The Arctic bumblebee is a thick-haired bumblebee with transverse bands of yellow-orange and black-brown hair. It is widespread throughout Greenland, but to the south, it is seen mainly high up in the mountains.
Arctic bumblebees are social insects that build year-round “communities” in small mounds of moss. The queen lays eggs, and the smaller worker bees make sure to collect pollen and nectar and keep the nest in order.
At the end of the summer, it is not only the worker bees that hatch, but also the males (drones) and new potential queens. After mating, the drones die while the fertilized queens hibernate for the winter. Next spring, the queens will be seen flying around again, while the country is still covered in snow, looking for a new nesting site.
Arctic bumblebees have a lethal cousin: the northern bumblebee, which looks very similar but is a ferocious nest invader. The slightly larger northern queen enters the home of the Arctic bumblebees, kills the queen, takes over the workers and makes them slaves to raise her own young.
Fun Fact: You may have noticed that in many Greenlandic towns, you can find locally produced honey. This honey is produced in Narsarsuaq and funnily enough, by the imported kind of bee, European dark bees. If you want to taste the Arctic honey, it can be purchased across the country.