What does a bumblebee look like?

Everyone saw a large, menacingly buzzing insect collecting pollen and nectar from flowers like bees. These are bumblebees from the family of real bees. There are 300 species of bumblebees in the world, divided into 15 subgenera (previously there were 50, but now the number of subgenera reduced). The genus Bombus is a member of the same family as the honeybee.

Where live

These insects withstand low temperatures. Where the bumblebee lives, other bees do not survive due to the cold climate.Bumblebees are often found in northern latitudes of Europe and in the mountains on the border with ice, where they are the only pollinators for plants.


Small garden bumblebee inhabits 70 ° north latitude and settled down in Iceland and New Zealand.

Character traits

Bumblebees in most cases have similar external data, differing only in size and color of the strips. The length of the body of a female bumblebee is 1.3-2.8 cm, the male is 0.7-2.4 cm. The exception is the Asian giant bumblebee living in East Asia. This huge bumblebee grows up to 5 cm with a wingspan of 8 cm.

On a note!

So far from the bites of the biggest bumblebee in the world a few dozen people die a year.

The body of insects is covered with bristles, and baskets for collecting pollen are surrounded by straight, rigid hairs. In these baskets, working individuals carry pollen equal to their own weight. The total number of paws in insects 6. The belly of insects, like all bees, is not tucked in.

With its massive body and small wings, the bumblebee looks like flies contrary to the laws of aerodynamics. But this opinion was formed when only fixed-wing aircraft flew.Now it is clear that these insects are completely "law-abiding." The photo of the Bumblebee clearly demonstrates its structure and body size in relation to the wings.


The number of strokes of bumblebee wings 400 times per second.

The appearance of the bumblebee
The appearance of the bumblebee

The question of how many eyes a bumblebee has is very interesting, since it depends on what the speaker understands by the word "eye." In our usual sense: “the organ that sees the picture” is the eye of the bumblebee two. But if we consider the organs that perceive only the presence / absence of light, then three more are added. They are located between the main eyes on the back of the insect. On the photo of the bumblebee close-up, the parietal "photo cells" are clearly visible.

Insects have powerful jaws with which they can bite. The oral apparatus is also equipped with a long proboscis, by means of which insects extract nectar from flowers with a very deep flap. The photo clearly distinguishes the sucking proboscis.

Bumblebees feed on nectar, in the absence of honey plants it costs the sap of plants, which they extract with the help of the jaws: they gnaw through a hole in the stem. Under favorable conditions in the summer bumblebees eat nectar and pollen, sometimes completely smearing in it.

Sex differences

The head of the female is slightly elongated and rounded at the back of the head. In the male, the head may be almost round or triangular, with a noticeable thin dotted line running along the front of the head and crown. The female has a rectangular upper lip with strongly curved mandibles, overlapping each other. In males, a gnawing apparatus, allowing to gnaw through blades of grass.

In the female of any kind, the sixth sternite is on the abdomen without rollers. The male on the second stubble has no median elevation. The belly of females ends with a sting. The sting is "reusable" because it does not have chipping, and the female can pull it out of the victim. The bumblebee male has no sting. Instead, he has a highly chitinized dark brown genitalia.

Males on hind legs lack characteristic “baskets”, the last pair of legs is pubescent. The degree of pubescence varies depending on the species.

On a note!

Depending on the "specialization", the bumblebee females are called either a working individual or a bumblebee's uterus.

Bumblebee species

Bumblebee species
Bumblebee species

About 100 species of these beneficial insects inhabit Russia. The species composition varies depending on the area.And some species of bumblebees in Russia are too rare to be of serious importance for agriculture. Names of species are often indicated inaccurately both in Latin and in Russian: meadow, moss, stone and other species successfully nest in the forests; horse is not found in the stables, he builds nests in the meadows, trees, forests. In fact, in nature, bumblebees live where they managed to find a convenient place for a nest, in all ecosystems except wetlands. This makes it difficult to classify bumblebees even for specialists.

It is most convenient to divide large bees by coloring:

  • yellow-black and white motley;
  • greyish-yellow with a red tip of the abdomen and a dark stripe on the back;
  • ocher yellow with black spot or stripe between wings;
  • gray with a black stripe on the back;
  • black with a red abdomen tip;
  • brown with a light tip of the abdomen and a dark stripe across the abdomen;
  • yellow and red.

These varieties of bumblebees are very useful as pollinators of clover, but under them can be masked by a bumblebee pest "cuckoo".

Photos of various species of bumblebees and their brief description below.

Colorful bumblebees
Colorful bumblebees


  • Sadovy (V. hortorum L.). The proboscis is very long.Nests in abandoned rodent burrows in late spring - early summer.
  • Small earthen (V. lucorum L.). This is a small bumblebee, working individuals do not exceed 17 mm. The uterus can grow up to 27 mm, and males 11-22 mm. Lives in rodent holes. Families are large. The structure of the bumblebee is intended for the extraction of nectar from flowers of clover, where the insect does not reach the short proboscis. It has a short dense body and is able to gnaw flowers, hanging on the inflorescence.
  • Underground Bumblebee (B. subterraneus latreillellus Kirby). This largest bumblebee is so called because of the fact that its nests are only underground. Families are few. The body is elongated. The proboscis is very long. Working individuals of medium size. The species value is determined by the queen bumblebee, which is the largest of all species in Russia. Breeds in early summer. This is a less beautiful bumblebee, compared with the previous ones: the yellow stripes are dimmer, the tip of the abdomen is off-white.

Grayish yellow:

  • Two kinds of steppe. Proboscis medium, body short. One type of wings is darker than the other. Nestles under the ground in late spring. The number of families is very variable.
  • Forest. Short-body small insect. Painted dim steppe.May-June nesting in land or underground nests.

On a note!

The description of the cuckoo bumblebee is similar to the descriptions of the females of the above-listed bumblebees. This is due to the parasitic lifestyle of the bumblebee-cuckoo.

Ocher yellow:

  • Comber (V. distinguendus F. Could.). The trunk is long. The body is oblong and large. There are no workers. Nests under the ground in June - early July. Families are few.
  • Spotted Spin (V. maculidorsis skor.). It is similar to the cardman, but smaller. There is a stain on the back, not a sling. Nesting like a hack.
Bumblebees with a grayish tint
Bumblebees with a grayish tint


  • Stone (B. lapidarius L.). Large, thick black with a red abdomen tip. Proboscis medium. Underground nesting from early spring. Families are very numerous.
  • Small stone. The trunk is long. Coloring varies greatly. Nesting in early spring on the ground.
  • Horse. Gray with a black stripe on the back. Proboscis long. The size is average, the body is oblong. May – June nesting in buildings, on the ground, underground, in old bumblebees.


  • Field (V. agrorum F.). Short oval body, small size, very variable color. Nesting aboveground, from early spring. Family size is average.
  • Urban. The body is short, dark brown. Proboscis medium. Nesting sprawling. It settles on the ground, in hollows, birdhouses, buildings, old bumblebees.

Red and yellow:

  • Mutable (V. helferanus Seidl). Externally similar to the field and moss, but the color is dimmer. The proboscis is very long. It nests on the ground or in old bumblebees. The bumblebee family of this species is very numerous. Aggressive.
  • Mokhovaya (V. muscorum F.). The body is oval, short. Insect is medium-sized. Proboscis long. The color is bright golden yellow, orange back. Ground nesting, from early spring.


Sometimes a field bumblebee can be similar to moss or changeable.

Bumblebee species
Bumblebee species


Bumblebee is useful in nature because it pollinates plants that the bees cannot pollinate. He is the only pollinator of clover. Without bumblebees there will be no harvest. Insects can nest in hollows and even on the ground. Ground nest is a sphere made of wax. The shape of the underground and woody depends on the occupied cavity family. By the end of the summer, the bumblebee's nest looks like grubby wax rags, since during reproduction the uterus lays eggs in a new cell each time, which the workers build on the site of the old one.


In the morning at the nest you can hear the bass whirring. For a long time it was believed that insects so ventilate the nest. Later it turned out that the bumblebee does this in order to warm up itself, since with the active movement of its wings, the temperature of its body rises 10-30 ° higher than in the environment.

Bumblebee is a social insect. In the family there are uterus, working females and males. Working individuals build honeycombs and collect honey, which is worse than bees. The amount of product is also very small.

The uterus lays eggs in honeycombs and feeds the first larvae. Later this work is done by individuals. The bumblebee larva feeds on a mixture of honey and pollen, which bring working females. Males, having fertilized a uterus, forever leave a nest.


In the absence of a queen, working females can lay eggs.

The life of the bumblebees of the main family is very short. How many bumblebees live depends on their social status: working individuals and males live only during the summer months. Uterus go to winter. Only in tropical areas bumblebees breed all year round, but the life of an individual family is not more than 1 year.


Only one species of Bombus atratus from the Amazon Basin lives for several years.

Bumblebees hibernate, buried in the ground. But only the queen. The remaining individuals perish in the fall. Waking up in the spring, the uterus finds a suitable place for the new nest and builds the first cells. After which begins to multiply. Until the first generation of working females grows, the uterus feeds itself and takes care of the larvae.

It is difficult to tell everything about bumblebees, but it is enough for a gardener to know that there is no harm from bumblebees, but there is a lot of benefit.

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