Do bumble bees make honey?

11 September, 2020


          
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Many people ask us, do bumble bees produce honey?

Do wasps make honey? Do hornets make honey? And most commonly, do bumble bees make honey? The answer is...

No. In a previous blog I talked about the process that is involved in honey bees converting nectar into honey.

If you'd like to identify a bumble bee, check out this great article by the bumblebee conservation trust.

Nectar is the raw material that plants produce in order to entice pollinators to their flowers. As the insects are happily nuzzling their way into a flower to retrieve this sugary treat they are inadvertently brushing up against lots of pollen grains. As they fly off they distribute this pollen around, aiding the process of pollination.

So, do bumble bees produce honey?

Bumble bees collect nectar as it is a vital food for them. Nectar is a great source of energy. In the spring, when a queen bumble bee emerges from winter hibernation the first thing she needs is food. Without this she will not be able to begin laying eggs.

She goes out and collects nectar which she then takes back to the nest and keeps in little wax cells. This nectar will be used up fairly rapidly and this is the biggest difference between how bumble bees use nectar and how honey bees use nectar. With bumble bees, nectar doesn't go through the transformation necessary to convert it into honey as it is consumed fairly rapidly.

What is the difference between a bumble bee and a honey bee?

Honey bees collect nectar in order to store it for use over winter. As they collect nectar they will eat some for energy but for most part this nectar will be passed around and eventually end up in a cell ready to be stored. Raw nectar would not be a good candidate for over-winter storage as the high moisture content would lead to fermentation. One thing that makes honey honey is that it doesn't ferment because of its low moisture content. This is what makes it such a great over-winter food source - it's longevity.

So bumble bees do collect nectar, the raw material that eventually becomes honey but they do not convert nectar into honey. Unlike a colony of honey bees, a bumble bee nest is relatively small and the queen spends winter hibernating alone. The population of a honey bee colony over winter is in the thousands. They stay awake and generate heat through vibration. This keeps the queen and colony warm and involves plenty of energy meaning that stores of honey are crucial.

In a previous blog, we touched on if honey bees eat honey. The question is, do bumble bees eat honey?

The answer is… yes! A bumble bee’s diet isn’t too dissimilar to the honey bee. It consists mostly of nectar, pollen and honey. This mix contains all the necessary proteins and sugar to form a healthy diet!

You can support the pollinator population by purchasing a jar of our pure honey or any of our pollinator friendly product range. When you buy any product, we donate 10p to our sister charity RePollinate which aims to tackle the declining pollinator population.

Comments (3 Responses)

12 November, 2021

Stanley

Do bumblebees make honey

14 July, 2021

Eric

Do you know who took the photo of the bumble bee from behind at the top of this page? I would love to get (purchase) a high resolution photo for framing.

Thanks
Eric

16 April, 2021

John Phillips

I have a seventy year old Rhododendron tree, every year it attracts big buzzing bees, except this year. Are they Bumble bees please?

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