What is a bumble bee anyway? Bees, wasps, and ants all fit into one group called an order, in their case it’s Hymenoptera. The “ptera” part of their name means wing and the first… think back to health class… means membrane. Both the fore and hind wings of the group are membranous wings. Now before you all start telling me about ants not having wings, the truth is that some do and the others have just lost them through evolution. Back on topic, Bumble bees are one specific family of bee called Bombidae or maybe they are just in the tribe Bombini in the Apidae. Blah blah blah. The point is… it’s really a very small group in the grand scheme of things.
In New England there are around 18 species according to some really old paper that I found (Franklin, 1912). Most bumble bees make small colonies inside of old animal tunnels or in the base of tussock grasses. There are a few, the cuckoo bumble bees, where a female will take over the nest of another species of bumble bee, using their workers to raise her young. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.
Carpenter bees are not bumble bees even though they kind of look similar. Carpenter bees are the ones that drill holes into your porch railing or into the eaves of your house. The easy way to tell the difference if you can see them up close is to look at the hairs on the abdomen. The abdomen is the last body segment of an insect. If you look at the abdomen of all the bumble bees in these pictures you can see that they are pretty fuzzy. Carpenter bees have shiny abdomens with only a few hairs.
Well, that’s enough about bumble bees but the next time you are out smelling the flowers I hope you’ll take an extra second to look at the bees that helping those flowers reproduce. Because with out bees there’d bee no flowers. ha ha ha.