I was fooled! These are not bumblebees! They are hover-fly bumblebee look-a-likes. This post will be updated with a companion post that is in progress…
Imagine bumblebee buzz amplified by a loudspeaker…
That’s how this pair of bumblebees sounded as they flew, in tandem,
to their landing spot in the creeping buttercup patch that grows along the wetland edge.
In bumblebee mating, the male holds onto the queen’s thorax to get himself into the correct position.
Only when everything is in position, and the female has extended her stinger, does he move back.
The time taken for matings varies widely from 10 minutes to 80 minutes. The sperm is transferred within the first 2 minutes of mating, and the bees are in a rather vulnerable position, so why do they continue for so long? Well after the male passes his sperm into the queen he pumps a sticky mixture into her genital opening. This genital plug takes time to harden, and once hardened can completely or partially block the entry of sperm from other males for up to three days. So even though the two are in a vulnerable position, it is in the interest of the male to remain with the queen to ensure that his genes have a good chance of being passed on to the next generation.
This observation became the focus of my attention as I set about on an “I Spy” adventure in our wetland nature preserve for this week’s UNLESS… Earth-friendly Chroniclers Challenge 10.
It’s remarkable what happens in nature when we least expect it. This unique experience eventually lead me back to my computer to learn more about the bumblebee life-cycle and reproduction. My insect nature guides also were put to task, but to no avail. The closest identification I could make was with the female. Her characteristics match those of a Tree Bumblebee. However, there is a problem. The Tree Bumblebee range is Eurasia; with recent influx into United Kingdom and Iceland… not the United States.
Out of this fascinating opportunity … I am confused by two things:
1. Why were these bumblebees mating in May? My understandings lead me to believe this is a Fall behavior that occurs before the female queen goes into hibernation for the winter.
2. What species did I observe? Are the male and female from the same or different species?
I will appreciate any insight, knowledge you can share.
Science behind this post:
“Bumblebee mating, death and hibernation; Stage 4 in the lifecycle of a bumblebee colony;” BUMBLE BEE.org
“Introducing the ‘Tree Bumblebee’ Bombus hypnorum” By Clive Hill, Beekeeper; Bumblebee Conservation.org
This post in response to: UNLESS…Earth-friendly Chroniclers Challenge 10
Photographs also shared with Bumblebee Watch and Bumblebee Conservation beekeeper/writer, Clive Hill.