Bumble Bee or Carpenter Bee?
When encountering black, almost round bees buzzing around their home most
people do not know the difference between the bumble bee and carpenter
bee. There are two basic things to note that should quickly let you know
which bee you are seeing: location and activity of bee
and certain physical characteristics of the bee.
General Bumble Bee Information
The "Bumble Bee" is a big, hairy, black and yellow bee whose size can range from 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch. This insect is often mistaken for a carpenter bee, which closely resembles the bumble bee in appearance. Carpenter bees have a shiny and smooth abdomen as opposed to the fuzzy abdomen seen on a bumble bee.
There are over 200 types of Bumble bees in the
world. Fifty different types can be found in North America. Each
different species will have its own preference to types of nectar and prefers
Bumble bees have very few predators in nature. Skunks are their largest and most destructive predator. Skunks are omnivores that will eat insects, rodents, reptiles, small mammals, worms, eggs, fish, fruit, and plants. When they locate a bumble bee nest, skunks help themselves to bee larvae and adult insects. They ignore the pain of bee stings to get to their preferred foods.
The queen bumble bee comes out of hibernation every
spring to find a new spot to build her nest and start a new colony. This
queen bee was fertilized the previous season and has managed to live through the
It is in this padded underground hole that the fertilized queen bumble bee lays her eggs and begins collecting nectar for her soon to hatch grubs. On the grubs emerge from their eggs, the queen bumble bee spins a protective silk cocoon for each grub. It is from this first batch of larvae that 5 to 20 daughters emerge. These daughters of the queen bumble bee are workers who begin immediately start working on building the colony. The queen bee will continue to lay eggs for the remainder of the summer season. The workers work tirelessly to build the colony, collect nectar for the young and also to provide protection for the colony. The first batch (or hatching) of bumble bee workers are smaller than their sisters who will emerge later on when the colony grows larger and healthier. The queen bee uses her energy to begin the nest and this energy (as well as time) is spread thin as she is the sole worker for the new colony. As the colony grows, the eggs and larvae are given more attention and food simply because there are many workers that share the work load. It is at this point in time that larger bumble bees are seen.
Bumble bees are often first noticed (in the area of the nest) when this activity of guarding the nest and pollen collecting begins. The worker bees are focused only on their job and will not go out of their way to sting people. It is only if people get too close to their nest or threaten them when bumble bees will sting. Bumble bees do not die after stinging, as do some other stinging insects.
Towards late summer, the queen will start to produce drones and young queens. The young queens are fertilized by the drones, then fly off to hibernate. Hibernation usually takes place in dry protected areas such as loose bark. The colony's remaining drones and workers stay in the colony and die during the winter season. The young queens start new colonies in the spring of the year. As mentioned above, bumble bees do not use the same nest though they may nest in an area close by to the original bee nest.
Bumble Bee Control
Bumble bees are very important, beneficial insects that pollinate plants
and flowers. Their activity in your gardens are desirable but allowing
them to nest in areas where children and pets frequent or where you garden is
When people come into contact with an active nest there are only two alternatives:
As beneficial as bumble bees are, they are indeed a pest when the location of their nest causes stings to people.
Eliminate Bumble Bees Nest
When the location of a bumble bee nest dictates elimination for safety's sake, certain products, techniques and timing are essential. Using the wrong pest control products or using any control products during the peak of bee activity are the major mistakes you want to avoid. For instructions on how to get rid of bumble bees that have become a hazard, see Bumble Bee Control; . The control article will give you choices of products for different locations of bumble bee nests.
Our thanks to Chrissy Powell Helmig for her hard work and research that
went into this bumble bee information page.