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Category: Bed Bug Mattress Cover | 21.08.2015
Having round, fuzzy bodies and bright colours, Western bumble bees (Bombus occidentalis) are an endearing and essential part of the grassland ecosystems along the west coast of North America. The name “bumble bee” was given to this family of insects because of the humming sound they make when they fly.
The Western bumble bee lives in a variety of habitats including flowering grasslands, savannas and alpine meadows. Bumble bees are not typically the target of many predators, perhaps due to the colour of their bodies which warn other animals to stay away. Collection of nectar and pollen by the Western bumble bee makes them excellent pollinators. Western bumble bees are considered generalist foragers, meaning they don’t depend on one flower for food. As recently as 1998, the Western bumble bee could be seen over a wide range in the Western and central parts of North America, found throughout Alaska and continuing as far south as Arizona and New Mexico. As with most animals facing threats to their survival in the wild, the Western bumble bee has faced many successive years of habitat loss and fragmentation.
Although loss and fragmentation of Western bumble bee habitat has made life more difficult for the species, they are also facing several other threats. One of 30 different species of bumble bees found in Canada, the Western bumble bee is easily distinguished from its cousins by unique white patches of hair on its abdomen.
These areas provide ideal feeding (“foraging”) ground for the adults, but Western bumble bees may also be seen in agricultural fields and searching for wildflowers on forest floors.
This warning colouration (“aposematic colouration”) is a good thing too because bumble bees have a very important role to play in our ecosystem.
For flowering plants to produce seeds, they must exchange pollen with the same or different flowers of the same species. Three different castes make up the social structure of a bee colony and include the queen, workers and drones.


They collect pollen from a wide variety of plants such as Melilotus, Cirsium, Trifolium, Centaurea, Chrysothamnus and Eriogonum genera, which include thistles, clovers and wild buckwheats.
There are three classes, or castes, of Western bumble bees in any colony: the queen bee, worker bees and drones. Once a common sight, the Western bumble bee has begun to disappear from much of its historical range in recent years. Loss of habitat makes it more difficult for the bumble bees to find foraging and nesting sites, and the fragmentation of their remaining habitat into smaller patches means that what food remains is farther away and more dangerous to access. Diseases introduced to wild bumble bees from ones raised in captivity in other parts of the world are infecting large numbers of colonies, as are non-native parasites like the tracheal mite and other disease-causing pathogens. Bumble bee wings act more like helicopter blades than airplane wings, they don’t just flap their wings, they twist them!
Bumble bees are considered generalist flower visitors in that they visit and pollinate flowers from a wide variety of plant species, including food crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries and cherries, among many others. When bumble bees land on flowers in search of food, they inadvertently gather pollen from the anthers of the flower onto the hairs covering their bodies. It is then stored in the hive for a day when the weather doesn’t allow the bees to collect other food sources.
In the early spring, queen bees emerge from hibernation in overwintering sites and look for places to build nests for their new colony. Further threats come from the widespread use of pesticides—bumble bees are exposed to these chemicals when they attempt to feed on plants treated with pesticides or when the pesticides wash off farm fields and into nearby wild spaces during rainy weather. These white hair patches are on the abdomen which is at the opposite end of the bee from its head. Then, when they move to a different flower, some of this pollen is left behind on the stigma, fertilizing the egg cells of that plant. To aid them in pollen collection, they have a special “pollen basket”, called the corbicula, on their hind legs.


Bumble bees don’t make as much honey as honey bees because only the queen bumble bee overwinters. This rapid and alarming decline in the species’ population size is thought to have come about from a combination of threats that have been building up over several years. Invasive plant species that are pushing out native wildflowers are also continually decreasing food sources for bumble bees and many other pollinating insects. The black and yellow colour pattern on the bee’s body alerts potential predators to the bee’s ability to sting to protect itself.
Once plant egg cells have been fertilized by pollen, the fertilized eggs develop into fruits containing seeds.
It is a small depression surrounded by long hairs which help them carry pollen back to the nest. The larvae eventually grow into female worker bees, which assume the responsibility for caring for the nest and finding nectar and pollen for the colony as the queen lays more eggs.
Without pollinators like bees it would be difficult for many plants to produce seeds; in fact, some plants rely so much on bee pollination they cannot transfer their pollen in any other way.
The nectar is a source of carbohydrates and the pollen is an excellent source of protein for the bee larvae in the nest. As winter settles in, the old queen, worker bees and drones die, leaving the next generation of queens to start new colonies the following spring. Although some plants are pollinated by other means such as by butterflies, flies, mammals or the wind, the humble bumble bee plays one of the most important roles of all in grassland ecosystems.



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