Bumblebee Lifespan: How Long Do Bumblebees Live?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Updated: November 2, 2022
Image Credit amypat45/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Bumblebees are one of the most easily recognizable insects on the planet. This is thanks to their fuzzy black and yellow appearance with their short, stubby wings. They are bigger than honeybees, although they happen to produce much less honey despite their size.

Nonetheless, they are vital pollinators as much of our food would not grow without them.

Do you want to learn more about these amazing pollinators? We’ve gathered all the information you need to know about them! Including amazing information about the bumblebee lifespan!

Quick Crash Course On Bumblebees

Bumble Bee on a flower
South America’s Bombus dahlbomii is the world’s biggest bumblebee.

Andy Halsall / Creative Commons

The IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group has recorded 265 bumblebee species worldwide. The majority of bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies led by a single queen. The colonies are smaller than honey bee colonies, with as few as 50 bumblebees in a nest.

Bumblebees take pollen from flowers in addition to nectar. Penn State researchers discovered in 2016 that bumblebees can recognize the nutritional content of the pollen, which allows them to select the best plant species and enhance their nutritional intake.

This is accomplished by bees detecting a chemically complicated component in pollen to evaluate its nutritional composition.

Only queens or worker bumblebees, like other bee species, may sting. However, because bumblebees are less hostile than honeybees, they will only sting if they perceive a threat or if someone disrupts their colony. In addition, unlike honeybees, a bumblebee sting does not result in the insect’s death.

Because bumblebees have smooth stingers with no spikes, they will not die if they use their stinger. A bumblebee may sting the same victim many times if necessary.

Let’s go further into the bumblebee now that we have a better knowledge of it. Let’s look at the lifespan of a bumblebee and how it compares to other bees.

How Long Do Bumblebees Live?

Do bumble bees sting
Bumblebees live between two weeks and one year.

Brier Mitchell/Shutterstock.com

The average bumblebee lifespan is between two weeks to one year. The lifetime of a bumblebee varies greatly depending on the species and environment. It also boils down to the role of the individual bee within the colony.

Let’s take a detailed look at the various jobs within the colony and their typical lifespan:

  • Bumblebee Queen: The average lifespan of the bumblebee queen is one year. Only the queen bumblebees hibernate and survive until spring because their inherently low metabolism allows them to live longer than the rest of the colony. They are also responsible for creating the new colony once spring comes.
  • Worker Bees: The average lifespan of a worker bee is between 2-6 weeks. The longevity of a bumblebee worker is highly dependent on the species and their job in the colony. There are two sorts of bumblebee workers. There are those that care for the nest and those who collect pollen and nectar.
  • Male Bumblebees: The average lifespan of the male bumblebee is two weeks. The male bumblebee is not the same as the queen or workers. The queen gives birth to them at the same time as the young queens, but the guys depart the nest and never return. Their primary goal is to mate with other virgin queens before dying.

The oldest known bumblebees are found in Tibet. Bumblebee populations around Tibet are one of the most diverse in the world. It is home to one of the oldest living bumblebee species, Bombus superbus.

The Average Bumblebee Life Cycle 

Bumblebees are sociable insects with a fascinating life cycle. The life cycle of the bumblebee has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

Here is a break down of how long do bumble bees live

Egg 

The queen emerges from diapause in early spring and searches for an appropriate location to establish her colony. Then she constructs wax cells in which to put her fertilized eggs from the previous year. She incubates the eggs by resting on top of them and vibrating her flying muscles to create heat up to 30 degrees Celsius.

Larva

The eggs develop into larvae after about four days. At this stage, the larvae look a little like maggots. The larvae continue to eat and develop, going through many phases of development, shedding their skin three times until they build silken cocoons and pupate after around 14 days.

Pupa

The larvae lose their skin once again within the pupae and undergo metamorphosis. After around 14 days, the grub-like larvae develop into bumblebees that bite their way out of their cocoons. The next stage is an adult bumblebee!

Adult 

Young female worker bees are the first to emerge from these cocoons. Meanwhile, the queen has already produced additional eggs, which are developing. The freshly emerging workers will greatly assist the queen in parenting the remainder of the brood.

The queen will eventually cease generating workers and will focus on parenting males and new queens. When the males emerge, they will quickly depart the nest in search of mating opportunities.

What Factors Impact The Bumblebee Lifespan?

Bumble Bee looking for nectar
Bumblebees are threatened by pesticides, habitat loss, and illness.

Alvesgaspar / Creative Commons

Bumblebees are threatened by a variety of factors, including habitat loss, illness, pesticide usage, and climate change. Unlike honeybees, who have vast perennial hives, bumblebees have smaller yearly colonies.

Let’s look at these factors in more detail:

  • Pesticide use: One of the leading causes of bumblebee declines in the United States is the increased use of pesticides. Neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide, has gained special attention. Bumblebees are exposed to modest amounts of neonics when foraging and eating flowers since the chemicals are present in pollen and nectar. Over time, the ingestion of this pesticide causes iminished cognitive function, disorientation, and navigational failure.
  • Habitat loss: Habitat loss has a severe influence on wild bumblebees. Bumblebees require access to nesting grounds in order to establish colonies . Natural habitat loss, brush clearance, and overall alteration of the landscape to a more “neatly trimmed” appearance can all have a detrimental influence on bumblebee queens looking for areas where they can build nests.
  • Illness: Pathogens attack bumblebees and impair colony success in a number of ways, ranging from bacteria to viruses to fungus. The presence of parasite diseases is a typical part of life for many wild bumblebees as well.

Do bumble bees sting
Do bumble bees sting
amypat45/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:
About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.