Are Bumblebees Friendly? Debunking Myths and Understanding Their Behavior

Bumblebees, known for their distinct buzzing sound and round, fuzzy bodies, often spark curiosity about their friendliness.

These fascinating creatures play a crucial role in pollination, making them essential for the environment and agricultural systems.

They play a major role in pollination of agricultural crops like aromatic, medicinal, ornamental, and various other horticultural plants

Although bumblebees possess a stinger, they are generally docile creatures. They primarily focus on gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, unlike aggressive insects, such as some wasps or hornets.

Bumblebees typically only sting as a last resort, when they feel threatened or endangered. In contrast, their social counterparts, the honeybees, are more likely to protect their hive by stinging intruders.

Comparing the two, bumblebees are considered friendlier, making them less of a concern when encountered in gardens or during outdoor activities.

Understanding Bumblebees

Species

Bumblebees are a diverse group of insects. According to the US Forest Service, the American Bumble Bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) is one of the common species in North America.

Some general characteristics of bumblebees are:

  • Fuzzy appearance
  • Large size compared to other bees
  • Key pollinators for plants and crops

Social Insects

Bumblebees are considered social insects. These bees live in colonies and share responsibilities like foraging and taking care of the offspring. Social bee examples:

  • Bumblebees
  • Honey bees

Hives and Nests

Bumblebees create nests, which are different from the hives that honey bees build. Here are some key differences:

CharacteristicBumblebee NestHoney Bee Hive
LocationGround, often in abandoned rodent burrows or grassy areasTree hollows or man-made structures
ConstructionMade of wax cells, clusteredMade of hexagonal wax cells, organized in layers or “combs”
PopulationTypically smaller than honey bee hives, ranging from 50 to 400 beesCan have 10,000 to 60,000 bees

By understanding bumblebees and their behavior, we can appreciate their friendly nature and vital role in pollination.

Bumble Bee

Bumblebee Behavior

Interacting with Humans

Bumblebees are generally known for their non-aggressive interaction with humans. They are more focused on gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, which makes them less likely to sting.

In fact, bumblebees typically only sting when they feel threatened or are handled roughly.

Docility and Aggression

  • Docile: Bumblebees are docile in nature, meaning they are gentle and easy to handle when they are not provoked.
  • Aggressive: Despite their docile behavior, bumblebees can become aggressive when they feel like their nest is under threat, as they try to protect their colony.

Pollination and Foraging Habits

Bumblebees are efficient pollinators due to their unique foraging behavior called buzz pollination. Below are some highlights of their pollination and foraging habits:

  • Bumblebees collect nectar and pollen primarily for their colony’s sustenance.
  • They use their wings to create vibrations and release pollen from flowers, enabling pollination.
  • They are attracted to a wide variety of flowers, increasing their effectiveness as pollinators.

Comparison between Bumblebees and Honeybees:

FeatureBumblebeeHoneybee
AggressionLess aggressiveMore aggressive
PollinationBuzz pollinationRegular pollination
Colony sizeSmaller coloniesLarger colonies
Nectar collectionShort tripsLonger trips

Attracting Bumblebees to Your Garden

Popular Plants and Flowers

To attract bumblebees, plant a variety of native plants that flower throughout the growing season. Some examples are:

  • Asters (Eurybia macrophylla, Symphyotrichum laeve, Symphyotrichum novae)
  • Sunflowers
  • Salvia
  • Monarda

Providing Nesting Sites

Bumblebees need nesting sites to thrive, especially due to habitat loss. Here are some features for nesting sites in your garden:

  • Leave vegetation and leaf litter in parts of your garden
  • Provide sheltered areas like overgrown grass and hedges
  • Create bee hotels using straws, bamboo, or wood

Protecting Bees from Pesticides

Protecting bumblebees from pesticides is vital. Here’s what to avoid, and some alternatives:

  • Avoid neonicotinoids and herbicides
  • Choose organic alternatives when possible
  • Introduce beneficial insects to help manage pests

Pros and Cons of Organic Alternatives:

ProsCons
Bee-friendlyMay require more frequent application
Environmentally sustainableCan be expensive

Overall, following the above guidelines will aid in attracting bumblebees to your garden, creating a more bee-friendly environment.

Bumblebees as Pollinators

Contributions to Crops and Ecology

Bumblebees play a crucial role as pollinators in both wildflowers and our crops. These fuzzy insects are key players in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems.

For instance, they are especially effective at pollinating plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. As they collect nectar, their furry bodies help spread pollen, enhancing the growth of these plants.

Their pollination services extend to plants that birds and small mammals rely on for their survival. Bumblebees are truly vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems and food sources for other organisms.

Habitat Loss and Conservation Efforts

Unfortunately, habitat loss, climate change, disease, and pesticides are causing declines in the bumblebee population. The American bumblebee, for example, is considered endangered.

Organizations are dedicating efforts to conserve bumblebee habitats by promoting ecological-friendly practices and protecting their natural environments. Some of these practices include:

  • Planting native wildflowers
  • Avoiding pesticide usage
  • Providing nesting and overwintering sites

Monitoring Bumblebee Populations

To track the status of bumblebee populations and measure the impact of conservation efforts, projects such as Bumble Bee Watch rely on citizen science. These initiatives ask members of the public to participate by:

  • Observing and identifying bumblebees
  • Recording sightings of bumblebees
  • Submitting data to online platforms

Bumble Bee Nest in Bird House

By getting involved with these projects, you can contribute valuable data that helps researchers understand trends and patterns in bumblebee populations, ultimately aiding in their conservation efforts.

Safety Precautions and Human Interactions

Stings and Reactions

Bumblebees are generally harmless when foraging. However, a disturbed colony can become defensive, and worker bumblebees can sting repeatedly without sacrificing their life.

A bumblebee’s sting typically causes pain and swelling, as it injects venom. Some people may experience allergic reactions to the stings, which could necessitate medical attention.

Differences from Wasps and Hornets

Bumblebees can be easily confused with wasps and hornets, which are more aggressive and could cause painful stings. Some key distinctions include:

  • Bumblebees are larger and have hairy abdomens.
  • Wasps and hornets have slender bodies and smooth abdomens.
  • Bumblebees collect and carry pollen in large pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Befriending and Bonding

It is possible to befriend and bond with bumblebees, especially with the help of a beekeeper. Bumblebees have been found to recognize human faces and interact with humans in a friendly manner when provided with a safe environment.

To foster a positive relationship with bumblebees, avoid disturbing their underground nests and approach them with caution.

Comparison Table

CharacteristicBumblebeesWasps and Hornets
Body SizeLargerSmaller
AbdomenHairySmooth
AggressionLess aggressiveMore aggressive
Pollen BasketPresentAbsent

Conclusion

In conclusion, bumblebees are not only fascinating beautiful creatures but also are crucial for the environment as they are excellent pollinators.

Unlike other aggressive bee species, they are generally docile and focus on nectar and pollen collection rather than aggression.

Their unique buzz pollination behavior enhances their efficiency as pollinators, benefitting a wide range of plants.

Planting native flowers and providing nesting sites while avoiding harmful pesticides are excellent ways of attracting these insects.

Footnotes

  1. Clemson University – Bumble Bees as Pollinators

  2. Mayo Clinic – Bee Stings

  3. Clemson University – Bumble Bees as Pollinators

  4. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Wasps and Hornets

  5. Clemson University – Bumble Bees as Pollinators

  6. National Geographic – Can Honeybees Recognize Human Faces? (article includes information on bumblebees)

  7. National Geographic – Can Honeybees Recognize Human Faces? (article includes information on bumblebees)

  8. Penn State Extension – The Bumble Bee Lifestyle

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about bumble bees. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Bee Id Help
Location:  Gainsville, Ga
August 20, 2010, 2:05 pm
Picture taken Gainsville Ga.
August 19, 2010.
Is this a bumblebee or a carpenter bee?
Yellow color but shiny abdomen?
Thank you,
J Serences

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Hi J,
In our opinion, this is a Common Eastern Bumble Bee,
Bombus impatiens.  You can see BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 2 – Hunt’s Bumble Bee

Tricolored Bumble Bee
Location: Mancos, CO (Southwestern Colorado)
May 4, 2012, 4:11 pm
Bugman,
I have the great fortune of having an apple tree in full bloom here at my home. There are many species of bees buzzing about, but this one especially caught my eye.

I thought that I would submit my picture of what I think is a tricolored bumble bee to you.
Signature: Jessica of Mancos, CO

Bumble Bee

Hi Jessica,
Thanks for sending us your beautiful photograph.  While the coloration on this Bumble Bee resembles that of the TriColored Bumble Bee,
Bombus ternarius, we have our doubts that the identification is correct. 

You are not in the range that is documented on BugGuide, and BugGuide also states that the range is:  “Yukon to Nova Scotia, south to Georgia; widespread in the United States but rarely observed south of Pennsylvania.” 

There are other similarly colored Bumble Bees, including Hunt’s Bumble Bee, Bombus huntii, which are documented from Colorado

According to BugGuide, it has:  “Yellow hairs on face.”  Sadly, your photograph does not show the face.  Bombus sylvicola is also documented in Colorado according to BugGuide.  We also could not rule out the Red-Belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, which is also pictured on BugGuide.

After further investigation, it seems that my initial identification was incorrect.  It is indeed a Hunt’s Bumble Bee – I went back through the photos I had taken of (him? her?) and found a picture that shows a fuzzy ridge of yellow hairs on the crown of its head. 

Thank you for your response, and please see the photo attached showing the facial hairs.

Hunt’s Bumble Bee

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for the follow-up and additional photo.

Letter 3 – Bumble Flower Beetle and Phoretic Mites

What is this brown beetle that keeps burrowing into my garden?
May 19, 2010
I have a garden in my backyard, organic, and a few times now I’ve caught this type of beetle trying to burrow its way down into my soil.

It’s a flying beetle, though it doesn’t seem to be that graceful (the first time I saw it it flew in past me and landed upside down in the dirt, then situated itself and commenced the burrowing).

It’s about the size of the nail on my thumb and blends in pretty well with the dirt. The garden that it seems to prefer is one that contains asparagus, green onions, carrots, and radishes.

I really just want to know whether or not this beetle can be harmful to my garden; if it isn’t then I have no problem with sharing the space! If it’s terrorizing the roots of my plants, however, we may have some issues.

The images that I’m attaching, just to clarify, are not of a dead bug. This beetle plays dead when poked. This particular fella continued what he was doing a few minutes after our photoshoot.


Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time!
Jamie
Ohio, USA

Bumble Flower Beetle

Hi Jamie,
This is a Bumble Flower Beetle, Euphoria inda, and we identified it on BugGuide which indicates:  “Larvae usually reported to live in decaying wood, vegetation, and especially, dung (5). Eggs deposited in summer near these food sources.

Larvae feed and overwinter, or perhaps pupae overwinter. Adults emerge in early summer. Males often seen searching for newly-emerged females.” 

Your organic garden probably has rich organic soil that can provide a food source for the young. 

The Texas Beetle Information website provides this interesting information:  “You know that the sun MUST be out for them to fly…  Can be the same temp but no sun, no beetles…  They drop to the ground and dig in as soon as it gets cloudy…” 

The Beetles of Eastern North America website also has some good information.  Your second image of the underside has what appears to be a parasitic infestation, possibly a Tachinid Fly. 

The Pacific Horticulture Website has an excellent article on Tachinid Flies.  We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he has a theory on the parasite.

Daniel:
I don’t see a fly anywhere in this picture.  I see what *could* be mites, but this also looks like a DEAD beetle.  I can’t draw any conclusions.
Eric

I thought they looked like fly larvae. 

Thanks, Eric.
Daniel

Ah, well, if so then Phoridae would be a better candidate than Tachinids I think.  Still, the image is wa-a-a-a-y out of focus, can’t tell if the beetle is alive or not….:

Here is the link to the letter Eric,
She described the beetle as still moving.
Daniel

Ok, then mites (phoretic, not parasitic) are the most likely candidates for the tiny objects on the underside of the beetle.
Eric

Letter 4 – Bumble Flower Beetle and Mating Red Milkweed Beetles

Epicaerus Weevil on Milkweed???
Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 11:21 AM
Hello Daniel,
I can’t be sure, even after an hour and a half of looking for this “bug,” if a weevil it is or not. The snout says it is… Yes? No…?


These two photos (lightened for assistance in identification) were taken in farm country in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.


The photo of the pair of red, black dotted, beetles (borer? blister?) was taken at the same time. I appreciate any assistance that you may be able to give me.


Thank you so much for being there,
R.G. Marion

Bumble Flower Beetle
Bumble Flower Beetle

Hi R.G.,
Nice to hear from you again after so long. We actually believe the suspected weevil is a Bumble Flower Beetle, Euphoria inda, based on the appearance of its antennae. The photo is lacking details, but the basic outline of the form of the beetle and the antennae indicate that it is probably a Bumble Flower Beetle.

There are clearer images on BugGuide which credits the following information to Blatchley: “Throughout the State (Indiana); frequent. March 20-August 17.

On the first warm, sunny days of spring this “bumble flower-beetle” comes forth in numbers and flies close to the ground with a loud buzzing noise like that of a bumble-bee, for which it is often mistaken.

When captured it defends itself by emitting a strong, pungent chlorine-like odor. A second brood is said to appear in September. The larva live in rotten wood, beneath chips and other woody debris.

The adults are often found sucking the juices of roasting ears, peaches, grapes and apples, and sometimes do much damage. “

Red Milkweed Beetles Mating

We are quite certain your mating beetles are Red Milkweed Beetles or Milkweed Longhorns, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus. It is the first of the month now, and we always have problems with image posting at the beginning of the month.

We will contact our web host and hopefully, this will be corrected in the morning.

Letter 5 – Bumble Nest in Bird House

Subject: bumble bees
Location: Alabama
May 24, 2016, 2:26 pm
I saw a bumble bee flying around one of my birdhouses and I went a little closer to see it. Two of them got after me and stung my right ear!! I’ve attached some photos.
Signature: Jerry Lee

Bumble Bee Nest in Bird House

Dear Jerry Lee,
Bumble Bees frequently nest in abandoned birdhouses.  Bumble Bees are not aggressive, but they will defend a nest.  We would urge you to allow these native, beneficial pollinators to live in your birdhouse and to watch them from afar.

Letter 6 – Bumblebee Scarab from Italy

Subject:  What bug is this?
The geographic location of the bug:  Lampedusa, Italy
Date: 10/22/2017
Time: 08:14 AM EDT
I’m currently staying on the island of Lampedusa and seeing some unfamiliar bugs. This had just appeared on my balcony – I thought it some kind of bee at first but on closer inspection looks more like a furry beetle.


Also, am I better off leaving it or relocating it to an area with shrubs etc?
How do you want your letter signed:  Mike

Bumblebee Scarab

Dear Mike,
We are nearly certain that this is a Bumblebee Scarab in the family Glaphyridae.  Here is a Project Noah image of a member of the family and PICSSR has a nice image by YM Zhang that looks very similar to your individual. 

Forum Entomologi Italiani has numerous images of members of this family, including this image of Pygopleurus apicalis.  If you send your images to them and you get a response, please let us know. 

According to The Scarabs of the Levant:  “Except for a few species, life histories of the glaphyrids are poorly documented. Adults are often brightly colored, densely setose, active diurnally, and strong fliers.

Many species have colored setal bands on the abdomen and resemble various Hymenoptera (bumble bees and metallic bees). They are frequenting flowers (often red Ranuncolacee and Tulipa) and foliage.”

Bumblebee Scarab

Letter 7 – California Bumble Bee

Mt Washington, Los Angeles, California
April 2, 2011
Yesterday, while working in the yard, we saw a large Bumble Bee visiting the calla lilies.  By the time we returned with the camera, it was gone, but this morning, this lovely lady was spotted resting on the wisteria after a cool night.

  We expect she will soon be busy gathering nectar and pollen to provision a nest.  We believe this is the California Bumble Bee, Bombus californicus, which Hogue, in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, describes as:  “yellow on abdominal segment 2 only;  the rest of the abdomen and face are black.” 

BugGuide also has some nice images of the California Bumble Bee.  We have also seen Yellow Faced Bumble Bees in our Mt Washington, Los Angeles garden.

Letter 8 – Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Subject:  Beetle bee?!
Geographic location of the bug:  Lincoln Nebraska
Date: 08/22/2018
Time: 09:58 PM EDT
Your letter to the Bugman:  Hey Bugman!
Question! May be an easy one but I’ve never seen anything like this before. I was sitting on my patio when this fella flew up.

Looks like pollen maybe on the hind leg. It looks like a beetle and a bee but reminded me of a spider in the way it sat and was quickly moving like a startled spider?!
Thanks for the help!
How you want your letter signed:  Curious

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Dear Curious,
As you can see from this BugGuide image, this is a Common Eastern Bumble Bee. 

Perhaps due to pesticides, habitat loss, or some other reason, populations of native and Honey Bees are on the decline, making these once very common and easily recognized insects much less familiar to the casual observer.

Letter 9 – Golden Northern Bumble Bee and Syrphid Fly

Subject: Bumble Bee Assult
Location: Central Michigan
November 27, 2013 6:51 pm
Greetings, I took this picture back in 2005 when out on a mid-morning walk through a semi-wooded in Michigan.

The eastern side of the northern L.P. (Yale if ya can find it on a map). I recently came across the image again and I’m baffled by what is attacking(?) that poor bee.

Doesn’t look like a mosquito, but does appear to attacking like one. Wish a had a shot from the other side, but they both took off when I tried moving around them.

Wondering if you can help identify the attacker, and clarify if this is an aggressive attack leading to the bee’s death or just a blood meal feeding like mosquitos do. Thanks
Signature: Glenn

Golden Northern Bumble Bee attacked by possibly Tachinid Fly
Golden Northern Bumble Bee and Syrphid Fly

Hi Glenn,
We believe, but we are not certain, that your bee is a Golden Northern Bumble Bee,
Bombus fervidus, and you can compare your image to photos posted to BugGuide.  We are guessing the fly is a Tachinid Fly, and according to BugGuide

Larval stages are parasitoids of other arthropods; hosts include members of 11 insect orders, centipedes, spiders, and scorpions. Some tachinids are very host-specific, others parasitize a wide variety of hosts.

The most common hosts are caterpillars. Most tachinids deposit their eggs directly on the body of their host, and it is not uncommon to see caterpillars with several tachinid eggs on them.

Upon hatching the larva usually burrows into its host and feeds internally. Full-grown larva leaves the host and pupates nearby. Some tachinids lay their eggs on foliage; the larvae are flattened and are called planidia; they remain on the foliage until they find a suitable host.” 

We will check with Eric Eaton to get his opinion on this photo.

Eric Eaton provides some input
Looks like a male bumble bee of some kind, with a syrphid riding on it (Allograpta, Toxomerus, or something else, awkward angle at which to make an identification of either insect).
Eric

Hi,
Thanks for the quick reply and information. Has a tough shot, had the camera about a foot over my head trying to see the screen at a pretty shallow angle. But it’s had me wondering back then and now.

I presume it leads to the death of the bumble bee over time. Seems internal feeding wouldn’t bode well for the host =(
Hope ya had a good Thanksgiving
Glenn

Hi again Glenn,
Eric Eaton believes the fly to be a Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae.  If that is the case, it most likely just alighted on the Bumble Bee and there was no predation involved.

Letter 10 – Green Lynx Spider Eats Bumble Bee

Green lynx spider eats bumble bee
Tue, Nov 4, 2008 at 7:35 AM
Hi Bugman. Maybe this is the true reason for the bee shortage. We saw this food chain demonstration while hiking Moss Park in Orlando, Fl. on Nov.1st. The sun was setting and so we also saw gorgeous orb weavers busy spinning their webs.

None of my past submissions have been posted so since this is your favorite spider, I hope my photo will make it to your website. By the way, I impressed my husband when I blurted out “oh, that’s a green lynx spider”! (just a little identification I picked up from my visits to your site).

Thanks for the great website.
Elizabeth from Orlando
Orlando, Fl.

Green Lynx Spider eats Bumble Bee
Green Lynx Spider eats Bumble Bee

Hi Elizabeth,
What a marvelous photo of our favorite spider, the Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans.

Letter 11 – Hanging Thief Eats Bumble Bee

Wasp Predating on Bee
Location: Eatonton GA (Middle GA)
July 20, 2011 6:30 am
Hello!
I love the daily Bug posts on Facebook. I’m a gardener and see all sorts of interesting insects.

Here are two photos of a wasp eating a bee in my pole beans. I don’t know what kind of wasp this is – they typically eat pests and nectar. I think the bee is a wood bee – we have many of them.
Signature: GA Gardener

Hanging Thief eats Bumble Bee

Dear GA Gardener,
This adroit predator is a Hanging Thief, a species of Robber Fly, and it appears that it has caught and is feeding upon a small Bumble Bee. 

You should be able to tell how the Hanging Thief got its common name as your photo clearly shows it hanging from a single leg as it is feeding.  The prey is typically caught on the wing.

Letter 12 – Hunt’s Bumble Bee, we believe

Subject:  Funny looking bee and Orb Weaver
The geographic location of the bug:  Bee from South Weber, Utah. Orb Weaver from Sardine Canyon, Utah
Date: 05/14/2018
Time: 02:27 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have no idea what these two are, besides being a bee and an orb weaver spider (it had an orb web).
Please help me identify these. Feel free to use the photos as you wish.
How you want your letter signed:  William Sweden

Hunt’s Bumble Bee, we believe

Dear William,
There are several species of Bumble Bees with red markings.  The closest visual match we were able to find is this Hunt’s Bumble Bee,
Bombus huntii, pictured on BugGuide.  Please confine your identification requests to a single species unless there is a good reason to include more than one species, like a Food Chain image.

Letter 13 – Immature Florida Predatory Stink Bugs communally feeding on Bumble Bee

Red and black what I think is a beetle eating a bumble bee
Sat, Jun 20, 2009 at 1:42 PM
I was outside working in my yard when I looked up on my awning and saw what I thought was a bumble bee holding a flower, but then I saw some liquid drop and I decided to look closer.

When I did, I saw that it was a bunch of small red and black beetles eating the bumble bee. I was kind of shocked.

I just moved to northern North Carolina and have seen some strange bugs, but the ones eating the bumble bee are the strangest. If you could, please tell me what this is.
Angelica
Reidsville, NC

Florida Predatory Stink Bugs eat Bumble Bee
Florida Predatory Stink Bugs eat Bumble Bee

Hi Angelica,
These are immature Florida Predatory Sting Bugs, Euthyrhynchus floridanus, sometimes called Halloween Bugs because of the black and orange coloration of the adults, which are winged.

According to BugGuide, they are: “Predatory on other insects, including caterpillars, beetle. Nymphs, and to some extent, adults, are gregarious, and may attack large prey in groups.” Your photo nicely illustrates this.

Despite what your photo illustrates, the Florida Predatory Stink Bug is a beneficial insect because of the caterpillars and beetles it consumes. We are guessing Bees, since they can easily fly away, are not commonly eaten.

Update: From Eric Eaton
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 17:12:31 -0700 (PDT)
The predatory stink bugs appear to be scavenging the remains of a dead carpenter bee (it is missing both hind legs, so who can say for certain…).

Many hemipterans, even plant feeders, will scavenge dead insects on occasion.
Eric

Letter 14 – Mating Bumble Bees

Bumblebee love
August 19, 2009
I looked out the window, at my hummingbird feeder, and saw bees, not birds. You might say the birds and bees. It’s what my mother called it. So, I grabbed my camera, and out the door. Now the hard part.

The hummingbird feeder is outside my bedroom window, on the second floor. So I got a step ladder and went up. As you can see the sun was on the wrong side. I moved the ladder to the other side.

On that side is a steep bank. So here I am standing on one leg leaning out, to keep the ladder from falling. I’m holding the camera in one hand, leaning out to get close enough to get the shot.

I wasn’t very steady or close. So the quality of the last photo isn’t the best. If I live another 60 years, I doubt I’ll ever see this again. I plan to print one of these and give it to my brother, who works at an art shop, to frame, for my wall.


Terry
Mound, MN

Mating Bumble Bees
Mating Bumble Bees

Hi Terry,
We think your photos are very nice, and since we teach photography, our opinion should count for something.  Even if the photos were terrible, we would post them because we love your letter so much. 

The unbridled enthusiasm you expressed at witnessing this apian union is priceless.  We don’t feel qualified to identify what species your amorous Bumble Bees belong to since the BugGuide archive is quite daunting, but perhaps one of our readers will be helpful with the species identification.

Mating Bumble Bees

Daniel,
Thank you so much for the kind words. High praise indeed, from a professional like yourself.
These mating bumblebees were Identified, as Bombus impatiens, by a young man that goes by Vespula Vulgaris. Take a look, http://www.bugguide.net/nod/view/162893 .

I’m no expert, but it looks like a match to me.
I have more photos to send you, but my computer is running slow.

And before the photo has loaded, it shuts down. I guess it’s true what they say about old dogs.

Letter 15 – Mating Bumble Bees

Subject: Mating bees
Location: Mason City, Ia
August 14, 2012, 8:49 pm
Had to share a couple of pictures of these bees that I almost stepped on in my backyard. Since they were not moving I went in to get my camera and captured the following pictures.

Picture 1 is of the 2 bees in the grass(please note that we are going through a drought right now)picture 2 was taken after the 2 flew around the yard and landed on a bush.

This is something I had never seen before and was glad to capture it.
Signature: Amber Olsen

Mating Bumble Bees

Hi Amber,
Thanks for sending your wonderful photos of mating Bumble Bees.  We wish we could determine the species.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide that information.

Mating Bumble Bees

Letter 16 – Mating Bumble Bees

Subject: Bumblebees (for adult viewing)
Location: Oceanside, NY
September 10, 2014, 2:51 pm
It’s THAT time of year!
I thought you might like to add this to your collection.
Any idea which bumblebees these two are?
Signature: CarlF

Mating Bumble Bees
Mating Bumble Bees

Dear CarlF,
Though we try our best to keep our site PG-rated
and kid-friendly, we do not shy away from posting images of the proverbial “birds and the bees” as well as images of other insects mating, making our Bug Love tag one of our most popular features. 

We believe your mating Bumble Bees are most likely the Common Eastern Bumble Bees, Bombus impatiens, based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 17 – Greek Beetle is Bumble Bee Scarab

Bee-Like Beetle
Photographed in central Greece, May 2008. Behaved like a bee, too, buzzing and visiting flowers, but those sure look like Elytra
David

Hi David,
We agree that those elytra indicate a beetle, but we are not certain what beetle. Our first guess is one of the Hairy Flower Scarabs in the Tribe Trichiini as shown on BugGuide. We will check if Eric Eaton has an opinion.

Update: (06/02/2008)
Hi, Daniel:
I suspect it is some kind of buprestid, but I agree that an ID may be impossible without more images to work from.
Eric

Update: February 16, 2011
Wildabug has provided us with a brief comment that places this beetle in the family Glaphyridae, the Bumble Bee Scarab Beetles.  We found a nice web page called the Scarabs of the Levant that profiles these fascinating beetles. 

Here is an excerpt:  “Except for a few species, life histories of the glaphyrids are poorly documented. Adults are often brightly colored, densely setose, active diurnally, and strong fliers.

Many species have colored setal bands on the abdomen and resemble various Hymenoptera (bumble bees and metallic bees). They are frequenting flowers (often red Ranuncolacee and Tulipa) and foliage.

Larval are free living in ground or sandy areas (riparian and coastal dunes) where immature stages feed on the rooths or on decaying leaf litter and detritus that is layered in the sand. “

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

7 thoughts on “Are Bumblebees Friendly? Debunking Myths and Understanding Their Behavior”

  1. I have found the same bees living next to the garden on the side of my house in Dubuque, IA. I was pulling weeds and disturbed them. I know they burrow because I found where they are coming up from the ground. They don’t seem to be aggressive, but I’ve still decided to respect their space and wait until they settle in for the Winter before I go back to work on the area. However, I still haven’t been able to ID them exactly.

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