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Are Bumblebees Friendly? (How They Respond To Humans)

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Bumblebees are often seen as friendly and docile creatures. They very rarely sting, and they usually just mind their own business.

Bumblebees also tend to fly near humans, sometimes even landing on them. 

But is this friendly behavior? Or is it just curiosity? 

In this article we’ll explore the various ways bumblebees interact with humans, to conclude whether bumblebees are indeed friendly-minded creatures.

Are Bumblebees Friendly?

Bumblebees are very friendly creatures. They often scare people, even though there’s no reason to be scared. Bumblebees aren’t aggressive, and they will very rarely sting, unlike wasps or hornets.

While bumblebees appear friendly, and while we call them that, this is just the nature of their behavior. This is not an active action they take, as they’re not intelligent enough to grasp “friendly” actions.

However, bumblebees are not passive creatures. They will sting people if they feel threatened, and as they feel the need to protect themselves. 

bumblebee on a flower full of pollen

If you leave bumblebees alone and stay calm around them, nothing will happen to you.

Nevertheless, bumblebees are relatively safe to interact with, especially if they are encountered outside. You can, without worry, let bumblebees land on you.

Why Are Bumblebees So Friendly?

Have you ever wondered why bumblebees are so friendly?

In general, bumblebees are non-aggressive creatures, meaning they won’t attack or sting you without a reason. They’re very gentle and very calm.

This is due to their natural behavioral instincts. While they will turn aggressive if threatened, they’re simply not aggressive by nature.

It’s important to note that context is important. Every situation depends on the context. If you’re walking down the street, you don’t expect to be attacked by people either, but if you harass them, disturb them, or if you’re even violent, you may be attacked.

The same goes for bumblebees.

Bumblebees are always looking for food and water, which is why they tend to be so friendly when landing on people. They’re simply out looking for food or resources.

You may also like: Where Do Bumblebees Live?

bumblebee on a beautiful lanscape

When they find out you’re not food, they’ll leave again.

This is also why people often attract bees while they’re eating. The bees are looking for food and may see something they find interesting on your dinner table.

Simply brush them gently away, and no harm will be done. Or let them sit, and wait for them to fly away on their own.

Bees are no threat unless they are threatened in return.

Bumblebees Are Social Creatures

It’s a common misconception that bumblebees are mean and solitary creatures. Bumblebees are very social insects that have evolved from wasp-like ancestors about 80 million years ago.

Some bumblebees do live in solitude though. Bumblebee queens, for example, are alone all winter, as the workers die in the fall.

Bumblebees usually live in colonies of about 50-500. They don’t form large colonies like honeybees.

Can You Befriend a Bumblebee?

Bumblebees are the friendliest of all bees. They are so friendly that it’s not uncommon for them to sit on people’s hands and walk around with people without stinging them.

While you can’t exactly befriend a bumblebee, as they aren’t intelligent enough to grasp the concept of friendship, it is possible to form a bond with them – or simply lure them into interacting with you.

These are three easy steps to attract a bumblebee.

  1. Cover your hand in sugar water
  2. Wait until the bee lands on your hand
  3. Carefully cup the bumblebee within your palms
bumble-bee-on-lavender

Can Bumblebees Recognize You?

Did you know that bumblebees are very intelligent? They are one of the few animals that can recognize faces. That’s right, faces.

You can, if you put in enough effort, train bees to recognize you, which can lead to a kind of bond or “friendship” with them. [1]

Just make sure they associate your face with something pleasant, like food.

This skill has evolved from their ability to recognize flowers. They can easily remember different flower fields, based on their shape and color.

Bees have very good vision, and they also have very good color vision. With this combination, they can easily tell you apart from other people.

drone bumblebee

Are Bumblebees Hostile?

Some people think that bumblebees are aggressive, but they aren’t. It is a common fallacy amongst people to think that bumblebees are fierce. This is due to the aggressive buzzing and ability to sting.

Compared to other insects, a bumblebee’s sting is weak and won’t hurt a human (unless they are allergic to stings). The allergy towards bumblebees’ venom is very rare though.

Can Bumblebees Be Aggressive?

Bumblebees can become aggressive if they feel you are a threat to them or their hive. Bumblebees will take defensive actions when something is disturbing, harassing, or outright threatening them.

Most bee stings happen because people are careless around bees.

Do Bumblebees Sting?

Bumblebees rarely sting. They do have a stinger, as well as a venom sac, but they have limited space for venom [2]

They will use their stinger as a last resort, such as when caught, trapped, or threatened.

If you want to avoid being stung by a bumblebee, the best tip is to stay calm.

Bumblebees will also bite, but this doesn’t hurt as much. They have very weak mandibles.

bee closeup

Disturbed Bumblebees Will Sting

Disturbing a bumblebee will result in the bee flying around erratically before using its stinger. They can be very defensive of themselves and their hives. 

Bumblebees aren’t aggressive by nature and will only sting if they believe they or their hive to be threatened.

Related: Do all bees sting?

Stay Calm to Avoid Getting Stung

Getting stung by a bumblebee is no picnic. Stings can cause swelling, itching, and pain for hours or even days. 

While the venom in bumblebee stingers is not particularly toxic, it’s best to avoid getting stung if you can help it.

If you are calm, it is unlikely that the bee will sting you no matter how close you get. 

If the bee feels threatened or thinks that you are going to attack it, it may be more likely to sting. So stay as calm as possible and try not to make any loud noises or sudden movements.

bumblebee flying

Can You Pet a Bumblebee?

You can most likely pet a bumblebee with little to no consequences. If it lands on you, or in your hand, give it a try. As long as you’re gentle and calm, nothing will happen (in most cases).

Now, interacting with bees always comes with a risk, even if it’s the gentle bumblebee.

Do Bumblebees Like Being Stroked?

It’s unknown whether bumblebees actually like being stroked or petted, but in most cases, they don’t seem to mind at least.

As long as you don’t make any sudden movements, and as long as you’re being careful, the bumblebee you’re petting will most likely just sit there.

bumblee bees on a flower

What Is the Friendliest Bee?

The bumblebee is the friendliest and gentlest of all the known species of bees. They’re more “laid back” than their relative, the honeybee.

Typically, there’s no need to be afraid of the large bumblebee. They won’t harm you unless you pose a threat or agitate it.

Conclusion

Bumblebees are the friendliest and gentlest bee species. They live in small colonies, which are more docile than the honeybee. There’s no reason to be scared of bumblebees, as they’ll usually only sting you if you threaten it first.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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