Do Bumble Bees Make Honey?

It is a beautiful morning you think, as you sip your coffee and enjoy your favorite treat; warm, buttery biscuits with honey drizzled on top. The flower gardens that surround your home are swarming with life and you notice large bumble bees buzzing around. Watching the bumble bees makes you wonder if they make honey like honey bees. 

The answer is yes and no. They do make honey in a sense, but it does not take on the traditional form that we are all accustomed to.  

If you want to learn more about bumble bees and how their honey compares to honey bees continue reading this enlightening article.

Bumble Bee Honey

As bumble bees are pollinating flowers they are also collecting nectar to bring back to the hive. The queen makes nectar pots from wax that is secreted from the underside of her abdomen to store the nectar.

With the exception of the queen, bumble bees have a shorter life span than honey bees and die off when the weather gets cold; therefore, there is no need for them to create a surplus storage of food as honey bees must do.   

Bumble bees mate a couple of times per season; the final mating is the most crucial because those eggs need to survive the winter. The queen will stay in the nest with the eggs and hibernate.

While the queen is hibernating she will be full of nectar and store a small amount in her nectar pot to survive until the moment is right for her and her larvae to emerge in the spring.

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Honey is made when honey bees collect nectar and bring it to the hive where they will eat and regurgitate the nectar to fill the combs. After time this regurgitated nectar will become what is known to us as honey.

Since bumble bees do not store nectar for a long period of time as honey bees do, the nectar does not have time to go through the transformation process necessary to turn it into honey. That is why people do not keep bumble bees for honey.

Although people do not keep bees for honey, there is another reason to keep them around if you are a farmer or just an avid gardener because due to their large size and thick coat of hairs they make excellent pollinators and will help your crops and gardens to thrive.

bumble bee pollinating wildflowers

There are approximately 255 species of bumble bees in the northern hemisphere and none of them produce enough “honey” for people to spend the time harvesting it.

For comparison, honey bees colonies can become as large as 50,000 bees in one hive whereas bumble bees have an average of 100 – 200 bees per hive.

Bumble bees prefer to take up residence in underground cavities or other areas that are low to the ground and well hidden.

Although bumble bees may have a shorter lifespan than that of a honey bee, they do have longer pollination seasons than a honeybee. They get up earlier in the morning to begin pollinating and stay out later in the afternoon and evening than a honey bee does.

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This is a large reason why people harvest bumble bees for pollination purposes. The bumble bee is more durable than a honey bee as well. They can withstand colder temperatures and inclement weather much better than honey bees do.

Typically bumble bees start pollinating as early as February and continue until around November when the colder weather sets in and the queen hibernate until the next season.

In 2016 there were around one million known bumble bee colonies being managed around the world. It is now estimated that the bumble bee colonies have increased to closer to two million.

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