What’s the difference between bees and honey bees?

UK Home Improvement

What’s The Difference Between Bees And Honey Bees?

If you’re wondering “What’s the difference between bees and honey bees?”, you’re not alone. Many people are confused about what sets these two common bee species apart, especially since they look so similar in appearance. Read on to find out more.

6 Differences Between Bumblebees And Honey Bees

Whilst bumblebees and honey bees may look alike due to their black and yellow colouring, they are actually quite different. Differences between the two range from appearance and nesting habits to lifespan and flower preferences. Keep reading to find out what’s the difference between bees and honey bees.


Many people think that bumblebees and honey bees are the same due to having a similar size and body shape and a distinctive yellow and black colouration. However, on closer inspection of these two types of bees, you’ll see there are some key differences. For example, bumblebees have more hair on their bodies than honey bees. This extra hair helps them to carry more pollen.

Bumble bees also look somewhat different, with more varied colouration that can range from yellow and black to orange and even red. Honey bees tend to have more consistent bands of yellow and black on the abdomens. Another difference is their size. Bumble bees are frequently larger than honey bees, with some queens reaching up to 3cm in length.

Social Structure 

Another big difference between bumblebees and honey bees is social structure. Honey bees have a complex social structure which is also highly organised. These bees live in big colonies or hives that consist of a queen, thousands of female workers and several hundred male drones. As very social insects, honey bees can’t live independently. Whilst bumblebees typically live in small colonies,  some live alone or in small groups.

Nesting Habits 

Nesting habits tend to be different between bumblebees and honey bees. Bumblebees usually construct their nests underground, including under grassy areas, in old rodent burrows or under sheds. Sometimes, they nest above the ground in sheltered locations such as tree cavities. Nests are normally small and contain just a few hundred bees. Comparatively, honey bees construct bigger, more complex nests in beehives, often found within tree hollows or in rock crevices. These nests can house several thousand bees.  


Bumblebees and honey bees display different foraging behaviours. Bumblebees perform a technique known as “buzz pollination”, which involves them using vibrations to remove and collect pollen from flowers. They vibrate their muscles at a certain frequency whilst attached to the flower to do this. Honey bees don’t use buzz pollination and normally collect pollen by using their mouths and hairy legs.


Bumblebees tend to be less aggressive and are much less likely to sting people than honey bees. Normally docile, they usually only sting if they feel threatened, for example, if they’re provoked or their nest is disturbed for any reason. Both types of bees have barbed stingers which remain in the skin. However, due to the differences in the physiology of their stingers, bumblebees can sting multiple times without dying whilst honey bees die instantly following a sting. This is because a bumblebee’s stinger is not strongly barbed, which means it can be withdrawn from the skin more easily. A honey bee’s stinger is more barbed and therefore gets stuck in the skin, being torn away together with a section of the abdomen.    

Floral Preferences 

Bumblebees and honey bees have preferences when it comes to the flowers they visit for nectar and pollen collection. Whilst there’s some overlap in their flower preferences, there are also some differences due to variations in their foraging behaviours and physiology. As “generalist” foragers, bumblebees tend to visit a broad range of flowering plants, often switching between them during a foraging trip. Honey bees usually gather pollen and nectar from a single type of flower whilst out foraging. 

Bumblebees have longer tongues than honey bees, allowing them to gather nectar from flowers with deeper corolla tubes. They are particularly good at pollinating flowers that have a tubular shape, such as honeysuckles, foxgloves and penstemons. Honeybees have shorter tongues, which means they are better at collecting nectar from flowers that have shallower corolla tubes, such as sunflowers, daisies and clovers.

Should I Be Worried About A Bumble Or Honey Bee Nest On My Property?

If you’ve noticed a bee nest on your property, you may be wondering if you should be worried. Whether it’s bumblebees or honeybees that have made themselves at home, the sight of a nest with hundreds or thousands of bees swarming around it can be unsettling, to say the least. 

Whilst you may think you need to remove a bee nest, this isn’t always necessary. This is because, in general, bumblebee and honeybee nests pose a minimal threat or danger to humans unless they are disturbed or threatened. There are some scenarios where bee nest removal is advisable, for example, if there are safety concerns or risk of structural damage. 

  • Safety concerns. If the bee nest is located in an area with high human activity, such as near an entrance, play area, or a heavily used outdoor space, there’s a greater risk of people getting stung. This means that removal may be necessary to ensure the safety of individuals, particularly those with known allergies to bee stings.
  • Structural damage. If the bee nest is causing structural damage to a building or property, such as nesting in wall voids or causing deterioration, removing it may be necessary to prevent further damage.

For bee nest removal in Doncaster, look no further than Topline, a leading pest control company serving the South Yorkshire area. 


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