Bumble Bees

( Subfamily Bombinae )

Characteristics

SIZE: Bumble bees are large and robust. They typically measure between 0.3 to 0.9 inches, but can grow up to 1.5 inches. The queen is almost twice as large as the worker bees.

COLOR: Distinct color patterns arise across the species, varying greatly from one bee to the next, even in the same species in the same region. They can be completely black, black with yellow or white bands, black with an orange abdominal tip, brightly-colored yellow or even a dull and rusty orange. This variation makes it hard to give an exact description that fits every single bee in the Bombus genus. Typically, black and yellow-banded hairs on their abdomen give bumble bees their fuzzy appearance.

BEHAVIOR: Compared to their smaller family member the honey bee, the bumble bee is not as important to commercial crops, but is still vital to the pollination of several agricultural staples. The most alarming difference between the two species is the fact that bumble bees don’t die when they sting, meaning an encounter with one of their nests can potentially be downright deadly. Luckily, they’re fairly docile while out foraging for pollen and nectar. But if something or someone disturbs their nest, they can become quite nasty.

Habitats

Bumble bees rely on flowers as their main source of food, so they can be found anywhere there is pollen or nectar to be had. This includes gardens, meadows, parks, wetlands, your front yard and even in the middle of an urban center (the latter being B. impatiens, a specific species of bumble bee). They can also survive in cooler temperatures and higher altitudes than many bees, mainly due to their body hair, which keeps them warmer, and other traits and habits specific to the species. Springtime is when flowers bloom, so you can expect to see an abundance of bumble bees from mid-March to August, especially early in the morning and during cloudy weather.

Bumble bees prefer to nest in soil at ground level. This can be particularly dangerous if you’re mowing the lawn, or if your children are out in the yard playing and disturb the nest. These are the situations where bee control would be necessary, but for the most part, this also means you won’t have to deal with a nest inside the walls of your home (unlike with some species of wasps and bees).

Tips for Control

If you find a nest around your home and it doesn’t present any danger to you or your family (i.e., you can avoid it or it’s off the beaten path), the best thing to do is just let it be. In fact, if you have a garden, consider yourself lucky as many farmers pay large sums of money to have bumble bee nests on their property in order to pollinate their crops.

But if you have curious children, pets or just really don’t want to spend the next few weeks or months concerned about getting stung, the first call you should make is to a pest management professional. They will be able to treat the nest or possibly relocate it. Removing nests on your own isn’t advised, especially since there are different types of nests that require different methods of removal. Prevention is your best form of bee control.

  • Bumble bees jaws were meant for working with wax, so anything stronger than that is going to act as enough of a deterrent for queen bees trying to enter your home. Install mesh or screen material over any openings that can’t be closed up – for example, air bricks.

  • Eliminate potential nesting sites such as rodent holes, underground bird nests or warm, moist areas such as compost piles. Keep an eye out for potential nesting grounds during the early spring and destroy them.

  • If you have existing nests on your property, break them up or remove them in October or November, since all bumble bees (including the old queen) die off around August and September (with the exception of the newly-fertilized queens who are overwintering).

  • For the best and safest results, call a pest management professional that can help ensure your home and property are unattractive to bumble bees.