Sit back and relax: bumblebee business

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DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Just a little ol’ bumble bee going about its business…

According to the Penn State Extension, Pennsylvania hosts 437 species of bees, including six of the seven bee families in the world. The family Apidae, which includes honey bees and bumblebees, leads the list with 118 species. Plus, they play an enormous role in pollinating our crops.

The Lopez-Uribe Lab in State College lists eighteen species of Bumblebee in the Genus Bombus (from Latin for “booming” or “buzzing”) living in Pennsylvania.

Most bumblebees are social insects, but unlike honey bee colonies which can last for years, their colonies only survive for one summer. They start with a queen, who hibernates during the winter. In spring she lays eggs and rears the first workers, who then take care of the eggs and young as the colony grows. In late summer they raise new queens and males, which will fly off to start the process all over again. The first hard frost will kill off the colony, except for mated queens, which find a place (usually not their nests) to hibernate. Bumblebee colonies get nowhere near as large as honey bee colonies, having at most a few hundred individuals.

Identifying bumblebees by species isn’t easy. They look much alike, so trying to tell them apart is best left to an expert. To add to the confusion, bumblebees look a lot like carpenter bees, which are actually in a completely different genus, Xylocopa. In addition, there are non-stinging insects that mimic the appearance and colors of insects with stings for protection-including bumble bees.

Yes, bumblebees can sting. In fact, unlike honey bees, they can sting more than once. But for the most part, bumblebees are a fairly laid-back crew, who can put up with a lot of weird happening around them, like a human holding a one-eyed monster five inches away they try to gather pollen.

So which is correct, bumblebee or bumblebee? Well, both are acceptable, though scientists prefer bumblebee. It can also be spelled bumble-bee, and they’ve even been called humble-bees. And here’s one for you Harry Potter fans, Wikipedia mentions a provincial name for bumblebee as”dumbledor.”

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