Bumble bees are excellent pollinators and they are used in agriculture. In some cases they are more efficient than honey bees, the jack of all trades of the pollinators’ world. They are particularly important when the flowers require buzz pollination, a task that honey bees never mastered. Such behavior is described and illustrated here: Bumble bees as pollinators.
Tomato growers, especially those who grow tomatoes in large greenhouses, use the services of bumble bees. Bumble bee colonies are relatively easy to raise and to maintain; thus a whole minor industry has developed. Several bumble bee breeders provide queens and special boxes where the queen can raise a whole colony, along with instructions on how many boxes are needed per acre of plants and how much sugary water should be added to their diet. Tomatoes are good at supplying pollen but not nectar and bumble bees, like all other bees, require both.
There is great concern about the possibility of carrying pathogens when these boxes are shipped to other places. Also there is the possibility of honey bees passing their pathogens to bumble bees. It is important to take precautions to avoid such consequences.
In addition to being important in agriculture bumble bees, along with many other species of bees, pollinate a large number of native flowers and thus contribute to the normal functioning of ecosystems.