Beekeeping Bees

Honeybees vs. Bumblebees: Spotting the Difference

As a beekeeper, I am fascinated by so many bees and wasps that visit our gardens and help to pollinate our plants. Yet, sometimes, I find that folks often confuse honeybees with bumblebees. Both are simply adorable in my opinion but very different. At first, to many outsiders, a bee is just a bee. That would be like me saying a dog is just a dog. But in fact, there are many different breeds.

Of course, there are Italian, Carnolian, Russian, Hybrids, Australians, and many more breed of honeybees that certainly deserve a mention. But this post is about the differences between bumblebees and honeybees. The photo up above and this photo below are bumblebees. Aren’t they super cute? The best way you can tell bumblebees and honeybees apart is by their very different appearances.

honeybee bumblebee differences
Bumblebees are part of the bee genus, Bombus. Like honeybees they too form colonies with a queen. Yet their colonies are much smaller-around only fifty bees. They have darling round fluffy yellow and black striped bodies. They rarely sting but they can sting multiple times if warranted. They feed on nectar and feed their babies pollen. Like honeybees they have pollen buckets on their hind legs. Their colonies rarely overwinter.
Now, these are honeybees.

 

They are skinnier and not as fuzzy. I still think they are cute but not as cute as those bumbles! Sorry girls.

They too pollinate just like the bumblebees. They collect pollen in the buckets on their legs and bring back nectar and honey to their nests. Most honeybees in the U.S. live in hives but some find their way into the walls of houses, old hollowed out trees, and the like to make their homes.

 

They too have a queen but their homes consist of typically between 50,000 to 70,000 bees! The also cannot repetitively sting (except for their queen). Their stingers are barbed and they will sacrifice their life to protect their hive. Like bumblebees they are not aggressive unless directly threatened. They also overwinter their colonies.

So now you know the difference! I bet today you will start “seeing” bees differently. I think you’ll be surprised to see that you might just have more bumblebees than honeybees visiting your gardens.

Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest

  • Thanks for pointing out the differences. I never have gotten close enough to really look at them because I'm always screaming and running away. I must say the bumblebee is kind of cute :))

  • I knew there were different types, but never took the time to look into it. We generalize bees too, but after seeing a true bumblebee, I guess we just have honeybees around here.