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Honey Bees and Bumblebees—What’s the Difference?

Serving Suffolk County | Nassau County | Long Island | Brooklyn

Different Types of Bees

With over 20,000 different species, it’s no surprise it can sometimes be difficult to tell bees apart! Different bee species vary in the bees’ physical characteristics, habitats, pollination habits, and general behaviors.

Bumble Bee vs. Honey Bee

There are two common Long Island bee species in particular which are commonly mixed up—honey bees and bumblebees. Learn about the differences between these species you’re likely to encounter in your own backyard!

All About Honey Bees

Honey Bee Habitat

Where do honey bees live? Well, honey bees are social insects, and live amongst one another in hives. Within the hives, honey bees have specialized roles. Take male drone bees for example. Their sole purpose in life is to mate with the queen bee. Then there are female worker bees, who outnumber male bees significantly—there are approximately 100 female worker bees for every 1 male bee. These worker bees handle all of the duties within the hive except for reproduction, so their jobs include tasks like scouting, guarding, caring for the queen, producing honey, and building honeycomb. And of course, there’s the queen bee, who lays about 1,500 eggs per day, and only leaves the hive once in her life in order to mate. 

Honey bees typically prefer to live in areas where flowering plants are abundant, like gardens, meadows, and woodlands. They can thrive in natural habitats, as well as agricultural areas and urban parks or gardens. Honey bees are also able to withstand a variety of climates, including the cold. The bees will actually shiver to increase the temperature inside the hive through thermoregulation.

What Does a Honey Bee Look Like?

Most simply put, honey bees have a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. On their head, they have a pair of antennae and mouthparts. Their thorax is where their wings are six legs can be found, and their stinger is located at the end of their abdomens. 

Typically, honey bees are oval-shaped with golden-yellow colors and brown bands around their bodies. Some honey bees are mainly black in color, but most all honey bees have varying striations that vary from dark coloring to light coloring.

Do Honey Bees Have Stingers? 

Honey bees do indeed have stingers, and they will use them when they feel threatened. Both worker bees and the queen bee can sting. The queen bee will typically use her stinger on other rival bees, but worker bees have barbed stingers they’ll use on most anyone when it comes to protecting their hive. 

For the worker bee, stinging is a suicide mission. When the worker bee stings something, the barbs in its stinger become embedded in whatever they have stung. When the bee pulls away from its victim, the stinger and venom sac are left behind, which causes the bee to die.

Honey Bee Lifespan

The life cycle of honey bees depends on a number of factors, as well as the survival of the individual bees within the hive. The queen bee, royal and important as she may be, cannot survive alone, because she can’t solely produce honey or pollinate flowers by her lonesome.

Worker bees have a relatively short life span of around six weeks during honey production seasons. Queen bees, on the other hand, may live two to three years or more. 

What is Pollination?

Honey bees are vital to our ecosystem, as they are protected pollinators. Pollinators are responsible for the transport of pollen to plants, which allows fertilization to happen. Of the world’s 115 most important crops, 87 require pollination in order to thrive. Pollinators like honey bees allow us to eat!

Do All Bees Make Honey?

As its name suggests, the honey bee creates honey! 

Honey bees create honey, which is their food, by visiting flowers. While there, they collect nectar from the blossom by sucking it out with their tongues. Then, they store the nectar in a separate stomach from their main stomach. When they’re full, they head back to their hive, where they pass the honey through their mouths to other worker bees who chew it for around thirty minutes. It’s passed from bee to bee, until gradually, it turns into honey. Appetizing, right? 😉 

The bees store the honey in honeycomb cells, which are like small jars made of wax. They fan the honey with their wings to make it dry out and become sticky. Then, when the honey is ready, the bees seal the cell with a wax lid in order to keep it clean.

It takes the full lifespan of at least eight bees to make a single teaspoonful of honey.

All About Bumblebees

Where Do Bumblebees Live?

Like honey bees, bumblebees are social insects who often live in bumble bee hives. 

While many bumblebees live in hives, often queen bees will find a place to live underground, where they use burrows that mice or rodents have abandoned. Some will even find a clump of grass at the surface to call home, in order to protect the bumblebees from predators and extreme temperatures.

Bumblebee colonies consist of a queen, workers, who are sterile females, and drones, who are males. 

What Does a Bumble Bee Look Like?

Bumblebees are large, fuzzy, hair insects that are often black and yellow striped. Size varies, but adults are usually over an inch long. Bumblebees have a large structure on their hind legs known as a pollen basket that’s often loaded with pollen collected by foraging adults.

Female bumblebees have a stinger and pointed abdomen, whereas males don’t have a stinger, but do have a rounded abdomen.

Do Bumblebees Produce Honey?

Bumblebees are able to create honey, however it’s not the typical kind we humans enjoy in our tea!

Bumble Bee Stings

Like honey bees, bumblebees can sting, though it’s very rare for bumblebees to pose a threat to people. In humans, bumblebee stings result in short-term severe pain that eventually fades away, though in some cases, an allergic reaction can develop.

Bumblebee stingers, unlike honey bee stingers, do not have barbs. This means the worker bees and queen bees can remove their stingers and sting again.

Bumblebee Foods

Bumblebees eat nectar and pollen made by flowers, then make honey by chewing the pollen and mixing it with their saliva.

Bumblebee and Honey Bee Removal on Long Island

Suburban Exterminating understands the importance of the bumblebee and honeybee populations to our environment, and always treats bee concerns with the utmost care. We’ve developed strict protocols for the protection of pollinators, which is why we don’t treat honey bee hives. Instead, we recommend our clients contact professional beekeepers who are delighted to harvest bee hives for their own use. This method ensures the potential bee threat is removed, and the bees are utilized in a beneficial manner. The Long Island Beekeepers Club is very helpful in providing information to the public in this regard. 

Regarding bumblebees, when the location of their nest is proven to be a threat, Suburban Exterminating will treat after evaluating the situation. Simply finding bumblebees or other pollinators foraging in flower beds or shrubs is not cause to interfere with their behavior. Often, we suggest ways for our clients to lure foraging pollinators away from areas people frequent using sugar or fruit based lures which can help “guide” pollinators to a different area. In some cases, we’ve even recommended removing plants away from doors and along paths to minimize human to pollinator conflicts!

If you have any questions about a bee problem you’re facing, we’re happy to help contact us today!

Honey Bees and Bumblebees—What’s the Difference? Serving Long Island and surrounding areas

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