Odds are that the big (¾ to 1 inch long) yellow to orange and black bee buzzing around your garden is probably a species of bumblebee. They are a relative of honeybees and are also excellent pollinators. They nest in the ground in abandoned chipmunk or other rodent tunnels. A large colony of bumblebees produces a couple hundred individuals. In the fall, all the bumblebees in the nest die except for a few females who overwinter and go to make new nests in the following spring.

Their niche in the pollinator community of insects is defined by the fact that they have a longer tongue than honeybees.  They can reach down into flowers to get the nectar that their cousins cannot gather.

Bumblebees, just like honeybees, should not be killed if at all possible. About the only reason to kill a colony is if they build a nest in an area frequented by children or people who have a bee allergy. Fortunately, bumblebees are not aggressive and will only sting if they or their nest are in danger.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

Types of Insects

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