Bumblebees are a vital part of any garden and are among the most important pollinators. These large fuzzy, buzzing insects pollinate most flowering plants, helping to fertilize them as they gather nectar and pollen.
Bumblebees are known for their distinctive large black and yellow striped bodies. They are social insects and a common sight in most gardens and outdoor spaces.
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Identification of Bumblebees
Bumblebees are easy to recognize due to their large size and distinctive coloring. They can be identified by the following characteristics:
- Bumblebee eggs are usually white or pale yellow.
- The eggs are slightly curved.
- They are 0.10 – 0.16 inches (2.5 – 4.0 mm) long.
- These eggs are placed in a nest beside the honey pots.
- The larva of a bumblebee looks like a small legless grub or worm.
- It is creamy white or pale yellow.
- Bumblebee larvae can be found inside the nest, feeding on pollen and nectar.
- They are 0.2 – 0.28 inches (5-7 mm) long.
- Bumblebee cocoons are oval or cylindrical.
- They are made of wax and silk.
- These cocoons are usually dark brown.
- They are located in the nest containing the bumblebee pupa.
- These pupas are immobile and do not eat during this stage of development.
- Cocoons are around 0.5 inches (12 mm) in length. The length could vary depending on the specific species of bumblebee.
- Bumblebees have round, fuzzy bodies, typically black and yellow or black and orange, but they can also be all black. This depends on a specific species of bumblebee.
- Adult bumblebees have a round, plump appearance, six legs, antennae, and wings.
- These pollinators are larger than most other bees.
- Depending on their species, the size of a bumblebee can range from 0.5 inches (13 mm) to 1 inch (25 mm).
- These insects have a distinctive buzzing noise when they fly, which can be heard from a distance.
Life Cycle of Bumblebees
The life cycle of a bumblebee starts in the spring, with a fertilized queen emerging from her winter dormancy. As the only surviving member of the previous year’s colony, the queen has the vital role of starting a new colony.
Bumblebees never build their nest in the same location as last year. The queen will always search for a new location, which could be in the ground or in any cavity, such as an abandoned rodent nest or even a birdhouse.
Once the queen has found a suitable location, she begins to collect nectar and pollen. Then she constructs a nest using wax and plant fibers.
The queen will lay several eggs inside the nest and will tend to them. To keep the eggs at the right temperature, she will sit on them and shiver her muscles to generate heat. To sustain herself during this time, she will drink nectar for energy. When the eggs hatch, tiny, white, grub-like larvae will emerge.
The queen will feed larvae with a mixture of flower nectar, pollen, and bee saliva. This mixture is called “bee bread.” The larvae will grow and develop within the nest, molting several times. Then the larvae will pupate and emerge as adult bees.
These adult bees will take on various roles within the colony, including foraging for food, tending to the young, and protecting the nest.
At this stage, the queen bumblebee will stay inside the nest and focus on laying more eggs and giving directions to worker bumblebees.
During the late summer, the bumblebee nest will start producing offspring that are not workers. Instead, they will be either new queens or males. The males will leave the nest and will not come back. They will feed on nectar and pollen but will not collect it.
When new queens are ready to mate, they will fly out of the nest and look for males. Males will compete with each other for the queen, but most males will never get to mate.
After they mate, new queens will feed on lots of pollen and nectar. This will be stored in their bodies as fat, which they will use to stay alive during their long winter sleep underground (hibernation).
The original colony will die off as the weather begins to cool and food becomes scarce.
New queens are the only colony members to survive the winter, and they will start new colonies next spring.
How to Attract Bumblebees to Your Garden
Bumblebees are important pollinators for many plants, including many of the crops we rely on for food.
Here is a list of some of the most popular edible plants that will attract bumblebees:
Here is a list of some of the most popular non-edible plants that will attract bumblebees:
- St. John’s Wort
Here is a list of some of the most popular weeds that will attract bumblebees:
Pro Tip 1: Avoid pesticides! These can harm bumblebees and other beneficial insects.
Pro Tip 2: Plant native flowers, as they are most likely to be visited by local bumblebees.
Interesting And Fun Facts About Bumblebees
- Bumblebees are social insects and live in colonies with a single queen and multiple workers.
- These beneficial insects can fly as far as 0.62 of a mile (1 km) from their nest in search of food.
- Bumblebees can fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees. This makes them well-suited for pollinating flowers that bloom early in the morning or late in the evening. It also makes them essential pollinators in cooler climates.
- Some species of bumblebees can be seen searching for food as late as November or as early as February.
- They can pollinate flowers by using their body’s and wings’ vibrations to shake pollen loose. This is a process known as “buzz pollination.” This technique is especially effective for pollinating certain flowers, such as tomatoes and blueberries. 
- Bumblebees have a specialized pollen basket on their hind legs, which they use to transport pollen back to the nest.
What to Do Next
Check out our other Beneficial Insects Guides. Read and learn more about how to identify their benefit and how to attract them.
Also, check out our Gardening Guides to learn easy step-by-step tutorials.
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