Native bumble bees are distinct from managed honey bees though they are both facing challenges. Honey bees were introduced to North America and are kept today by beekeepers for their honey, beeswax, and pollination services. There are over 800 bee species native to Canada alone but many native bumble bees are rapidly declining and some have disappeared completely. Here are some of the major differences between these important pollinators.

Bumble Bees

  • Fat and furry in appearance.
  • 40 different species of bumble bees in Canada.
  • Different species have different tongue lengths. This means they feed from different shaped flowers.
  • Bumble bees live in nests with 50 – 400 bees.
  • Only the queen hibernates.
  • The queen lives for one full year, but on average individual workers/males live a couple of weeks.
  • They live in the wild in gardens rural areas.
  • Bumble bees only store small amounts of a honey-like substance.
  • Bumble bee populations are declining.
  • They can sting more than once but directly threatened and persistently bothered.
  • They don’t “dance” but may communicate by passing pollen between worker bees.

Honey Bees

  • Smaller and slim appearance, like a wasp.
  • Only one species of honeybee in Canada
  • All honey bees have short tongues so they prefer open flowers.
  • Honey bees live in hives with between 20,000 and 60,000 bees.
  • The queen and many of her daughters live in the hive all year.
  • The queen can live for three – four years.
  • Most honey bees are looked after by beekeepers, but there are may be some very rare wild colonies.
  • Honey bees make lots of honey, which beekeepers can harvest to eat or sell.
  • Honey bees declined in past years due to diseases and mites.
  • Honey bees may die after they have stung as their stinger is barbed and may stick in skin, but are pretty docile.
  • They use a ‘waggle dance” to communicate, passing on information about flower locations.