How large are bumblebee colonies and how long do they last?

A colony is founded by a queen (a large, fertile female) in the spring or early summer. She will have spent the winter in hibernation. Her first offspring will be ‘workers’ (smaller, non-reproductive females) who collect pollen and nectar then set to work maintaining the wax brood cells and looking after more young. The size of colonies vary between species: some can produce several hundred workers whilst others only get to around fifty.

After two to three months, young queens and males will be produced and the colony size will start to decline. A colony only lasts a single season, and once the new queens are produced the workers, males and old queen will all die. After mating, the young queens go into hibernation over winter in soil or under leaves, and emerge next spring to found their own colonies.

Posted in: Bees on 11 June 2015

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