When it comes to picturing bees and their homes, many people will picture a beehive. This is certainly the case for honey bees, which live in hives that they make in hollow trees, rock crevices, and other suitable areas.
The hive is certainly one of the quintessential images of bees, but do bumble bees have hives?
You’ll see plenty of bumble bees during the summer, with them buzzing around loudly in the sun and slowly flying from flower to flower, pollinating each one. However, where do these insects spend their time living?
In our buzz-tastic guide below, we’ve got everything you need to know about whether bumble bees have hives. Read on!
Do Bumble Bees Have Hives?
First things first, let’s answer the key question! Although honey bees live in hives, bumble bees do not.
This means that you won’t see any bumble bees in a beehive, living or raising their young there, and that’s just one of the many differences between honey bees and bumblebees.
What Do Bumble Bees Live Inside?
But if bumble bees don’t live in beehives, where do they live? Well, they choose to either live above ground or underground. However, the majority go for the underground where they’re more tucked away.
The locations of their nests can vary. When it comes to underground nests, they might live in an old rodent’s den or an abandoned burrow. Meanwhile, there are plenty of overground locations to choose from – anything from a hole in a tree, a spot in some tall grass, or even a disused bird box.
How Do Bumble Bees Pick Their Nest Location?
When it comes to bumble bees picking the location of where they’re going to settle down and build their nest, it’s all to do with the bumble bee queen.
For some of the year, the bumble bee queen is in a state of diapause, which is a period of suspended development. However, when it comes to spring and the temperatures begin to get warmer, the queen leaves diapause and must find a place to set up next for her and her fellow bumble bees.
However, she’ll first need to get the energy to conduct the search. Since she’s been asleep for countless months during diapause, her energy reserves have been drained, leaving her without the energy to fly.
In order to fly, her flight muscles need to reach 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and so she increases their temperature by shivering for a few minutes. After that, she’ll need to feed on nectar and pollen, giving her energy.
Once she’s got the energy necessary for her all-important search, it’s time for the queen bumble bee to begin looking for the ideal nest location.
They tend to conduct the search close to the ground while flying in a zig-zag pattern, with the bee using her smell and sight to pore over each bit of land and interrogate whether it’s suitable.
An underground spot will be preferable, because it’s away from direct spotlight and offers some privacy. As a result, the queen will look for places with concealed entrances.
Additionally, the spot also needs to be near to food sources. It isn’t just going to be the queen living in the nest, she’s going to be there with a hungry colony, and one that she needs to develop and strength. This means that there needs to be food sources available nearby.
Building The Bumble Bee Nest
When it comes to actually building the nest, bumble bees actually have a little less input than you might think. While honeybees and carpenter bees are well-known for building their own hives, bumble bees instead find a spot where the majority of their nest-building supplies are already available.
These supplies vary, including things like aged tall grass, leaves, fur, and moss. All of these are useful materials for building a good nest for the bumble bee, and the queen will look for a location that already has these within reach, before gathering them up for use.
What Does A Bumble Bee Nest Look Like?
With the selection of example materials we’ve just covered, you can already begin to imagine what a bumble bee’s final nest will look like. It’s likely to be a small hole in the ground, something akin to an abandoned burrow, and it’s covered with moss or grass.
It’s an unassuming exterior and one that hides the nest quite well.
Meanwhile, the interior of the bumble bee nest is typically in disarray. Bumble bees are far from tidy, unlike honeybees for example, and as a result their nests are pretty messy.
While the beehive of a honeybee will have the classic image of hexagon-shaped cells all arranged in a neat way, the bumble bee nest is the opposite.
With the queen bee sitting in the middle, everything around her is disorganized into one jumble: all the bee brood (their eggs), pollen, and honey are all stacked on top of one another.
On top of that, a bumble bee nest is a lot smaller than you might have imagined. This is because the lifespan for bumble bees is much shorter than honeybees, with the queens typically only living about a year and their workers only a couple of months.
As a result, the bumble bee colonies are small and struggle to grow, with the average size of them being between 50 and 400 bees.
Threats To The Bumble Bee Nest
There are a few threats to bumble bee nests. For one, there are things called cuckoo bees (see also: Species Breakdown: Cuckoo Bee [Holcopasites Calliopsidis])that entirely depend on other bees. As a result, they hijack the queen bumble bee’s nest, and often a fight breaks out.
Meanwhile, there are environmental threats too. Many ideal nesting spots like hedgerows are being uprooted, limiting the amount of other animal’s burrows to take over. Similarly, uprooted wildflower landscapes result in less nectar and pollen sources.
Bumble bees don’t have hives – their queens make nests overground or underground.