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The are currently around 250 species of bumble bee worldwide, with 24 of these found in the UK. Of these though, only around eight species are commonly seen – mainly due to changes to their habitat and food sources.
Manchester Bumble bees differ from honeybees and wasps in that they are not aggressive and will not create a ‘swarm’ around you or your BBQ! Only females are able to sting and will only do so if extremely threatened – male drone bees do not even have a stinger! Bumble bees do not lose their sting after use and therefore can sting multiple times – this is extremely rare. They do make the loud buzzing sound that we associate with bees though.
Manchester Bumble bees are social insects which means that they live in groups called colonies. For bumble bees this typically means one queen bee per nest with up to 400 individuals, but generally their nests are small consisting of 50-100 individuals. Their nests only last one year and they are unlikely to return to it afterwards. This is unlike honeybees who return to the same nest year on year.
A Manchester bumble bee’s main purpose is pollination and they do not collect large quantities of honey – mainly because only the queen is likely to survive over winter meaning that the pollen collected is purely for her sustenance and that of their young alone.
Appearance wise Manchester bumble bees are larger, rounder and hairier than honeybees which makes them especially good in colder climates, able to come out on cold days to feed. Their movement is unhurried and gentle as they make their way buzzing around the garden.
Life-cycle: A Queen will hibernate over winter and come Spring will wake to collect as much nectar and pollen as possible to build up her energy reserves and start the makings of a new nest. She picks a nesting site – which can vary due to the species, from holes underground, to grassy areas. She starts the nest by creating wax cells and lays eggs within, sealing the cells up as she goes. Once the larvae develop through pupae and finally into bees, they eat their way out of the cells. The first bees produced are female worker bees and eventually the males and new queens are produced. The males and new queens are driven out of the nest and away from the colony and live on flowers until they are mated. The queens then search for a place to hibernate and the males die off.