Why Do Bumblebees Fly Into Windows?


Bumblebee on Window

Bumblebees are nature’s little fairies. They go from plant to plant, carrying with them the pollen that allows us to enjoy such beautiful flowers. For this reason, bumblebees are important, so it is a great cause of concern when they unknowingly fly into windows, possibly harming themselves.

Why do bumblebees fly into windows? Bumblebees often look for a shaded area to nest, which is why the inside of a house looks so appealing to them. However, bumblebees are unable to notice nor navigate clear windows, which is why when they try to fly inside a house, they unknowingly bump into them. 

Sadly, this is a daily struggle that these helpful little creatures are faced with. We should know if this harms the bumblebees in any way or if there is any possible way to help them avoid this issue. But, to answer these questions, we must first look deeper into the minds of bumblebees.


The Anatomy of a Bumblebee

Bumblebee Head

Bumblebees have five eyes. Two large compound eyes at either side of their heads and three small ones on top of their head to assist with orientation. The colors they see are somewhat like that of a human being with the exception that bees cannot see the color red.  They do however have the special ability to see ultraviolet light; it is like their superpower.  We have a whole article that goes deeper into this visual superpower.

Despite their extraordinary vision, the one thing they cannot detect is the clear, “invisible” nature of windows when they try to fly inside on their mission to find a safe place to nest. 

What Are Bumblebees Looking for in Your House?

A good reason why bumblebees and honey bees for that matter are attracted to your house is the search for food. Bumblebees and foraging honey bees spend most of their day out in search of pollen and nectar.  

Their flight path in search of these resources can take them around your house, with people often having beautiful flower gardens or vegetable gardens around their houses.  When the plants in these gardens are flowering, pollinators including bumblebees are attracted close to the house. Potentially hundreds of bees at a time.  The chances of them coming in contact with one of your invisible windows are pretty good.

For worker bumblebees, inadvertent contact with your house is an occupational hazard of gathering pollen and nectar from flowers to keep their colony and especially their queen well nourished.  

On the other hand, it is the new queen’s role to find the ideal place to create a home. On average, queen bumblebees live for about a year. They emerge from winter hibernation in the early spring, depending on the temperature. Straight away she seeks nectar from flowers to replenish her energy before getting to the task of searching for a suitable location for a nest.

The conditions that a bumblebee looks for when choosing a place to nest are the following: 

  • An area largely protected from the elements of the outside world
  • Someplace that is shaded and doesn’t get too hot
  • Somewhere warm enough to avoid frost

Sound familiar? What bumblebees are looking for inside your house is, in fact, a place to build their house.

The bumblebee is naturally attracted to such places and is definitely keeping an eye out whilst flying. This is why when they stumble across a nice shaded area in that weird cave (your house), they don’t hesitate to fly straight towards it to investigate. However, the clear windows of the house bring their expedition to a screaming halt. 

Do Bumblebees Get Hurt When They Fly into Windows?

A bumblebee has two pairs of wings, its main wings are the two at the front, and its auxiliary wings are the two on the back. For them to support their own weight and fly at speeds of up to about 10 miles per hour, a bumblebee has to beat its wings about 200 times per second.

Bumblebee flight is similar to honey bee flight, both are quite extraordinary. We have an article that goes into how bees fly in much more detail (including a video) if you’re interested.

Long story short, despite being such small little creatures, bumblebees can fly at very fast speeds. This means the sound of the bumblebee crashing into the window is louder than you would think for such a small insect. Upon investigation you would expect to see some carnage, for an impact sound like that would be destructive, if not deadly, to the poor little bumblebees body. They are stronger than you might think.

Bumblebees are small, and yes, they go incredibly fast for such a small insect however their light and small body with that velocity does not create enough force for the impact to cause any major damage to the bumblebee.

Bumblebees like many other insects are equipped with body armor in the form of an exoskeleton; this means that, unlike humans, bees have their skeleton outside their bodies rather than inside it. The exoskeleton provides the bumblebee the protection to withstand the force of impact.

Sure, bumping into a window full speed will definitely not feel like a light tap for a bumblebee—it might even be stunned for a few seconds. However, bumping into a window should not kill them or harm them in any significant way. 

Is There Any Way to Stop Bumble Bees From Flying Into Windows?

As previously stated, bumblebees look for shaded areas since it is the ideal location for them to nest without having to worry about the nest heating up for too long. And what better-shaded area is there than a human house?

Bees, noticing the nice shaded area from a distance, try to fly into your house to scout and see if it would be a suitable location. However, much like us humans, they sometimes fail to notice clear glass that is blocking their path, which is why they bump into a window, thinking that nothing is stopping them from flying through it.

There is a very effective way of stopping this using window screens. Window screens are nets that go outside your window. They are effective in notifying the bumblebee that there is, in fact, an obstacle stopping it from flying into your house. It will also protect them if the bee does fly into it.

A window screen is very visible to the human eye, which means that it is definitely distinguishable for a bumblebee whose eyes are much smaller than humans. Things that are small for us, such as the linings of the window screen, look much bigger for them.

If the poor bumblebee decides to continue flying directly into the window despite the screen being there, the soft netting of the window screen will certainly soften the impact a lot more than solid glass would.

Stopping bumblebees does not seem to justify investing on a window screen, there are many other reasons why you would want to have one.

Window Screens Help More Than Bees

Bumblebee on Fly Screen
Bumblebee on Window Screen

As previously mentioned, a window screen can assist bumble bees in noticing there is an obstacle between them and your house. It is important to remember that bumblebees are not only creatures that try to fly into your house; birds also try to fly in too.

Birds, much like bumblebees have small bodies (although birds are much bigger), they can fly at relatively high speeds, and they often fail to notice clear glass in front of them. Birds have bigger and thicker bones. In saying this, it does not put them at any less risk than bumblebees. They too will get hurt—not severely, but it will hurt.

Additionally, there are those insects that you want to keep out of your house. Mosquitoes are arguably the most dangerous animal for human beings. They carry all sorts of diseases and are almost everywhere, but a good window screen will ensure they won’t enter your home.

The Wrap Up

Bumblebees are important for the planet, and we must ensure that they can fulfill their mission safely. They can fly at relatively high speeds. They often fail to see clear glass in their attempt to retreat into the shade of your house to nest. They won’t harm themselves too much, thanks to their exoskeleton, but it will definitely stun them.

A window screen is the most efficient method to solve this issue. It will warn most bumblebees to stay away from your window or soften the impact for those that don’t. Additionally, a window screen will serve the same purpose for birds and will keep other nasty insects such as mosquitoes away from your home.

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