How to Tell Bumblebees and Honey Bees Apart

Appearance

  • Bumblebees are robust, large in girth, have more hairs on their body and are colored with yellow, orange and black. Their wings can be easily seen since they are darkish in color. The tip of their abdomen is rounded.

  • Honeybees are more slender in body appearance, have fewer body hairs and wings that are more translucent. The tip of their abdomen is more pointed.

Aggressiveness

In general, honeybees and bumblebees are not overly aggressive when protecting their nest. However, both will readily sting to defend themselves or their colony. The primary difference in their stinging behavior relates to the greater number of honeybees that sting when compared to bumblebees. While a honeybee only stings once, a bumblebee is capable of stinging multiple times.

Longevity

  • The bumblebee queen lives for one year and overwinters at the nest site. Other members live for only a few months.

  • The honeybee queen and her offspring live in the hive year round. The queen may survive for three or more years.

Colony or Nest Location

  • Bumblebees typically make their nest underground, but some species will nest above ground.

  • Honeybees typically make their nest above ground in sheltered locations.

Nest Population Site

  • Bumblebee colonies are much smaller with a normal population of less than a few hundred individuals.

  • Honeybee nests may number into the tens of thousands.

Honey Production

While both produce honey, bumblebees do not produce a surplus of honey like honeybees. Therefore, beekeepers do not collect bumblebee honey for consumption.

Resources

Dig Deeper on Bumblebees

Do Bumblebees Sting? | Bee Habits & Behaviors | Orkin

How to Identify a Bumblebee Hive | Bee Nest Facts | Orkin

How are Bumblebees and Honey Bees Different? | Orkin

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