Cuckoo Bees

Cuckoo Bees

Although insects are so small that most people don’t see them, their world is dull. Insect life is like a soap opera, full of drama, intrigue, and double-dealing. The cuckoo bees of the United Kingdom are some of the country’s most interesting and intelligent creatures because they rear their young through a combination of smart imitation and barefaced candour.

What is a cuckoo bee? 

Cuckoo bees are bumblebee ‘cleptoparasites,’ or parasites living off other bees’ bodies. Thus, it behaves like a cuckoo bird successfully colonising another species’ nest. The female cuckoo bee will enter the nest to eliminate the host’s queen. She then lays her eggs, which are cared for and raised by the host workers, and becomes the next “queen.”

There are more cuckoos than just the cuckoo bee. Not only do non-bee insects like nomad bees and other cuckoo bees parasitise beehives, but so do honeybees.


The cuckoo bee and the animal it parasitises are connected. The host species will determine the appearance and size of the parasite. If their host species are bumblebees, for instance, they will take on the appearance of those insects. The cuckoo bee is always an individual, which is the fundamental distinction.

Cycle of Life

The females produce live young, which hatch in the nest cells of their host. They go but could come back if new cells are created, and nourishment is provided to reproduce. After the host has shut the chambers, the Cuckoo Bee larvae emerge. The female of the host insect provides them with nectar and pollen, and they are equipped to kill the host insect’s eggs and larvae.


Cuckoo Bees are frequently spotted in their search for the nests of other species of bees. They can get inside homes if the walls are rotten, the wood is rotten, or the ground is rotten. They swoop low over the ground, peer into crevices in the dirt, and explore anything that resembles a doorway. They can also be seen late in the day, after their hosts have returned to their nests, sipping nectar from flowers.

What exactly do cuckoo bees eat?

Female cuckoo bees need pollen to help them produce eggs, and the males feed the females nectar. However, being cleptoparasitic means, they don’t harvest pollen to bring back to the nest. Thus the hard work ends there. The host employees are given free rein to decide.

Cuckoo bee larvae will consume both stale pollen balls and fresh pollen stocks delivered to them by host workers. They will kill and eat the host larvae if the female cuckoo bee hasn’t already done so.