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Where Do Bumblebees Live? (Bumblebees Nests)

What do you know about bumblebees? You might know they produce honey. You may even know that their nests are called “bumblebee nests.”

But do you know where they live?

Bumblebees live in nests, a hive for storing honey and eggs. A bumblebee nest has two chambers: an upper chamber where the queen lays her eggs and a lower chamber where worker bees store honey.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into bumblebee nests, where bumblebees live, as well as how they build their nests and colonies.

Where Do Bumblebees Live?

Some bumblebees live underground, such as in rodent holes, under sheds, or simply in holes in the ground. Some bumblebees live above ground, making nests in the grass, trees, or even bird boxes.

Bumblebees are summer insects that live in areas where they can find flowers. During the winter, the queen bumblebee hibernates in an undisturbed place that provides shelter.

When spring comes around, the queen will fly off to find a nesting site. Depending on the species, this can as said, be below or above ground.

A nesting site has to check off certain boxes, such as reliable food and water sources nearby.

Most bumblebee species live underground. They will look for a linear area where they can easily dig out a nest. Different species of bumblebees have evolved to use different nesting sites, with some preferring to use bird boxes as their nesting site.

Related: How long do bumblebees live?

bumblebees making honey in the hive

Bumblebee Habitat

Bumblebees thrive in many ecosystems, but the majority of species live in cool, temperate climates, and are scarce in warmer climates. Bumblebees are sensitive to hot temperatures, which is why they prefer a cooler climate.

Since most bumblebees live during the summer months, a warmer climate would simply result in overheating.

Different species of bumblebees will be found at different altitudes where they will live in different habitats. 

Common habitats where bumblebees are known to live include: 

  • Temperate grasslands
  • Heathlands
  • Woodlands
  • Mountains

In many places, gardens are important habitats for bumblebees. They’re flat, easy to dig through and there are usually many flowers nearby. [1]

bumblebee on a beautiful lanscape

Do Bumblebees Live In the Ground?

Yes, most bumblebees live in the ground. This provides them with shelter. They’ll typically look for soil that’s easy to dig through.

Bumblebees create their nests in the ground where there is enough humidity for them to survive, where they have access to nectar from nearby blossoms, and where there is a good supply of pollen.  

Sometimes these nests are created out of necessity where no other suitable nook or cranny can be found, where abandoned rodent holes can be found, and where soft compost heaps offer a good starting point. 

It’s important to note that not all bumblebees nest underground. A lot of bumblebee species simply prefer somewhere dark, where they won’t be disturbed.

worker bumblebees

Do Bumblebees Live In a Hive?

Like their cousins the honey bees, bumblebees live socially in hives that provide shelter and a place to raise their young. 

Usually located underground, particularly in abandoned holes made by rodents, bumblebee hives usually include between 50 and 500 individuals.

If the ground is too wet at the time of an underground nest being constructed, a simple aerial structure may be built. A ring of grass and pollen is placed at the entrance, and a sheet of wax is produced to encircle the hole in the ground.

Where Do Bumblebees Live In the World?

Bumblebees are very interesting, and they live on every continent except for Antarctica. They live in a variety of climates and elevations throughout the world, from dry grasslands to rainforests. 

Understanding the habitat of bumblebees is important because it helps researchers better protect them and their ecosystems.

Bumblebees live in the following continents:

  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia

North America

Bumblebees are found throughout North America. Most of the bumblebees living on the continent are not native to North America however.

There are 46 different species of bumblebees in North America. [2]

Europe

While bees have been imported from North America to Europe for honey production, European bumblebees are mostly native to the continent.

Most European countries provide the cool and temperate climate that bumblebees seek.

A Bumblebee Pollinating a Chive Flower (Allium schoenoprasum)

Africa

There are over 300 species of bumblebees living throughout Africa, but many do not live anywhere else on Earth.

Bumblebees are only present north of the Sahara. [3]

Asia

There are also bumblebees found in various parts of Asia. You can find them in remote areas producing honey.

Australia

Bumblebees are not native to Australia but were introduced to Tasmania. You therefore won’t find many bumblebees here.

What Climate Do Bumblebees Live In?

Bumblebees are a species of bee belonging to the genus Bombus which is native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. 

There are over 250 species of bumblebees worldwide but only 46 live in North America. 

Bumblebees live mostly in temperate regions, where the temperatures will stay somewhat cool. They can tolerate cold temperatures more easily compared to other insects.

This is why especially North America, Europe, and Asia have a higher presence of bumblebees – many places in these regions have the perfect climate for bumblebees.

Another type of climate that bumblebees live in is the grassland biome. 

bumblebee flying

These regions tend to be windier than other areas, with average wind speeds ranging from 4-7 miles per hour (mph), and it’s usually warmer during the day but colder at night.

Bumblebees are nowhere to be found in the arctic tundra though. 

The arctic tundra is an extremely cold climate with frigid winters where the average temperature ranges from -40 to -15 degrees Celsius (-40 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and very short, cool summers with an average temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Australia is also lacking a presence of bumblebees. You can find bumblebees in the region, but only because they’ve been introduced by us humans. The weather here is too hot and dry, making it difficult for bumblebees to forage and survive.

What Ecosystem Do Bumblebees Live In?

Bumblebees are a type of bee found all over the world, from Canada to South America and in between. They have been observed pollinating many types of flowers and other flowering plants.

Most bumblebees live about a year in the wild. They often build their nests underground in abandoned rodent or mole tunnels or under shrubbery. They are very social insects, living in colonies of up to several hundred. The nest is made of wax secretions from their abdomen which they shape into honeycombs.

bumblee bee workers

Bumblebees Nests

Bumblebee nests are different from species to species. Many bumblebees build their nests underground, protecting them from the weather and predators, but some do nest above ground. 

The entrance to the nest is often surrounded by bare soil to camouflage it.

When it comes to nesting sites, bumblebees prefer dry, dark cavities, which can result in bumblebee nests appearing in unexpected places.

Bumblebees often choose abandoned rodent burrows for their homes, but sometimes they make nests under sheds or patios or in garages. Sometimes, they may even take over an old birdhouse.

Bumblebees warm and cool their hives to make sure the brood is nurtured at just the right temperature, keeping it between 82° and 90° Fahrenheit (28°C and 32°C). [4]

adult bumble bee

What Do Bumblebee Nests Look Like?

Bees usually build their nests in quiet, secluded areas with little disturbance. Some of the most common places for bee nests are in trees or underground. 

If you find a bumblebee nest located near your home, it’s usually best to leave it alone because they are non-aggressive insects.

While they prefer to nest in an undisturbed place, a lot of bumblebees will nest in gardens, as it’s easy for them to dig out a hole in the soil, or find a suitable place under a shed or in a bird box.

When you look at bumblebee nests, they closely resemble that of honeybees or wasps. 

These nests are made up of many hexagon-shaped cells (honeycomb pattern). Additionally, these bees will line each cell with a waterproof material to protect the food and young from moisture.

bee pupae

Do Bumblebees Live In Colonies?

Yes, bumblebees live in nests, often containing 50-500 workers. The colony works together to find food, care for broods, and generally survive.

Are There Any Bumblebees That Live Alone?

Yes, some bumblebees live alone, but they prefer to live in a colony. This is especially seen in queens, as they will live alone for the first many months of their lives. 

Aster queen bumblebees have mated, they’ll fly off to find shelter. They will then hibernate through the winter, coming out to nest and start their colony in the spring.

bumblee bees on a flower

Do Honeybees and Bumblebees Live Together?

Many people wonder if honeybees and bumblebees can live together. The short answer is no. They don’t live in the same hive, as they are two different species.

The two different types of bees can live in the same area, but a study showed that it can create competition. Bumblebees living near honey bees will have less access to nectar and pollen. [5]

How Do Bumblebees Live In the Winter?

Bumblebee queens are the only ones who live during the winter months. Virgin queens will mate with drones, and hereafter go foraging. When they’ve collected enough food, they will find a place to hibernate through the winter months.

Worker bumblebees won’t be around during the winter. This is due to two things:

  1. Workers don’t live very long, only about 2-6 weeks on average.
  2. Worker bumblebees die when their queen dies, as they don’t produce a new queen (like honey bees do). Since there will be no further reproduction, the workers will die off before the winter.
bumble bee on a purple flower

Since queens are born in late summer, they will also die around this time (sometimes earlier, sometimes later).

Queen bumblebees will spend the winter hibernating, as said, in a shelter they’ve picked out. They’ll lie completely still, only using the energy they’ve stored up to keep their vital organs going.

Once the hibernation is done, and spring comes around, they’ll start their colony, laying the first batch of eggs.

Conclusion

Bumblebees live in nests. Most nests are built underground, either in holes left by rodents, or holes they dig out themselves. Some bumblebees do however live above ground.

When it comes to climate, bumblebees like a cooler and tempered climate. Bumblebees are present in almost every continent, excluding Antarctica. In some regions, they’re restricted to certain areas due to very high temperatures though.

Lastly, bumblebees live in colonies, much like honey bees or wasps, but their nesting behavior is slightly different.

FAQs

Do Bumblebees Typically Live Underground?

Yes, bumblebees live underground. The ground is an ideal location to start a new colony because it provides protection from predators, limits the number of entrances for hostiles, and the darkness helps maintain a stable temperature, which is important for the brood.

Do Bumblebees Live In Walls?

Bumblebees can technically live in walls, but this is very uncommon. Wild bumblebees live mostly in the ground or abandoned holes of other animals. However, you might be able to find a bumblebee nest inside an old house if it is not properly sealed. Bumblebees are known for getting into small, unprotected cracks that are common with old houses.v

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.