Honey bees are among the foremost helpful creatures on earth; not alone do they supply us with honey and other byproducts that we consume as food, but honey bees and other bees play an important role within the pollination of plant life. It’s been estimated that up to 30 percent of the food that humans consume around the world is reliant upon pollination by bees.
Both honey bees and bumble bees are members of the family Apidae; honey bees belong to the genus Apis and bumblebees to the genus Bombus. Though there are far more than 250 known species of bumblebee, there are only seven recognized species of honey bee. Each play a role in the pollination of plant life. Each are social animals, living in colonies, and therefore worker bees gather nectar from flowers to take back to their colonies, for consumption and to feed to their young.
Beekeepers raise honey bees for honey, beeswax, and other industrial merchandise; bee colonies kept by beekeepers can last several years, and people bees in the wild also tend to have permanent homes. Typical honey bee colonies have thirty thousand to fifty thousand bees, whether or not domesticated or in the wild; the vast majority of the bees in a colony are feminine worker bees, who are sterile and perform nearly all the work of the colony. Colonies also contain a queen, who is capable of laying eggs to produce young; and a few hundred male drones, whose only purpose is to mate with the queen.
Bumblebees, on the other hand, have many smaller colonies — sometimes fewer than 100 bees. Bumblebees do not build permanent homes as honeybees do; they typically nest in tunnels in the ground, though sometimes they will manufacture a wax canopy for protection. Bumblebee sociatal structure is similar to that of honey bees, with workers, drones, and a queen all fulfilling specific functions, but bumblebee workers aren’t sterile; they are in a position to lay haploid eggs that transform male drones. Only queens are in a position to put diploid eggs that may mature into female workers and queens and even males.
This reproductive competition between the queen and the workers leads to colony behavior that differs from that of honey bees. Early in the reproductive season, the queen can suppress the egg-laying ability of her workers by physical aggression and pheromonal signals. The queen can thereforeproduce all the first male larvae of that season, and all the feminine larvae. Because the queen’s ability to suppress the employees wanes later in the season, employee bees, too, will begin to lay eggs that produce male larvae.
After they mature, new males and queens will be driven from the colony; these outcasts spend nights on flowers or in cavities in the ground. The queens and drones will mate with each other; a mated queen can search for a suitable location to hibernate through the winter. The following spring, the queen can emerge from hibernation and find a location for a nest. The queen, then, forms a new colony and broods her eggs on her own.
Bumblebees do produce honey, from the nectar they gather from flowers; the method is the same as that of honey bees. But, honey bees tend to produce more honey than they need. This makes it easy for beekeepers to harvest honey from domestic hives while leaving enough for the bees’ own needs. Because bumblebee colonies are so much smaller, they’re barely able to supply enough honey for themselves; beekeepers thus do not attempt to raise bumblebees for their honey. Also, it is difficult and typically harmful to extract honey from wild bumblebee nests. Bumblebee honey is perfectly edible, though thinner and more watery than honey bee honey.
It can sometimes could be difficult for beginners to tell them apart, however they are distinct animals with different habits and life cycles.