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Bumble bees are extremely good pollinators and are extremely beneficial. They are seen on flowers all summer long. They are typically ground nesters, although sometimes they will nest in the insulation of house walls, near the ground. While they can sting and will, if their nest is disturbed, they typically are not very aggressive, and are such slow fliers it is fairly easy to out run them if they take issue with your presence. Their sting can be very painful, and unlike honey bees they can sting more than once. When the nest is disturbed it will emit a loud buzzing sound, which give the impression that there are a lot more bees present then there really are.
They typically use abandoned rodent burrows, wood piles, piles of grass clippings, heavy thatch in long grass, under patio stones, and occasionally in insulation near soffitts along the roof in houses. A very large nest in this part of the country may contain several dozen individuals.
In the fall, new queens are raised which go dormant for the winter and start new nests in the spring. The existing nest is killed after the first one or two hard freezes in late fall and early winter. The new queen starts the nest and raises the first group of workers which then take over the foraging and maintenance of the nest. The queen then just lays eggs from that point on. They may use the same nest from one season to the next.
Bumblebees do produce beeswax and honey, but in very small quantities. The honey is stored in small beeswax cups called “honey pots‘. The honey is not considered to be edible by humans.
Bumble bee nest in the ground. Entrance is in the exact center of the photo. Note the two bees which have just exited the nest and have not flown away yet.
Bumblebee on flower
Bumblebee nest in creeping Junipers
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