die. The latter seek out a safe place to hibernate, they are the only ones to survive the winter.


This bee was photographed at the Cascade Brewery gardens in Tasmania Australia.


Environmental Concerns: They are fuzzy, lumbering, buzzing insects, common in Tasmanian gardens in spring, but you may not realise they are not originally from around here. It's been 20 years since the European bumble bee, bombus terrestris, was introduced and its impact is still spreading. The species was first found in the state in 1992 and has since firmly established itself. University of Tasmania honorary research associate Dr Andrew Hingston says exactly how they got here may forever remain a mystery. "They just turned up and were first found in Battery Point," he says. "Another bee was seen up towards central Tasmania at about the same time, which does suggest it wasn't one isolated bee being brought in." Genetic analysis indicates the local population of bees is descended fromat least two or more queens. "It does suggest that they were deliberately brought in," Dr Hingston says. "But it wasn't an official govt sanctioned introduction; it sounds like somebody decided to sneak them in for some reason." These two websites were a great help:

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Spotted by

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Spotted on Mar 15, 2013
Submitted on Jul 17, 2013

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