Entomology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The American Biology Teacher, April 2006 : Vol. 68, Issue 4, pg(s) e29-e34. Copyright © 2006 by The National Association of Biology Teachers. Published by the University of California Press. Used by permission.


Most biologists agree that the availability of suitable nesting sites is a limiting factor for bumble bee populations (Free, 1959). Bumble bees always select areas with preexisting insulation for nesting. Fur-lined abandoned rodent dens are especially attractive, but occasionally, abandoned man-made materials are inhabited. It is not rare to find multiple dead queens in a nest indicating that they have fought for ownership.

Despite our knowledge of bumble bee nest site selection, most efforts to attract bumble bees to artificial domiciles have been met with limited success (Fye & Medler, 1954; Hobbs et al.,1960). Creating and evaluating artificial domiciles provides students an opportunity to investigate a real problem. In conducting their investigation, they will learn about the biology and life cycle of bumble bees, their vital role as pollinators, and the interdependence of the bees and plants they visit. They will also have an opportunity to contribute to solving a problem that could greatly enhance bumble bee conservation efforts. Developing a highly-attractive artificial domicile would help to increase local bumble bee populations and benefit the plants they pollinate, including many fruit and vegetable crops. An attractive artificial domicile would also be invaluable to researchers who study bumble bees.

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