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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

A Queen Arises

I joyfully greeted my first bumblebee of the season yesterday, and it was my good luck that it was a gorgeous queen of the Bombus rufocinctus tribe (red-belted bumblebee), one of the few species I can usually identify by sight. She was busy gathering nectar and pollen from the tiny violets scattered around our yard, preparing for the daunting task that lies before her: founding a new colony, and thus helping to ensure the survival of her species for another year.

By mid-October last fall, all the bumblebees were gone; the workers and males had died, and the new queens were safely curled up in whatever overwintering niche or burrow they'd found. It’s now late April, so this beauty has recently awakened from a sleep of more than seven months! I wonder if we had occasion to meet out in the garden last fall. I do remember a few red-belted bumblers buzzing around, but they were not as plentiful as some of the other species.

I suspect that, by now, she has already sussed out a new home for her colony. Our property has a wealth of potential sites—old buildings, rock walls, decaying and fallen trees—so I’m hoping she has found a location nearby. I’d love to see more of her and the offspring she eventually produces. If she hasn’t already, she will soon construct a honeypot in which to lay her first batch of eggs which, once they hatch and grow into adults, will become female workers. When the colony has sufficient workers, the queen will retire from foraging duties and focus entirely on reproduction and rearing of the young, while the workers continue to gather the nectar and pollen needed to sustain the colony. Later, as the summer draws to a close, she will start laying the eggs that will becomes males and the next generation of queens—queens who will bear, as she did, the responsibility of resurrecting the colony in the coming spring.

And so the miraculous cycle of life goes on. As for me—I’m just looking forward to spending another spring and summer mucking about in the yard and garden in the company of my fuzzy apian friends.

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Apr 26, 2023

thanks Karl, I didn't know anything about bumblebees 10 minutes ago, and now I might be able to even identify Bombus rufocinctus! 😎 Sam

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