Bumble-bees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black. Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair, called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport).
Like their relatives the honey bees, bumble-bees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young.
Like all bee tongues, the bumble-bee’s tongue (the proboscis) is a long hairy structure that extends from a sheath-like modified maxilla. The primary action of the tongue is lapping, i.e. repeated dipping of the tongue into liquid. During lapping, nectar is drawn up the proboscis by capillary action. When at rest or flying, the proboscis is kept folded under the head.
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