Do bumble bees sleep in flowers? Get the answer and discover more facts about their life cycle, habitat, and how you can help these essential pollinators.
Bumble bees are keystone pollinators in the ecosystem. They pollinate food crops, trees, and of course, flowers. In my own yard, I realized that the more native plants I planted, the more pollinators visited my garden. Which has been beneficial for my food crops!
I’ve also enjoyed learning about their life cycle. The more we know about a species’ life cycle, the more we can be aware of how our actions might be causing them harm.
Sleeping Bumble Bees
Bees require a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to fly easily without using up all of their nectar stores. But they prefer it hot: 80-90 degrees.
On a cool morning I’ve noticed bumble bees asleep inside a squash blossom, underneath a flower, or generally looking lazy. Now I know why!
Bees sleeping outside the nest will sleep under a flowerhead or inside a deep flower like a squash blossom where the temperature can be up to 18 degrees warmer close to the nectar source.
The bee asleep in the flower on a cool morning may be a female forager who got caught outside the nest when the temperature decreased rapidly. Her job is to forage for nectar and pollen and she stores it in (yellow) pollen baskets on her hind legs to take back to the nest.
Or the sleeping bee may be a male. Most males leave the nest just a few days after hatching, and do not return. Their job is to drink nectar all day and chase queens for mating. They spend the day marking objects in their territory with their scent to attract a female queen.
Bumble Bee Reproduction
The queen gets to choose whether to fertilize eggs or not. She mates with a male, and stores his sperm in something called the spermatheca over the winter. The following year she can choose whether to fertilize the eggs she lays (which become worker females) or leave them unfertilized (which become males).
Do Bumble Bees Produce Honey?
Bumble bees create honey, but it is not substantial enough for cultivation like honey bees.
Do Bumble Bees Sting?
Bumblebees are generally very docile, but they should still be given space and respect.
According to BumbleBee.org, a bee will stick up a middle leg if it’s annoyed by your presence, which means “back off!”. Otherwise they are docile to the point that you could usually handle one without negative consequence.
Only the females will sting, and they may be more aggressive if you find yourself near their nest. Bumble bees can sting repeatedly and will not die afterwards, since their stingers are not barbed and won’t dislodge from the body.
The honey bee on the other hand can only sting once because of the barbed stinger, and usually dies thereafter.
A Bumble Bee Wake-Up Ritual
I was inspecting my ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum flowers one morning because they were full of Argiope aurantia spiders. I like to watch the drama of predator-prey unfold on the flower heads between the spiders, the bees, and the moths.
At that moment, some of the bumble bees that had been sleeping underneath the flower heads woke up. The sun must have just warmed the flowers to the right temperature at that very moment.
When they crawled out from under the flowerhead, they did a little 1-minute dance to warm up and clean themselves from head to tail (so to speak), using their legs, much like a cat uses its paw to clean its head.
It looked like windshield wipers when the bee was cleaning its back with its legs!
I didn’t catch the whole dance on video, unfortunately. However, it’s too good not to share the portion that I caught:
How to Help the Bumble Bees
Like other wildlife, bumble bees have to work harder than ever to find food and shelter due to habitat loss and the overuse of pesticides. Bumble bees that are affected by pesticides are able to fly shorter distances, and therefore have less ability to forage for food.
In the springtime, a queen emerges from solitary hibernation, and must conjure up the energy to find food (flower nectar), build a nest, forage for nectar and pollen, and lay eggs.
She expends an enormous amount of energy to get a nest going, and springtime flowers are really important if she is to survive.
Help provide spring nectar for the bumble bees.
I like to plant heirloom daffodils and other spring ephemerals.
In the fall, bumble bees need plenty of nectar sources so they can store enough food for winter hibernation. The trouble is, most gardens are dying out by the time fall rolls around, and food is scarce.
Plant fall blooming flowers so the bumble bees have enough to forage from.
Fall blooming flowers to grow:
- lavender (I like English lavender)
- salvia (I like this Blue Victory variety from Botanical Interests)
- wild geranium
- anemone (the pinks are my favorites)
- chives (Check out my 5 reasons to grow chives)
- cilantro (After they’ve bloomed, save the seeds!)
Have you found bumble bees sleeping in flowers? What sources of early and late nectar do you provide for them?