Mourning the end of bumblebee season

It’s October. Lately it has been quite warm during the day, but nevertheless it’s the end of another bumblebee season.

Yesterday I saw a couple bumblebees skittering on top of some last remaining blossoms. I didn’t stop to take a look (shame on me!) but I’m certain they were male bumblebees. All female worker bees have now passed away with their founding queen. The last remaining males would be looking for the last remaining new queens, this Big Search having started in September or even August. Whether or not they find a queen, these male bumblebees’ lives will be short. They can’t survive the cold.

I didn’t stop to watch them because I felt a prick of sadness.

The changing of the leaves, although beautiful and inspiring, signals a drastic change in the insect world: bumblebees and other little critters either die off or hibernate for the fall and winter, not to be seen until spring. 

I find the world seems a little emptier without them. (Although I certainly don’t miss mosquitoes!)

By now, mid-October, queen bumblebees that hatched in late summer are tucked underground, having dug a tunnel into the earth to hide from the harsh elements. Or maybe they found an underground path dug by a previous small creature. In any event, they are now in torpor, a type of Sleeping-Beauty-like stasis, while the fall and winter world carries on above them.

What must it be like to be essentially frozen until spring?

Also tucked underground, inside these sleeping queens, are eggs that will be laid in spring and will hatch into a new generation of bumblebees. Buried treasure, if you will. But never a treasure to be dug up. A treasure that will emerge on its own.

The cycle goes on.

Approximately 199 days until next bumblebee season.

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