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September 19, 2018



One of the common wild bee species that lives within the Province of Alberta, Canada is the Bumblebee (Bombus sylvicola).

There are over 250 species of bumblebees which are native to North America.  An adult bee can be up to 2.5 cm (0.9 in.) in size and are usually black, yellow and orange in color.  Their bodies appear to be fuzzy because of long hairs called "pile" that cover them.

They can live as solitary gatherers or in colonies underground in abandoned rodent burrows or other similar holes.  They are not considered honey producers and tend to gather pollen for food and to feed to their young.  Honey is usually only produced to allow a colony to survive during harsh winters or other times of food shortage.

There is a common myth that a bumblebee cannot fly because it violates the laws of aerodynamics.  They do however have to warm up their wings to a certain temperature before they can fly.  During daylight hours they will venture up to 5 km (3.1 miles) from their home when foraging for pollen, which is collected and carried back to their hives on their rear legs, attached as little yellow balls of cargo.

The bumblebee sees ultra-violet light which allow them to specifically target which flowers they harvest pollen from.  Some species of bumblebees will leave a scent on a flower to mark the ones they have already visited.

Life cycle

In northern climates, bumblebees have a yearly cycle.  Spring and summer are spent collecting pollen, raising young and building hives or nests.  Winters are spent in hibernation and dormant until warmer temperatures.  Many colonies are seasonal with only the queen surviving over the winter while most of the workers will die off.

In a colony, the queen lays the eggs and looks after the young larvae while female workers will venture out and forage for food.

Bee stings

Bumblebees are not usually an aggressive bee but will attack if provoked or if the nest or hive is threatened.  Only the female bumblebees have a stinger.  Their stingers do not have any barbs which allow them to sting repeatedly.  The male bumblebees called "drones" do not have a stinger.

It is recommended to act calm around bumblebees to avoid being stung.  Most bee stings can be treated with common ointments.  There are a small percentage of people that have allergic reactions to bee stings.


Bumblebees are known for their necessity in agricultural areas for their ability to pollinate plant species.  There is growing concern for future pollination with the threat to the survival of the bumblebee due to their habitat dwindling in developed countries.

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