Nature Nugget – Bumblebee Social Order

Social bees live in colonies and consist of three castes: the queen who produces the eggs, thousands of workers (sexually undeveloped females), and a few hundred drones (fertile males). There are three groups of social bees: the honeybees, stingless bees, and bumblebees. Found mainly in temperate climates, there are around 300 species of bumblebees worldwide.

Like all social bees, bumblebees are important as pollinators, because they visit flowers to feed on nectar and to gather pollen to feed their young. They make and store honey in a “honey pot” in their nests, which are constructed from wax, secreted from glands in the bees abdomens. The amount of honey bumblebees store in their nests is very small compared to honeybees; therefore, they were never domesticated by man.

Young fertilized queens are the only members of the bumblebee colony that survive the winter. In the spring, they emerge from hibernation and search for a location to start a colony. They usually choose an abandoned mouse or chipmunk nest or other underground cavity. The young queen then builds a small nest with brood cells from wax and stores nectar and pollen which she gathers from nearby flowers. She then lays a few eggs and feeds the hatched larvae from her stored food supply. Once the workers emerge, they take over the duties of the colony while the queen concentrates on egg laying.

The queen secretes a pheromone (chemical substance) that permeates the nest and represses sexual development in the workers by suppressing the glands that would otherwise lead to their ovaries developing. In late summer or early fall, the queen stops producing this pheromone in order that some of her eggs will develop into new queens. No longer restrained by the pheromone, some of the workers start egg-laying. The eggs are not fertile, but will develop into drones. The queen tries to destroy these eggs by eating them, because they are in competition with her own drone eggs. The egg-laying workers are angered by this act, and the social order of the colony collapses; anarchy reigns. The aging queen loses her social dominance and is killed by the workers. The young queens soon leave the nest and mate with the drones. Then they hibernate in seclusion and start the process over again the following spring.

Just as the queen bumblebee uses a pheromone to maintain the peace and social order in her colony, so we as Christians are to use prayer to maintain peace, order, and unity among ourselves. “The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife. Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God’s servants will speak the same things.” Ye Shall Receive Power, 285. “Prayer is a heaven-ordained means of success. Appeals, petitions, entreaties, between man and man, move men, and act as a part in controlling the affairs of nations. But prayer moves heaven. That power alone that comes in answer to prayer will make men wise in the wisdom of heaven, and enable them to work in the unity of the Spirit, joined together by the bonds of peace.” Sons and Daughters of God, 335.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: