Do Bumblees Sting?

By Antonia Čirjak on January 27 2020 in Environment

A bumblebee collects pollen from marigold.

Bumblebees are insects that are a part of one of the bee families, the Apidae. Bumblebee can be any insect from more than 250 species of bees that are from that family. They can mostly be found in the Northern Hemisphere, rarely in southern parts, but some species of European bumblebees have been imported to New Zealand. They live in small colonies, their bodies are covered in hair, and they feed on nectar just like honey bees. Although they rarely sting humans or animals, female bumblebees are sometimes known to sting over and over again.

So, Do Bumblebees Sting?

Bumblebees do sting; however, only the female bees are capable of doing so. The bright colors on their bodies are actually a warning signal that means that females can deliver an excruciating sting. The color of the warning can differ depending on the species of bumblebees. Sometimes it’s just black, while other times very bright, like yellow, orange or pink. The queen bee doesn’t use her stinger against anyone except other opposing queens.

When a bumblebee stings, it does so multiple times, making its sting more harmful than that of other bees. Their stinger can break, although that doesn’t always mean they will die. Bumblebees need to be aggravated for them to attack. They mostly sting anything they consider a threat to the hive, so the majority of attacks happen in its proximity. Their hives are, however, very hard to spot since they are in the ground, so it is necessary to be careful when near bumble bees.

The Biology Of Bumble Bees

Bumblebees are mostly sociable insects that form smaller colonies consisting of around 50 members. Their appearances can differ significantly, but they do have certain things in common. They are all furry and are larger than honey bees. Different species of bumblebees can be separated from each other by comparing the patterns of color on their bodies. They differ from honey bees not only in size but also in the number of stripes covering their frame. Bumblebees have fewer stripes, sometimes none at all.

White-tailed bumblebee
White-tailed bumblebee.

Bumblebees are found in moderate climates, meaning between the tropics and the polar regions. They often live at much higher altitudes than other types of bees. Bumblebees can, however, adjust the temperature of their bodies, so they can live in colder climates too. This ability is unique to the bumblebees. Despite similar anatomy, no other species of bees have exhibited this trait, at least not developed to this level.

The Life Of Bumblebees

Bumblebees feed using their tongues, which resemble long, hairy extensions, that they constantly dip into liquid. While doing that, they suck the floral nectar. When they are not eating, they fold their tongues below their heads. The types of bumblebees that have longer tongues can feed more easily than those with shorter tongues. They can delve into flowers much easier and go deeper, which allows them to collect nectar with ease.

They can produce wax from their glands and use it to make honeypots used to keep eggs safe or cover their nests. It is unknown how well bumblebees can hear since they do not have ears. They are, however, responsive to the vibrations made by sounds traveling through different materials in nature. They don’t communicate with each other using dances like honey bees. They use the sound their wings make while they dash through the nests as a way to transfer information.

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