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Scientific name:  Bombus sp.

Size:  Up to 25mm

Distribution:  Found throughout the UK

Months seen:  February to October

Life Span:  Approximately 9 to 12 months

Habitat:  Meadows, parks, gardens, orchards and farmland

Food:  Nectar and pollen

Special features:  Twenty five species of bumble bee have been recorded in the U.K., but only six species of bumblebee are commonly seen in UK gardens.  Although they are quite large insects they're relatively harmless, and will only sting if provoked.  Bumblebees make a distinctive buzzing sound as they fly.

Male bumblebees survive until late autumn and then die off with the onset of winter.  Mated females hibernate through the winter and emerge from sleep in February.  Their first priority is to find food and a nest site to lay their eggs.

Bumble bees feed on pollen and nectar.  The pollen provides them with proteins and the nectar supplies them with sugar for energy.  As they feed, they perform a vital role in nature by pollinating many plants and trees.

Bumblebees frequently nest in holes in sand banks, or in old mouse holes (which often have the added luxury of old mouse bedding).

Bumblebees are social insects, and a nest, or colony, may contain up to 200 bees.  This is quite small in comparison to honey bee colonies which can have 100,000 bees.

Whens bumblebees visit flowers for food they sometimes pick up tiny orange-coloured mites.  The mites hitch a lift on the bees to other sites where they can start new colonies.  Most of the time they're relatively harmless, but too many can weigh the bee down and make it difficult for the bee to fly.  In severe cases they can immobilise the bee and cause it to starve.

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