Difference Between Honey Bees and Bumble Bees

Honey Bees vs Bumble Bees

Bees belong to the Order: Hymenoptera with more than 20,000 species. About 5 percent among all the bees are social and honeybees and bumblebees are very important as they are the most common communal living groups of bees. Diversity, natural distribution, social structures, communication, morphology, and direct importance for humans vary between honeybees and bumblebees.


Honeybees belong to the Genus: Apis, which contains seven distinctive species with 44 subspecies. Honeybees originated in South and South-East Asian region and now they are widespread. Earliest fossil of a honeybee dates back to the Eocene-Oligocene boundary. Three clades are described to classify the seven species of honeybees; Micrapis (A. florea & A. andreiformes), Megapis (A. dorsata), and Apis (A. cerana and others). Their sting present in the abdomen is the major weapon for protection. It is evolved to attack other insects with a thicker cuticle. The barbs on the sting are helpful in penetrating the cuticle during attacking. However, if bees attack a mammal, the presence of barbs is not vital as the mammalian skin is not that thick as an insect’s. During the stinging process, the sting detach from the body leaving the abdomen damaged severely. Soon after a stinging, the bee dies, meaning they die to protect their resources. Even after the bee has been detached from the victim’s skin the sting apparatus keeps delivering the venom. Honeybees, like most of the insects, communicate through chemicals, and the visual signals are also predominant in foraging. Their famed Bee Waggle Dance describes the direction and distance to the food source in an attractive way. Their hairy hind legs form a corbicular, aka pollen basket, to carry pollen to feed the young. Bees wax and bee honey are important in many ways for the man and therefore, beekeeping has been a main agricultural practice among the people. Naturally, they like to make their nests or hives underneath a strong branch of a tree or in caves… etc.


There are over 250 species of bumble bees; those are primarily found underground hives of higher altitudes and latitudes. Most of them are Northern hemispheric species but, they are also common in New Zealand and Tasmania. The characteristic black and yellow coloured hairs over the body make them more unique among all the insects. However, the hairy hind leg with the pollen basket functions as same as in honeybees. Bumblebees lack barbs, and they are not vey aggressive unless they are disturbed. Therefore, they won’t die after one sting and can sting more than once. Pheromones scented with floral elements convey messages to other bees about a particular food source. Additionally, the direction of the food source is shown via less sophisticated communication technique called Excited Runs. It is believed that the direction and farther is communicated by the floral scented pheromone, along with excited runs. They don’t stockpile honey and the humans do not get direct advantages from bumblebees.

Difference between honeybees and bumblebees

In reviewing these two important members of the bees, the contrasting differences are listed and presented in the form of a table below.

Honeybee Bumblebee
Low diversity with 7 species Highly diversified with more than 250 species
Originated in South and South-East Asia Originated in temperate regions of Northern hemisphere and common in New Zealand and Tasmania
Very aggressive Not aggressive
Complex colonies Simple colonies
Barbs on the sting, and die after an attack No barbs on the sting and hence, they don’t die and keep stinging more than once
Build nests underneath branches or big rocks, under caves Underground nests