Bumble bees are both interesting creatures and yet really similar to many other insects that have evolved to live in the temperate and cold climates of the world. One of the main problems they face is how to survive the winter. Some insects like Monarch butterflies avoid winter altogether by migrating to Mexico each year, while other insects will find a warm spot in your house to survive, but like many insects, bumble bees spend their winter in the soil. They dig just deep enough to keep from freezing solid, spending the winter under protective layers of soil and snow. They can stay there for 8-9 months until the weather warms enough for them to dig out and begin feeding on pollen and nectar in the spring.
For bumble bees, only the queen bumble bee survives the winter and she does this alone, but we know very little about how a bumble bee chooses a site to spend the winter. To answer this question a bunch of scientists from across North America got together and started Queen Quest. You can see the details here.
The Strange Lab has put together a Queen Quest team with six primary people. I have been going out to Chadwick Arboretum weekly to look for fall flying queens with two undergraduates, Lizzy Sakulich and Dalen Moore, two graduate students, Liam Whiteman and Iliana Moore, and the lab post doc Dr. Kayla Perry. We even have some of the arboretum staff keeping an eye out for queens searching for wintering sites so we can add that data to the Queen Quest database.
We hope to find some queens this fall and help answer some questions about the basic biology of bumble bees that has remained a mystery for many years. Want to help out? Drop me a line. firstname.lastname@example.org