Bumble Bees(Genus: Bombus)
Species: Four species in NZ. Bombus terrestris, Bombus ruderatus, Bombus hortorum, Bombus subterraneus.
Common name:Bumble bee
The four species of bumblebee (Bombus) were introduced from England in 1885 and 1906 for pollination and seed production of red clover. It was the first time that insects had been introduced into a county specifically to pollinate a particular flower. Four species were imported before it was realised that bumblebees tongue length differs from species to species. The most wide spread species in New Zealand, the large earth bumblebee Bombus terrestris was found to have the shortest “tongue” rendering it less effective for pollinating red clover. The other three species have the longest “tongues”. Their longer tongues can reach inside red clover flowers, which the shorter-tongued honeybees cannot do although they are excellent pollinators of the smaller white clover flowers. Compared with honeybees all bumblebees have longer tongues.
If a large earth bumblebee cannot reach the nectar in a flower it will often bite a hole in the base of the flower bypassing all the pollination specialisations of the flower. Other insects on future visits will use the same hole hence pollination will not occur.
Bumblebees are sometimes used to pollinate greenhouse and orchard crops. Only females (queens and workers) have a sting, but they are not aggressive and usually sting only if disturbed or handled roughly.
Bumblebees make their nests in holes in the ground such as rabbit burrows, or where they can burrow, such as in a compost heap. They also use hollow spaces in buildings. The cells are less regular than those made by honeybees.
There are four species in New Zealand see descriptions below.
Bombus terrestris:They are characterized by their white-ended abdomens and look apart from their yellowish bands being darker in direct comparison to other species. http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/local-flies/bumble-bee-bombus-terrestris.html
Bombus subterraneus: Thorax back to the wings is yellow. The hair is long.see http://www.biolib.cz/en/image/id17926/