Welcome to Bumble kids

You will find lots of interesting facts and activities about bumblebees, including tips on how to spot bumblebees and identify different types.

Bumblebee facts
  • There are 250 different kinds of bumblebee in the world.
     
  • 24 of these live in the UK.
     
  • Bumblebees feed on the nectar and pollen made inside flowers.
     
  • Nectar is a sugary liquid that gives bees energy.
     
  • Pollen is full of protein which helps the body to grow. While we eat meat and fish for protein, baby bumblebees are fed pollen by worker bees who care for them.
     
  • Bumblebees are in trouble - wild flowers have been disappearing from our countryside - which means less food for bumblebees.
     
  • As a result, bumblebees have been disappearing from our farms and gardens over the past 100 years and two types of bumblebee have completely disappeared from Britain (Cullem’s bumblebee and the Short-haired bumblebee).
     
  • We can all help save bumblebees by growing bee-friendly flowers in our gardens from early spring until autumn.
     

Bumblebee life

Bumblebees live together in family groups. Each family lives in a nest ruled by a queen who is helped by her daughters (called worker bees). There can be up to 400 bees in a single bumblebee nest. But, if you think this sounds crowded - a hive of honeybees can have 50,000 bees in it!

In spring, when it starts to get warmer, queen bumblebees wake up from their winter hibernation. After such a long sleep they are quite dozy so the first thing they do is look for flowers to drink some nectar. This gives the queen bumblebee lots of energy so that she can find a place to start her nest.

Once the queen has found somewhere to nest she collects pollen from flowers and lays her first eggs of the season. Over the next two weeks she will sit on the eggs to keep them warm and only leave the nest to collect more nectar and pollen to feed to the growing baby bees.

This first group of bumblebees will all be female worker bees. It is their job to guard and clean the nest or collect nectar and pollen from flowers to feed themselves and the other bees in the nest. From this point on the queen bumblebee will stay in the nest laying eggs while the worker bees do everything else for her.

In late summer the queen will start to lay eggs that will grow to become male bees and new queen bees. Once they have fully grown the male bumblebees leave the nest and never return. The new queens also leave the nest to mate with male bees from other nests but they can still come back to the nest at night.

After mating the male bees will die but the new queens will feed on lots of pollen and nectar to fatten themselves up for their long winter hibernation. They will then find a hole in the ground to go to sleep in until spring.

The rest of the nest will eventually die, meaning that the new queens are the only bumblebees to survive until the following year.

“Bumblebees are one of the most endearing insect visitors to any garden. Their furry, colourful bodies and clumsy flight always raise a smile, but they also do an essential job. Without their pollination services many flowers would produce no seeds, and fruit and vegetable yields would suffer.”

Toby Buckland
TV gardener

Toby Buckland
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