Bumblebee Honey?

(This page is a continuation of ‘Do Bumblebees Make Honey?’ which you can go to by clicking here).

Can We Eat Bumblebee Honey and How Much Honey Do Bumblebees Make?

Bumblebees do not make honey as such – as stated previously, they gather nectar and store it for a short time.

However, the small amount of nectar that is gathered and placed in little wax nectar pots made by bumblebees would not be worthwhile for humans to harvest, because there is so little of it, and to attempt to do so would:

  • be an extremely fiddly task for little reward! 
  • put the survival of bumblebees, which are important pollinators and beautiful in their own right, at risk of survival.

Pictured below is an image of the inside of an underground bumblebee colony.

In addition, whereas honey bees can make a large quantity of honey, remember that the honey bee colony is vast in comparison with a bumblebee colony.  Honey bee colonies can total up to around 60,000 bees at their peak and before swarming (depending on the size of the hive or nest).

In comparison, bumblebee colonies are small - perhaps 150 to 300 bees.  Therefore, whereas honey bee colonies have vast numbers of worker bees to go out and collect nectar to make honey, there are far fewer worker bumblebees to gather the nectar. 

Put another way, it a worker honey bee will only make one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.  However, there are potentially thousands and thousands of bees in a colony together, each making this amount.

Even if every bumblebee worker in a colony could make the equivalent amount of honey, there would not be much in the nest! 

However, some animal predators will happily raid a bumblebee nest for the nectar, the nectar pots, larvae and all.  This is the natural way of things, and although I love bees I recognise that other these creatures only take what they need to survive themselves.


Notes On Honey And Honey Bees

Given that honey is winter food stores for honey bees, it is for this reason I recommend that if you are going to buy honey, try to buy from a local beekeeper, one who does not remove all the honey stores from the bees, and replace it with sugar, which is far less beneficial for the bees themselves.  A more ethical beekeeper will only remove some of the honey if they think the bees can spare it (for example, following a bumper year).  A greedy beekeeper (or sometimes an inexperienced one) will remove all of the honey and leave none for the bees.


Beekeeper and author, Paul Peacock, says:

“A careful beekeeper will not take more than the colony can afford to miss.  Putting the bees in danger for a few frames of honey after a cold, wet summer is counter-productive.”

Author and beekeeper, Phil Chandler, "The Barefoot Beekeeper", says

“We consider it as self evident that if the bees store honey for their own use, then honey is what they want and need.  Sugar syrup is, at best, a poor substitute.  Therefore, we strive to leave enough honey in the hive for the bees’ winter feed”.

See this further information about buying honey.

Read about: Why do bees make honey?

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There is very rarely a good reason to remove bumblebee nests.  They only last a season.

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