The Difference Between Bumblebees and Honey Bees

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What exactly is the difference between bumblebees and honey bees? Well, there are many different types of bees in the world, over 20,000 to be exact.

While they all have some similarities, such as their six legs and wings, they also have a variety of physical differences that can make telling them apart difficult.

Additionally, different bee species live in different habitats and have different pollination habits. Honeybees and bumblebees are two common types of bees that people often mistake for each other. So keep reading, never to make that mistake again!

What is the difference between bumblebees and honey bees?

bumblebees and honey bees

There are a number of differences between bumblebees and honey bees. These include differences in the way they look, their habits, hives, how long they live, and others. Below, I have collated all these differences for you to understand in an easy fashion!

Bumblebees vs. honey bees in terms of socialization

Honeybees are more cooperative than bumblebees – they live in colonies where every bee has a specific job to do. Bumblebees, on the other hand, live in smaller groups and don’t have as defined a social hierarchy.

Further, bumblebees, unlike honeybees, have not been selectively bred, and so they are more aggressive towards humans.

Honeybees have been around for centuries and have been selectively bred because of their docile nature, which makes them ideal for working with people.

Bumblebees have only arrived in North America in the last few decades, so they have not been selectively bred yet.

Bumblebees and honeybees are both social bees, and neither bee is particularly aggressive, but bumblebees will sting more readily than honeybees if they feel threatened.

Bumblebees vs. honeybees in terms of nesting habits or building hives

Honey bee hive

There is one key distinction between honeybees and bumblebees when it comes to their nesting habits. Honey bees typically build their hives in trees or other above-ground locations.

Bumblebees, on the other hand, nest underground in abandoned rodent burrows or in clumps of grass.

Honey bees are known for their large honey stores, while bumblebees are not as well known for their honey production. In fact, bumblebees make much smaller amounts of honey than honey bees do and usually do not survive the winter.

Bumblebees vs. honey bees in terms of honey production

As I said, honeybees are known for their honey stores, while bumblebees aren’t. Honey is made when nectar from flowers is collected by the bee and stored in the hive. Bumblebees do not produce honey. Rather, they are important pollinators.

Interestingly, honeybees will produce more honey than bumblebees in order to survive the winter. Bumblebees don’t need to store as much honey as they can rely on their fat reserves to make it through the colder months when they are generally hibernating.

Bumblebees vs. honeybees in terms of basic appearance

Bumblebees and honey bees are both types of bees, but they have some key differences. The most obvious difference is their size- bumblebees are larger than honey bees.

Another difference is that the head and thorax of honey bees are clearly separated while they are merged together in bumblebees. Additionally, honey bees have a smooth exoskeleton, while bumblebees have a hairy exoskeleton.

Since honey bees are less hairy than their counterparts, bumblebees, it can make them more difficult to misidentify as wasps such as yellow jackets.

Bumblebees vs. honey bees in terms of their life span

When it comes to their lifespans, honeybees can live for up to six years, while bumblebees only live for about four months. The main reason honeybees do survive the winter is because of their consistent coordination with other members of their colony.

While honey bees can survive winters, bumblebees are more unfortunate since even their queens die in the winters. Gradually, the queen bumblebee’s offsprings succeed to the power of the entire colony and new hive.

Bumblebees vs. honey bees in terms of pollination

Honey bees tell their colony where pollen is for more effective pollination

Honeybees are more effective at pollinating a wide range of flowers than bumblebees. The modus operandi that honey bees resort to is communication with other bees regarding where the pollen is!

Bumblebees, on the other hand, can pollinate plants that honeybees cannot because they have a long tongue.

That said, the way bumblebees pollinate flowers is by virtue of their large size. These bugs simply hover around flowers and drop the pollen onto them!

Bumblee bee vs. honey bees over the winter

When fall arrives, bumblebees begin to lay new queens and helpers. The new queens then mate and start to feed in order to store enough fat for the winter.

Unlike the bumblebee, honey bees do not go into a reproductive phase; they reduce their activities as fall gives way to winter. This is why honey bees need to store food inside their nests throughout the winter.

What is the difference between the sting of a bumblebee and a honey bee, and why?

The sting of a bumblebee and a honey bee are both venomous. However, the venom is different.

Bumblebees have a neurotoxin in their sting, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Honey bees have histamine in their sting, which can cause anaphylactic shock in some people.

Further, while honey bees can only sting once, bumblebees can sting you multiple times. Honey bees can also only sting you once, after which they die!

Typically, bees of all kinds only sting in retaliation to any threat they face! For one, Africanized bees send out more than half the colony when they’re under threat, which contributes to their higher death rate.

Can bumblebees sting more than once?

Bumblebees have a smooth stinger

Yes, bumblebees can sting more than once. However, these bees live by themselves. Therefore, the chances of a bumblebee stinging you are quite low.

Honeybees, however, can only sting once. Once they have given up their stinger, honey bees die.

Do honeybees hibernate?

They don’t hibernate like mammals. Bees don’t. As a matter of fact, they do not go into “sleep mode.”

Instead, the colony pumps its flying muscles nonstop throughout the winter, acting as a mini-heater. This explains why the hive’s entrance is relatively quiet throughout the winter.

Can you domesticate both bumblebees or honey bees?

Bumblebees are still wild insects and have not undergone as much genetic modification as honey bees. Honey bees, on the other hand, have been bred for commercial use and are often used for pollination or to produce honey.

Interestingly, breeders have been grafting bees for centuries to produce different types of bees. For example, they’ve bred honey bees for their high honey production, bumblebees for their docile temperament, and most recently, varroa-tolerant bees.

Consequently, it’s now possible to keep various breeds of bees in domesticity.

Bumblebees will sting humans much more readily than honey bees because they are more aggressive. Honey bees, on the other hand, are far more docile and will only sting humans if they feel threatened.

This is why some people try to domesticate honey bees–so that they can harvest the honey without being stung. I doubt many people can say the same for bumblebees!

What is the difference between the population of both these bee species?

Bumblebees and honey bees are both types of bees, but they have different life cycles and populations. Bumblebees start off with one queen. She looks for good real estate to settle and starts building cells until her daughters are old enough to take care of others.

Honey bees, on the other hand, have a colony that is started by a group of worker bees who swarm from an existing hive. The queen then starts laying eggs in the new hive.

While the life of a queen honey bee is one of luxury and ease, the life of a queen bumblebee is fraught with danger. The queen of a honey bee colony can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, while the queen of a bumblebee can only lay about 100 eggs.

Additionally, the worker bees in a hive will protect the queen honey bee while they will sting to death any intruders, including other queens.

The difference between the populations is that honey bees can keep warm even when it is cold outside, while bumblebees cannot. Honey bees believe in living as a community, which is why it is easy for them to share their body heat.

But since bumblebees are solitary bees and don’t live with other bumblebees, they cannot share body heat with anybody!

Is a bumble bee’s sting worse than a honey bee’s sting?

Well, the answer depends on what you consider worse. For example, honey bees have a barbed stinger that can only sting once, while bumblebees have a smooth stinger that is capable of stinging you more than once.

Therefore, a sting from a honey bee is likely to hurt a lot, but a bumblebee can cause you repeated damage!

On the whole, bumblebees are less likely to sting than honey bees. Honey bees will sting if they feel provoked, while bumblebees are much more docile and will only sting if they feel threatened.

Do bumblebees produce honey?

Bumblebees can produce small amounts of honey

When it comes to producing honey, bumblebees and honey bees share a similarity as well as a difference. One major difference is that bumblebees can produce honey, but not in large quantities.

Bumblebee hives are smaller than honey beehives, and the honey is not stored because the hive does not overwinter. Instead, honey is used as food for the colony during the winter.

In contrast, honeybees are the best-known type of bee for their production of honey. They have a number of specialized body parts and lifestyles that allow them to function in nature and support the hive.

Although they share many similarities with bumblebees, the differences between these two types of bees allow for wonderful diversity in nature.

Is a bumble bee more aggressive than a honey bee?

Honeybees are generally likely to sting you once in their lifetimes, although one sting can kill them. The bumblebee, however, can sting many times. Bumblebees only sting when they are provoked. Also, bumblebees do not form swarms like those that honey bees form.

The stinging activities of these stinger bees are the key behavioral distinctions that we can perceive between a honeybee and a bumblebee.

If you are planning to nurture these fuzzy honeybee or bumblebee colonies or colonies together with their nests and beehive, you need to take all types of precautions beforehand.

These fuzzy bees may fly all over the place and offer a considerable hazard to others due to their stings, and the discomfort humans suffer after a bee sting.

What other bees’ stings should you be-e aware of?

For starters, that pun had to be included in this article.

Besides honey bees and bumblebees, there are other types of bees that people should be aware of. Their stings can be quite painful, so it is important to know how to identify them.

Africanized honey bees

Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees, are more aggressive than other types of honeybees and can sting multiple times. They were accidentally released into the wild in Brazil in 1957 and had been spreading to North America ever since.


The first differentiating factor between honey bees and bumblebees should be their appearance for you since bumblebees are generally much larger than honey bees. Along with that, bumblebees generally fly alone while honey bees fly with their swarm.

Keeping the things you have learned in this article in mind, you should always be extremely careful when dealing with either of these bee species!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.