Bumblebees (genus Bombus)
… are often among the earliest insects seen flying in spring. This is partly because their dense “fur” acts as an insulator, keeping them warm even in cooler temperatures.
Bumblebees are social insects, like the domestic honeybee or paper wasps. The first ones flying in spring are invariably young queens that have spent the winter in a protected nook. Different species nest in different locations: some search out snug burrows containing loose, soft material in which to build their nests.
If you’re slow to clean out your nestboxes, you might find one has set up shop in the old bedding. Other species nest in tussocks of grass, or even right on the ground. As with honeybees, the young queen does all the work at first, but once her first brood emerges as adults, they take over collecting pollen and feeding the developing larvae.
Males and young queens aren’t raised until fall, when they go out on mating flights. Only the new queens survive the winter; the old queens, workers, and males all die with the onset of winter.
photo: USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab (Sam Droege); Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)