India is home to 48 of the 250 known species of bumblebees, the only pollinators of vegetation in high-altitude regions.
This has been revealed in a recent publication Indian Bumblebees written by entomologist M.S. Saini and co-authors Rifat H. Raina and Harpeet Singh Ghator. The book was launched in Kolkata at the beginning of the centenary celebration of the Zoological Survey of India.
Mostly characterised by black, yellow and reddish body hair, and often striped, bumblebees are generally found on altitudes of 2,000-15,000 feet along the entire Himalayas, from Jammu & Kashmir to Nagaland.
“The publication which enlists all 48 species found in India is the result of 16 years of hard work. Bumblebees are important to the ecosystem, as without them seed setting and fruiting will not take place in many plants. They pollinate vegetables, fruit trees, cash crops and even ornamental and medicinal plants high in the Himalayas,” Mr. Saini told The Hindu over telephone from Punjab.
Like the honeybees, bumblebees are social insects and live in colonies — the size of which depends on the species.
“The founder of the colony is the queen that hibernates throughout winter. In spring, she finds a site for new nest. Having mated the previous autumn, she then lays her eggs which will result in the first batch of workers,” Mr. Saini said, explaining the life cycle of the bumblebees.