I am a very social creature. My mother the queen made the nest where I live with my sisters last spring, after she came out of hibernation. She provisioned our nest with pollen and incubated us. While she was incubating us her body temperature was as high as that of a human, so my sisters and I grew very fast. (We bumblebees are one of the few insects that can raise our body temperature!) She also made a honey pot at the nest’s entrance to store nectar. After a little bit longer than a month my sisters and I became bees. We were larvae first, but then we spent two weeks inside of a cocoon transforming ourselves into bees. Now that we are adults, our job is to collect pollen and nectar for the larvae that will emerge next from the eggs that my mother laid. During my life of two weeks to over a month, I will visit many, many flowers to collect nectar and pollen to help feed myself, my mother, and my sisters. I will keep our nest at just the right temperature by fanning when it when it gets too warm and by heating it up with my body temperature if it gets too cold. If I am a good worker and our nest grows enough, one day the nest will produce brothers and new queens. My brothers will fly away and mate with young queens, who will hibernate and make a new nest in the spring. Only the new, mated queens will live through the winter—the rest of us will die when the weather gets cold.
The way that I see the world is different from humans. Although I cannot see red flowers (those are for hummingbirds), I can see colors in flowers that human eyes can’t see because I can detect the invisible uv light that flowers reflect. You’d be amazed what flowers look like to me—like bright neon signs designed to attract bees! While I take pollen from flowers, I also move pollen from one flower to another. I am an important pollinator and without my visits many flowers would not produce fruits and seeds. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world there are fewer and fewer bumblebees. The reasons why our numbers are decreasing are not entirely clear, but they likely include the loss of wildflowers as humans build houses and grow crops, the use of insecticides (that kill insects) and herbicides (that kill flowers), and the spread of non-native diseases.