Bumblebee on purple aster
Bumblebee in Red Husker
Bombus nevadensis

Bumblebee (Family: Apidae)

Bumblebees are furrier, fatter and just plain cuter than honeybees. They can be recognized by their bright colors and lazy clumsy flight. Bumblebees live in small colonies (50-400 workers) or may be solitary. They drink flower nectar or fruit juices and feed their babies honey. These big bees are peaceful and prolific pollinators.

Unlike honeybees, only fertilized bumblebee queens overwinter. They find a dry protected area such as in a hollow tree to wait out the cold weather. In the spring the queen selects a nest site and lines it with grass or dried plants. She collects pollen and nectar to make 'bee bread' for her offspring. Normally she lays 5-20 eggs. The queen cares for the larvae until they pupate and new daughters emerge. The offspring will all be worker bees and will take over hive management and foraging so the queen can concentrate on egg laying.


Nine Ways Bumblebee Beat Honeybees

  1. Due to their long tongue, some bumblebees can pollinate flowers that honeybees cannot.
  2. Bumblebees can fly and pollinate plants at lower temperatures than honeybees. Bumblebees have been recorded flying at below zero and during raining or foggy weather! This is because bumblebees can generate heat both chemically and through a 'shivering' muscle action.
  3. Bumblebees work extended hours when compared to honeybees.
  4. Bumblebees will go to flowers that only have pollen (honeybees want nectar and pollen).
  5. Bumblebees employ 'buzz pollination' behavior where they grab the flower by the pollen structure and buzz their wings. This shakes loose more pollen (sometimes it literally 'explodes' and covers the bee with pollen). Some native plants, such as tomatoes and blueberries, need buzz pollination to set well.
  6. Bumblebees are gentle and do not like to sting unless they feel their nest is threatened.
  7. Bumblebees are really cute.
  8. Bumblebees are used to pollinate inside greenhouses.
  9. Bumblebees are native bees while honeybees are imported.