Bumble Bee

Bumble-Bee
  • Common Name(s): Bumble Bee
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Apidae
  • Common Species: Bombus griseocollis, Bombus impatiens
  • Commonly Confused With: Carpenter bees, Megachilid bees

Characteristics

How to Identify?
Bumble bees can be differentiated from carpenter bees because of the presence of hairs covering the head (front section of an insect), thorax (middle section of an insect), and abdomen (back section of an insect). Carpenter bees do not have hair on their abdomen. Bumble bees are usually yellow and brown, tan, or black in color. They are generally 0.9-1.5 cm in length as workers and significantly larger in size as males and queens.

Habitat

Where do they live?
Bumble bees can live in any area that is close to a food source, such as fields, residential areas, suburbs, forests, etc. They typically nest at or near ground level, either in holes in the ground, old rodent burrows, holes in trees or trunks, under structures, etc.

Food Source

What do they eat?
Bumble bees feed on pollen and nectar. Like some carpenter bees, some bumble bees can be nectar robbers (they ‘cheat’ the plant to get the nectar. Instead of sitting at the top of the plant to get nectar they sometimes can chew a hole in the side and avoid aiding in pollination altogether). While some bees may be nectar robbers, bumble bees, in general, are beneficial pollinators.

Activity

What do they do?
These insects are similar to honey bees in that they exhibit eusocial behavior. Eusocial behavior is where they have a queen and several different castes living with and depending upon one another for survival. Bumble bee colonies are not nearly as large as honey bee colonies, but the idea behind it is the same. They will sting to protect the colony, but they are very docile when just out foraging. If you do not accidentally happen upon a bumble bee nest then your chances of being stung are very low! If you do get stung, unless you are allergic, it will be a burning sensation comparable to a honey bee sting. If you happen to disturb a bumble bee nest, leave the area at once, but do not flail your arms as this will be perceived as an attack resulting in even more stings. Avoid trying to wait them out by jumping into a body of water (such as a pool or lake); they won’t go away but will wait for you to come up for air and then proceed to sting you (possibly even to death).

Fun Fact

Some Bumble bees can be even better crop pollinators than honey bees, but due to competition for food and habitat loss, some Bumble bees have become endangered. If we do not take steps to help promote bumble bees, some species could very well become extinct.

Additional Resources

Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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