8 True Bumblebee Flying Facts

Do Bumblebees Fly or Levitate? How do Bumblebees Fly? How Fast or How Far do they Fly?
bumble bee. bumblebee flying

Bumblebee is an insect with a hairy body that makes a buzzing sound when it flies. Today, we will discuss Bumblebee flying facts.

1. What does a Bumblebee look like?

Bumblebees have small, hairy, and stout bodies as they hatch from cocoons. They have black-colored stripes on their body. They have variable color and size patterns even among the same species. This characteristic makes identification difficult for common observers. However, the colors and pattern of stripes on the abdomen and thorax are frequently used to differentiate one bumblebee species from another. Sometimes, morphological traits are also noted to find out the differences. (See How to Identify Bugs in My Garden)

2. What are its Body Parts?

Bumblebees go through metamorphosis, from eggs to fully grown adults. Bumblebees have an exoskeleton i.e., hard outer covering of the body made from plates of chitin, just like all other insects. In an exoskeleton, the muscles are attached from within the body because the outer covering is like bones. Their body is divided into three parts, the head, thorax, & abdomen. They have four wings: two rear and two front wings. The rear wings are attached to the front ones with a row of hooks known as hamuli. Wings are also made of chitin.

3. What Climate do Bumblebees Prefer?

Bumblebees prefer warm climates and avoid going out of their nests in temperatures under 10 degrees. Therefore, it is not a common sight to see them flying during cold climates. During such conditions, they feed on the food they have stored. So, if they have to go out for food when the temperature is not suitable for them, they fly at a height that aids them with warmth. (See How is Silk made from Silkworm?)

4. Do Bumblebees Fly or Levitate?

The wings of bumblebee flap 130 to 240 times per second. Their flight speed can range from 3 to 4.5 m/s, or 10.8 to 16.2 km/h. Thus, bumblebees are said to be levitating rather than flying because of their movement style as the speed of their flapping winds causes a gush of air. Though, to understand the technique of how do bumblebees fly, you would need to understand the phenomenon used in flying helicopters.

Moreover, it is recorded of a bumblebee flying only between 1-6 km but they can fly up to 20 km in search of food. A large group of bumblebees flies over the Gulf of Finland between Finland and Estonia during the spring season, covering a distance of 80 km. (See Why flies are so annoying?)

5. Does the Condition of Wings affect their Speed?

A bumblebee having perfectly sharp-edged precise wings are the younger ones. Older bumblebees have wings that are rigged or have broken edges. But their flying is not affected by the wings, rigged or not rigged. They fly with such speed and skill to keep themselves safe from the hamsters and lemmings. Moreover, they race to occupy the best place for a nest or for food supply.

bumblebee flying

6. What is Misconception about their Wings?

The rear wings are joined with the front wings at the lower ridge, resulting in people thinking that bumblebees only have two wings. Although, insects usually have four wings that help them to fly fast and accurately. So, in common perception, the body of a bumblebee looks bigger than what its small wings are believed could carry. Thus, people wonder how is bumblebee flying with a stout body and only two wings. (See Where are Leeches found?)

7. How is their Flight affected by Temperature?

A bumblebee cannot fly if its wing muscles are not at a suitable temperature. The process of bumblebee flying requires the wing muscle temperature to be above 30 degrees Celsius. During their flight, they have to maintain the temperature of their wing muscles as well. A bumblebee is also capable of raising its body temperature by shivering itself.

8. How does Bumblebee Warm-up before Flight?

A bumblebee can drop its body temperature according to its surroundings. Since they require the wing muscle temperature to be above 30 degrees Celsius. Hence, to raise their body temperature, they pump their wing muscles with the ventilation provided by their abdomen. Though, the time taken to reach different degrees of temperature is different. (See How Do You Get Chiggers Out of Your Yard?)

  • If the current temperature of their wings is 6 degrees Celsius, then it will take up to 15 minutes to reach 30 degrees Celsius.
  • When the temperature is 13 degrees Celsius, it will take 5 minutes to rise to 30 degrees.
  • If their temperature is at 24 degrees Celsius already, then it will take very few seconds to reach the goal of 30 degrees Celsius.

We now understand how to do bumblebees fly, the process of bumblebee flying, and the requirements of flight.

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