We are all familiar with the deliciously sweet syrup produced by honeybees – but do bumblebees make honey as well? Here is what these fluffy buzzers get up to when you’re not looking!
Bumblebees (Bombus), like their close relatives, honeybees, are some of the most important pollinating insects in Britain. And although honeybees and bumblebees have many things in common, they differ in one important way: most people have never heard of bumblebee honey. In fact, many people wonder whether bumblebees can even make honey at all!
Bumblebee honey: What do bumblebees eat?
Like most pollinators, bumblebees feed on the pollen and nectar of a variety of flowering plants. As they look for food, these fluffy insects fly from plant to plant, pollinating them in the process. Fruit trees, garden plants like the sunflower (Helenium), and wild flowers like bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and common viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) are some of the bumblebee’s favourite plants. Bumblebee larvae, meanwhile, are fed with honey produced by the queen bumblebee and her workers. So, bumblebees do, in fact, produce their own honey.
Why is there no bumblebee honey?
Bumblebees, like honeybees, produce honey, though mainly to feed their larvae. So why isn’t there bumblebee honey in our supermarkets? To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at the bumblebees’ way of life.
The difference between honeybees and bumblebees is in the way the two pollinators hibernate. Only queen bumblebees survive the cold season. Using hardly any energy, they tend to bury themselves in the ground and hibernate. Honeybees on the other hand, spend the winter months with their colony. They do not hibernate, but warm each other by vibrating their muscles. This vibration requires a lot of energy, as you can imagine. To ensure they have enough energy for the winter, honeybees build large stores of honey in summer, which is then harvested by us. The queen bumblebee and her workers, however, build up little to no supply of honey for the winter. As such, bumblebees do indeed make honey, but it cannot be collected and used by humans.
Tip: If you want to help bumblebees and their young queens after winter, grow some bumblebee-friendly plants. A seed mixture like Plantura Insect Friendly Seeds will do just the trick. It is made up of plants with different flowering times, which will provide these fluffy pollinators with food throughout the year.
If you would like to help bumblebees even more, it is worth knowing how to make your garden bumblebee-friendly.