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Are Bumble Bees Friendly?

Large and fuzzy with short, stubby wings, bumble bees are exceptional pollinators. They can beat their wings 130 times per second, which combined with their large bodies, helps them vibrate flowers until pollen is released.

There are plenty of cute cartoon characters resembling the bumble bee but many people are still scared of them due to their sting. However, how do they really respond to humans? Are bumble bees friendly? Let’s find out! Read on for answers to how aggressive bumble bees are compared to other bee species and other similar questions.

Key takeaways

  • Bumble bees aren’t as aggressive as other types of bees and will only sting if threatened
  • Insects lack the capacity to feel emotions and be friendly
  • Bumble bees can sting multiple times so avoid approaching or petting them

Are bumble bees friendly?

bumblebee on flower
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While some people see bumble bee behavior as “friendly,” insects don’t possess the ability to feel or express friendly emotions like a dog. If they feel threatened, bumble bees will take action to protect themselves and sting you. Their sting is venomous and, unlike honeybees, they have the ability to sting multiple times.

Although they aren’t “friendly”, bumble bees are more docile than honeybees and less aggressive than wasps or hornets. When you stay calm and let them be, bumble bees won’t attack you without reason. If they land on you, they are simply looking for food and water, so try to avoid swatting them or they could feel threatened.

How do you befriend a bumble bee?

You can’t technically become friends with a bumble bee. Insects have limited nervous systems, so they lack the capacity to feel emotions that would create a friendship bond. You can, however, attract bumble bees to your garden by planting the right kind of flowers they enjoy. They prefer purple, pink, blue, and yellow flowers, including:

  • Lavender
  • Foxgloves
  • Rosemary
  • Single-flowered dahlias
  • Thickstem asters
  • Ryderberg’s penstemon

Do bumble bees sting?

Yes, female bumble bees can sting and have a venom sac. Although they rarely sting and their venom sac has limited space for venom, it is still painful and can lead to allergic reactions.

Bumble bee stingers have no barbs, meaning they can pull back their stringer safely and sting you multiple times. They can also bite, but their mandibles are not very powerful.

Generally, bumble bees are social insects that live in colonies of 50 to 500 individuals. They don’t swarm or form large colonies like honeybees. Most bee stings occur as a last-resort defensive action when bumble bees are disturbed, harassed, or feel threatened.

Can a bumble bee sting make you sick?

Yes, it can if you have an allergic reaction. Typically, a bumble bee sting will cause itching, swelling, and pain even though the venom is not very toxic. However, if you have an allergic reaction, you can experience additional symptoms, such as swelling of the face and neck, vomiting, dizziness, and tightness in the chest.

Allergic reactions typically get more serious with every new sting experienced. Some medications, such as aspirin or high blood pressure medications, can also cause negative reactions to a bumble bee sting. Additionally, you should avoid drinking alcohol or doing heavy physical activity after being stung, since it can take up to 30 minutes for a reaction to manifest.

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Do bumble bees like to be petted?

Bumble bee
A bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus) | image by John Baker via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Bumble bees do not like being petted or hassled by humans, common sense tells us not to try and pet them or approach them. Bumble bees can sting multiple times when threatened, so you want to avoid acting in a way that can alarm them.

If a bumble bee lands on you or comes near you, make sure you are calm and avoid any sudden movements. Once they find there is no food near you, they will most likely fly away.

Can bees bond with humans?

Not really. Bumble bees don’t have the capacity to create a bond with humans. However, they can associate your face with something positive, like food.

These insects are one of the few animals that can recognize human faces. They can recognize faces because of their good color vision, which helps them recognize and remember different flowers based on shape and color.

Conclusion

Bumble bees aren’t as aggressive as other types of bees and wasps, but they still have venomous stings. Although they can recognize human faces, insects don’t have the capacity to act “friendly” and are more likely to be attracted to you when searching for food or water. While you shouldn’t try to pet them because they can sting multiple times, you can attract more bumble bees to your garden by planting the right flowers they love.