Fall 2014 Interesting Finds: Bees (Order: Hymenoptera)

Bees (Order: Hymenoptera)

Common eastern bumblebee
Common eastern bumblebee

 Bees, like ants, are actually a specialized form of wasp. They play an important role in pollinating flowering plants. In July 2013 the world’s 20,000th bee species was officially described by a researcher from York University in Toronto. Your Malaise traps collected 6 species of bees and among those were the red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus) and the honey bee (Apis mellifera).

The common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) is the most often encountered bumblebee across much of eastern North America. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees in the genus Bombus form colonies which last only one season. During the winter, mated female bumble bees hide in sheltered places and emerge in the spring to start new colonies in cozy places such as old mouse nests. Once her new home is tidy and her eggs are laid, the queen covers them with wax sheets for protection and incubates the eggs by lying over them for a period of time.

Common eastern bumblebee

Currently Bombus impatiens is being reared and transported to some areas as a commercial replacement for honey bee pollination. Although introducing this species may be very helpful for the agriculture industry, there are some trade-offs as well. “Managed” pollination programs have introduced this eastern species to western North America, and in some places, such as California and Mexico, Bombus impatiens is now displacing native bee species.

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