Some fascinating facts about bumblebees

I recently asked our Outreach Assistant, Rebecca, what the most interesting things she has learned about bumblebees since she started working with us. Rebecca's list was long so I've asked to write them down for everyone to enjoy!

• Only female bumblebees have stings. The stinger evolved from an ovipositor for laying eggs, so males can't sting!

• There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK.

• Bumblebees see ultraviolet light, and can't see red very well. So they see flowers in a very different way than we do and can actually see markings which act as guides to the nectar.

• Bumblebees only nest for a single year, so if a place gets nested in every year it means that a new queen has picked that spot as her residence each year.

• If the bumblebee’s thorax temperature falls below 30ºc, it will not be able to fly.

• Bumblebees have smelly feet! They leave a scent on the flower after feeding which  helps other bumblebees avoid feeding from that flower as there will be very little nectar or pollen left after another bee has fed there.

• Bumblebees are much more important than you may realise. Without them, we would not have many fruit and vegetables that we love so much and many wildflowers would disappear. Almost every tomato in the world is pollinated by bumblebees as they need to be 'buzz pollinated'. In Australia, where there are no native bumblebees, tomatoes are all pollinated by hand, using something that looks like an electrical toothbrush which 'buzzes' them

• Bumblebees like to nest in shaded, dry areas. The most likely places are abandoned rodent holes, under sheds and in compost heaps. Of those that nest above ground, some make nests in thick grass, while others make nests in bird boxes and trees

• Bumblebees have lots of predators, including badgers, birds and foxes. Badgers and foex can dig up nests, and birds attack them whem they are flying.

Back to All about the bees blog >