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Bumblebee Babies

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You can impress your friends with your incredible eyesight this month... even if you have less than incredible eyesight.  Simply point to any bumblebee that you see, and with absolute certainty say 'oh look, a female bumblebee'.

Your friends will be amazed and wonder how you are able to identify the gender of a passing bumblebee.  In fact all the bumblebees flying in February are females.  All the males died off last year when the cold weather set in.  The females hibernate through the winter, carrying the eggs for the next generation.

After spending the whole winter without food, their first stop will be on the early blooming plants for a drink of nectar.  After a quick refuel they'll be looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs.

They usually make their nest in a disused mouse hole.  These sometimes come fully furnished with some old mouse bedding.  If not you'll see them carrying bits of dry moss and grass down into the hole.

All bumblebee species have slightly different nesting habits, but usually when the nest site is ready, the queen makes a small wax sphere shape, and fills it with nectar.  She also builds up a ball of pollen, and lays her eggs on top of this.  This is then covered with more wax.  The pollen inside, known as "bee bread" provides the larvae with the food they need.

The queen has to keep the eggs and larvae at a constant temperature of around 30 degrees C.  She does this by sitting over them and vibrating her flight muscles which generates just enough heat.

It takes around five weeks to go from egg to adult bee.  The first batch of eggs develop into female workers who will forage and feed the growing colony.

The photos of the bee larvae (above) were found after a badger had dug up a nest.  The larvae were photographed and then the nest was reconstructed as well as possible.

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