Are honey bees the only bugs that can make honey? How about bumblebees? Do bumblebees make honey?
Well, it turns out that they can!
Like honey bees, bumblebees make their honey from nectar and pollen. CC Image courtesy of Alvesgaspar on Wikipedia
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Bumblebees have their own version of honey
Just like carpenter bees, bumblebees make something that’s related to honey but not the one that we’re used to. They have their own unique version of that golden syrup, and it’s still made from the same ingredients that honey bees use.
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Bumblebees rely on pollen for their protein and nectar for their daily dose of sugar. And like all pollinators, they collect these food items from flowers.
Keep in mind that honey is really just dehydrated and fermented nectar with some traces of pollen in it. So when it comes right down to it, bumblebees and honey bees somewhat have the same procedure in making this sweet concoction.
What typically happens is that bumblebees store excess pollen and/ or nectar inside some chambers in their nest. The pollen and nectar are mixed with their saliva because of how they’re handled, being kept temporarily inside the stomach and regurgitated back out several times. So the nectar, pollen and bee saliva combination end up fermenting and tasting somewhat like honey.
Additionally, fuzzy bumblebees live inside a hive-like nest. We say “hive-like” because it isn’t actually a hive that houses thousands of bees. Instead, it’s comprised of only a couple of hundred of them (about 40 to 500). With this small population, it’s only natural that these insects don’t keep a massive collection of their honey. What they do have is a few stores which are usually consumed for a short period of time.
Bumblebees don’t rely too much on their honey
Bumblebees are different. They don’t owe majority of their food to what they store away. Instead, they usually feed on nectar and pollen directly. The small colony enjoys sipping on nectar while the queen and all of her larvae mostly eat pollen. That’s because it’s rich in protein, so it’s good for reproduction and growth and development.
The reason for the bumblebees’ lack of reliance on stored honey is practical. For bumblebees in temperate regions like the US and Canada, their nests have a short lifespan. They only last for a few months, and they don’t even reach winter.
In contrast, honey bees can huddle up inside their hives and last through the frigid season. They survive the cold by slowly consuming their honey. But for bumblebees, only the new queens have the ability to hibernate and to build new nests when spring comes. More than 90% of her old nest dies, the old queen, the drones and the workers. So it makes sense not to keep a lot of honey since no one’s going to be around to eat all of it anyway.
Believe it or not, there are a few people that do harvest bumblebee honey. So when someone asks,“ Do bumblebees make honey? ” Invite him to take a little taste test with you. You might want to try one for yourself to see if their honey is different from the usual bottle that you buy from supermarkets.