This species creates its nests on the surface, in old mouse runs through grass, in tangles of vegetation or just under the surface of the soil (1) (2). Colonies vary in size, and can contain up to 200 workers (2). Only young queens survive the winter; they establish new nests in spring, laying the first eggs into pots of wax. After hatching, the white larvae are fed on honey and pollen by the queen. When they are fully-grown, the larvae cease to feed and develop into pupae after spinning a protective silk cocoon around themselves. During the pupal stage the larvae undergo complex changes, and develop into adult workers (2).
When the first set of workers are fully developed they take over the foraging duties and care of the brood, and the queen simply lays eggs (1). The workers feed the larvae on pollen and nectar which they gather on groups of hairs on the back legs, known as ‘pollen baskets’(1). They gather nectar from long tube-like flowers, with white dead-nettle a firm favourite (2). When the colony reaches its peak, males and new queens are produced (2). Males develop from unfertilised eggs and appear in summer, flying around in search of new queens with which to mate (3). Shortly after mating, the male dies and the newly mated queen searches for a place to hibernate. The colony, together with the old queen, gradually dies, though colonies of this species are the longest-lived of British bees, persisting until October (1) (2). The newly mated queens emerge the following spring, to establish new colonies (4).