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Why do bumblebees hover in one spot?

12 April 2022
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Bumblebees use sight and smell to identify potential new foraging locations. This means they will often hover just above the heads of flowers assessing the viability of each flower.

Male bumblebees can be very territorial and will often hover in one spot waiting for a female bumblebee to emerge so he can mate.

Male carpenter bees will also hover for an extended period of time in one spot to protect the exterior of their nest while the female care for the young within.

Hovering to inspect resource rich flowers

Resource gathering is the most likely reason you will see a bumblebee hovering in one spot for prolonged periods of time. This same behaviour can be observed amongst the Hummingbird population as they seek out suitable forage.

All bees including bumblebees have compound eyes, this means they have the ability to see things humans do not.

Compound eyes relate to the two eyes visible on either side of the bumblebee's head. These eyes allow the bumblebee to identify things like sunlight, landmarks and even pheromones left by previous bees.

This clever natural evolution gives bees the ability to see ultraviolet. Many plants display ultraviolet colours that are imperceivable to the human eye but act as glowing landing strips for any bees hovering above.

Check out Revive a Bee's recommended wildflower mix to encourage more bumblebees and pollinators to your garden or wild area.

Bumblebees hovering to mate

Bumblebee males will often be seen hovering over an area for prolonged periods of time. Males of the species are often very territorial and will wait in a designated area they feel to be their own waiting for a mate.

Any bees that fly within the radius considered to be his territory will be investigated immediately. Male bees will be scared away with shows of dominance and aggression while the male in question will try to mate with any females that enter his territory.

Interestingly some males have been known to threaten their reflection unknowingly if you have a mirror, window or reflective surface on the exterior of your property.

Protecting the nest

Male carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees due to their large size. These males of the species have two key tasks, mate and protect their partners and young.

When mating, male carpenter bees will hover in wait for a potential mate. Despite being much larger, male carpenter bees will often hover a few inches from a human to inspect you as you enter their territory. Thankfully male carpenter bees do not have a sting so they are purely an annoyance more than anything else.

When they've found a suitable mate they will hover for hours outside their nest in a defensive stance waiting for any potential predators to ward them off.

In cases where several carpenter bees have nested in close proximity, the females will often share the burden of defending the nests and foraging.

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