Bumblebees seem to appear from nowhere for just a short period in the summer before disappearing again. However, a lot more is going on behind the scenes for this busy little insect. You can teach your child a bit more about its life cycle by looking at how it is linked to the four seasons.
You can tell your child the queen bee is the mommy that lays all the eggs. The queen will have been sleeping -- or hibernating -- underground during the cold winter and will wake up in spring. She will feed on the nectar of the new flowers to get strong before looking for somewhere to build a nest. Go out for a walk in spring and see whether you can spot any queen bees on the flowers. Tell your child: "This is the only time you get to see the queen as she stays in her nest for the rest of the summer."
After plenty of eating, the queen will find somewhere to nest. That could be under a shed or even in the ground, but it needs to be somewhere where she won't get disturbed. She will take lots of pollen to eat and then make a wax bed for her first batch of eggs. She will sit on these to keep them warm until they hatch, which takes about four days. Go to a park or the backyard and ask your child: "Where would you choose to make a nest if you were a bumblebee queen?"
The bumblebee eggs hatch out, but not into bees -- they start off as larvae. The larvae are like little maggots and don't have legs, wings or eyes. These larvae feed off the pollen collected by the queen for about two weeks before building a cocoon around themselves. The bees come out of the cocoons after about two weeks. You could try looking at photographs of your child when he was a baby and talk about how much he has changed since then. Tell him: "You weren't like a larvae but you were much smaller and had less hair."
From early summer you will start to see the first bees flying around. Most of the bees are females and will be busy collecting nectar and pollen from the flowers, which they will take back to the nest to help feed the next batch of larvae. Tell your child: "The flower is like the bee's dinner table and grocery store, where she gets all her food." Toward the end of the summer, the queen will start making male bees and new queen bees. The new queens will eat a lot of pollen and nectar ready for their hibernation, or long sleep, over the winter. The rest of the bees will die when summer turns into autumn.
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