What’s the difference between bees and honey bees?

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Posted on 20 June 2023

Bees are one of the world’s most important insects. They play a crucial role in pollination, which is essential for the reproduction of flowering plants. However, there’s some confusion about bees, with many people asking the question “What’s the difference between bees and honey bees?” Read on to find out the answer to this common question.

6 key differences between bumblebees and honey bees

If you’re confused about what differentiates a bumblebee from a honey bee, you’re not alone. Whilst these two bee species may look similar, several differences exist, ranging from appearance and lifespan to the type of flowers they like to visit. Keep reading to find out what sets bumblebees and honey bees apart.

AppearanceHoney Bee Relocation in Doncaster

You might think that bumblebees and honey bees look the same, however, there are some key differences in appearance. Firstly, bumblebees tend to be larger than honeybees. Whilst their size can vary, more often than not they are bigger. Secondly, bumblebees have more body hair than honeybees. Their bodies have a covering of thick hair, which helps them to collect and carry the pollen. Honeybees have less hair, giving them smoother bodies. Thirdly, their colouration is somewhat different. Bumblebees tend to have more varied and vibrant colouration, with combinations of yellow, orange, black and sometimes even red. However, honeybees normally have more consistent yellow and black bands on their abdomens.

Social structure

Honey bees are known for having a highly organised and complex social structure. These bees live in large colonies or hives, with a single queen, thousands of female worker bees, and a few hundred male drones. Honey bees are highly social insects and can’t live on their own, depending on the presence of a colony for their survival. Comparatively, bumblebees can have different social structures, including solitary bees that live independently or in small groups.

Nesting habits

When people ask us “What’s the difference between bees and honey bees?”, we always mention nesting habits: Bumblebees and honey bees differ in their nesting behaviours. Bumblebees normally build nests in the ground, such as underneath grassy areas or in abandoned rodent burrows. They may also nest above ground in tree cavities or other sheltered locations. Their nests are typically small and contain a few hundred individuals. In contrast, honeybees build large and intricate nests in beehives, which are often found in tree hollows or rock crevices. As previously mentioned, honeybee colonies are usually much larger, with thousands or even tens of thousands of individuals.


One of the key differences between bumblebees and honey bees is the way they behave. They have different foraging behaviours, with bumblebees known for their ability to perform “buzz pollination.” This involves them vibrating their flight muscles at a specific frequency whilst they’re attached to a flower, which helps to release pollen from the flower’s anthers. Honeybees don’t perform buzz pollination and normally collect nectar and pollen using their mouthparts and their hairy legs.

AggressionHoney bee amid swarm of bees sitting at beehive entrance

Bumblebees are generally less aggressive and are therefore less likely to sting compared to honey bees. Typically docile, they normally only sting when they feel threatened or they’re provoked, for example, if their nest or colony is disturbed. Bumblebees and honey bees both have barbed stingers, which means their stingers stay lodged in the skin after stinging. However, whilst bumblebees can sting several times without injuring themselves, honey bees die soon after stinging. This is due to the physiology of their stingers. A bumblebee’s stinger isn’t strongly barbed and can therefore be withdrawn more easily. When a honey bee stings, its barbed stinger is embedded in the skin, and its stinger, along with a section of its abdomen, is torn away, resulting in the bee dying soon after stinging.

Floral preferences

Bumblebees are “generalist” foragers, which means they visit a wide range of flowering plants to collect nectar and pollen. They are likely to switch between plant species during a foraging trip. Comparatively, honey bees tend to focus on specific plant species when foraging, gathering nectar and pollen from a single type of flower. Honey bees have a longer proboscis (mouthpart) than bumblebees, which allows them to access nectar from deeper flower structures. This allows honey bees to visit a wider range of flower shapes and sizes. Bumblebees are more likely to visit open-faced flowers and those flowers with shorter corolla tubes, as their shorter proboscis make it easier for them to access the nectar.

Bee nest removal in Doncaster

Now you know what’s the difference between bees and honey bees, you may be ready to get rid of the nest in your garden. For bee best removal in Doncaster, look no further than Topline Pest Control. We’ve been removing bee nests using safe and effective methods for many years, giving us a fantastic reputation throughout the area.

If you’re not sure if the bee nest on your property needs removing, we can let you know. A bee nest doesn’t always need to be removed. Whether or not a bee nest should be removed depends on several factors, including the species of bee, the nest’s location, and potential risks or dangers posed by the nest. If the bee nest is located in an area where it poses a threat to human safety, removal may be necessary, especially if someone in the vicinity is allergic to bee stings.

Contact us

For bumble bee or honey bee removal in Doncaster, get in touch today. You can reach us by calling 01302 969049 or by sending us a message via our website. Our friendly team of pest control specialists are on hand to discuss your requirements with you and provide a free no-obligation quotation for removing the bee nest on your property.