This Mother’s Day, Princeton University Press is trading in the perfumed soap and jewelry for a different type of celebration for moms. We’ve gathered a group of experts on a range of interesting subjects and compiled a group of mom-related shorts. Zumba class instructor or Pinterest lover – we have a special story for your mom. We hope that this series will provide you with some interesting conversation topics to get family members thinking (and chuckling) during that Mother’s Day brunch.
This one is for the garden glove wearers and the hot glue gun wielders. Whether she is decorating for your family’s holidays or keeping up with the “clean sheet day” schedule (while balancing her work schedule), a mom knows just how to make a house a home. We love to show mom that she is the queen bee, so this Mother’s Day, let’s take a look at how our fuzzy friends set up shop.
The Life of a Queen Bee
Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson & Sheila R. Colla
Co-authors of BUMBLE BEES OF NORTH AMERICA: AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
Mother’s Day is now an international holiday (though it falls on different days depending on where you live) that honors motherhood and recognizes the contributions mothers make to their children and their families. It is celebrated with gifts of cards, flowers, and tokens of affection; mothers are often treated to brunch, pampered in various ways, and generally treated like “queen bees.” So, how will the real queen bees spend mother’s day? We asked the authors of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide for some insight on how these hard-working bumbles might spend their Mother’s Day.
Bumble bee queens have it rough. After spending the winter alone and underground, they emerge with one goal in mind–creating the perfect nest. In order to achieve this goal, they must find some spring flowers from which they can gather nectar and pollen to replenish their energy and then they must locate the perfect spot to start a nest. The nest site has to be protected from the elements like rain and direct sun and camouflaged from predators. It must be the right size, unoccupied, and have good access to nearby wildflowers (although they won’t bloom for a few more weeks). If you ever see a large bumble bee flying in a zig zag pattern near the base of a building or inspecting under leaf litter, this is likely a queen searching for that perfect home.
Once she finds a good spot, the queen collects enough pollen to form a little ball to lay her eggs in and fashions a cup to store some nectar. She then starts the busy work of laying eggs, which she will continue to do until the end of summer or early fall. In a queen’s lifetime she can lay hundreds of eggs. Much like human babies, her offspring require a lot of care and attention. She keeps the eggs warm by shivering her body to generate heat and when the larvae emerge, she flies back and forth from flowers to nest, carrying pollen and nectar to feed a growing army of children.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The earlier eggs hatch into female workers who take over the hard work of foraging and feeding their siblings, protecting and caring for the nest. The queen bee, relieved of these responsibilities, is free to lay more eggs and generally rule the nest.
Toward the end of the summer the queen will switch and start producing male and new queen eggs. These offspring will mature and leave the nest to mate. The mated queens then locate a suitable overwintering spot alone while the rest of their siblings perish with the oncoming winter. They will hibernate underground and wait for the spring to start the important work of producing the next generation of buzzing pollinators.
Photo by Frank Mayne from London, UK (Clara’s Card) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Marty from Manitou Springs, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons