What comes to mind when you hear the term “bees”? Getting stung (ugh! ), tasting delectable honey, or even hearing a low, constant buzzing sound? There are many different kinds of bees, and they all have a significant impact on our world. In this article, we’ll discuss bee kinds, bee hive hierarchy, and the wasps, the bees’ more aggressive cousins.
The most effective pollinators in the world are bees, and they work very hard at it. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated with their assistance.
They play a significant role in our global economy as well. We would be in serious difficulty without them.
But not all bees are the same. We must distinguish between the most prevalent bee species if we want to fully comprehend these adorable tiny beings.
All Types of Bees
There are 20,000 or more different species of bees. The only continent without a bee population is Antarctica. The number of species is about 4,000 alone in North America.
No matter the locale, bee species typically fit into one of two categories: social bees or solitary bees.
Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera)
These bees are easily distinguished from local bees by their colour, which is golden brown with black abdominal stripes. These bees were transported to North America to fertilize agricultural crops.
You will only witness female workers of honeybees. If you look closely at them, you can see yellow pollen on their legs, which indicates that they have been visiting flowers. The pollen is moved over the bees’ bodies and to their legs, where the bees deposit it in tiny pollen baskets.
Most honeybees in the United States reside in artificial hives that are cared for by professional or amateur beekeepers.
They seldom ever reside in natural colonies. You could still notice honeybees even if you don’t believe your area has a beekeeper. To get what they need, they will travel three kilometers or more from their colony. Only when pollen, for whatever reason, doesn’t make it into their pollen baskets can honeybee pollination take place.
In the unlikely event that a honeybee stings you, she can only do it once. The reason for this is that honeybees have a barbed stinger that is affixed to their digestive system and abdomen. As a result, when the bee leaves the victim after stinging, her stinger is still attached. She rips her guts out, literally.
Bumble Bee (Bombus)
With their rounded, fluffy bodies, black and yellow striped bodies, and white tails, bumble bees are simple to identify. The tails of bumble bees can be either red or yellow, depending on the species. Bumble bees come in 250 different species, most of which may be distinguished by similar physical characteristics.
Bumble bee literally translates as something that buzzes, hums, or moves awkwardly. This aptly descriptive moniker captures their bumble activity as they consume nectar and pollen from flowers.
Bumble bees dwell in nests and smaller colonies than honey bees. In the nest, they simply save trace amounts of food. Additionally, compared to honey bees, bumble bees have a broader body and fuzzier look. Bumble bees carry pollen sacs on their back legs, much like honey bees do.
Identification of bumble bees
Large bees with hairy bodies and legs, bumble bees are one kind. Look for tails that are often white but can occasionally be yellow or red, as well as prominent yellow and black bands. Bumble bees may reach a height of 0.6″. (1.7 cm).
Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)
If you’re fortunate, you could see leafcutter bees slicing off clean sections of leaves off a plant or shrub or maybe even building a nest in your bee hotel. On my leafcutter bee page, I have videos of this action that you may view.
With their teeth, leafcutter bees cut tidy pieces of leaves or petals. They bring this back to the location of their nest, where they build their egg cells in pre-existing cracks and hollow plant stems. Although leafcutter bees are frequently seen in gardens, keep an eye out for them in other areas as well!
The Coastal Leafcutter bee, Megachile maritima, is shown in the image above.
Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.), which range in size from about 12 inch to about an inch long and are black and yellow, are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees. Carpenter bees don’t have stripes, though; instead, they have a black tail and a yellow upper body.
Carpenter bees are appreciated for their capacity to pollinate plants, which helps home gardeners and producers, but they also have a dubious image. Carpenter bees create their nests in wood by boring tunnels and making holes in fallen trees, wood fences, decks, and even the structural wood used to construct houses.
The tunnels they create could appear to be only a few inches deep at first glance. The tunnels may really extend up to 10 feet in length. Carpenter bees construct tunnels for their nests both male and female, however only the female bee will sting. Instead, to deter predators from their nests, male carpenter bees engage in violent dive-bombing activity.
Carpenter bees have a yellow upper body and a black tail end that is between half an inch and slightly under an inch in length. They make nests by boring extensive tunnels in wood.
Mason bee (genus Osmia)
Megachilidae is the family to which Mason bees belong. They get their name from the fact that they frequently use mud or other masonry materials to construct their nests, which are placed in tiny, dim crevices and other naturally occurring spaces, such as spaces between stone cracks, inside hollow stems and twigs, and occasionally in “native bee hotels” that people hang in their gardens.
They are particularly effective pollinators because they are tiny, nimble, and quick-flying bees. The blue orchard bee, a species of mason bee, earned its name for its exceptional orchard pollination abilities. According to studies, when it comes to pollinating almonds, 400 female blue orchard bees are just as efficient as 10,000 honeybees!
Pollen baskets are not present on the legs of Mason bees. Instead, the hairs on the bottom of their abdomens contain pollen.
Their metallic bodies are often dark blue, drab green, or black in color. Some species might have rusty or reddish coloring. The rear region of adult mason bees, which measure approximately half an inch long, enlarges when pollen is present.
Blueberry Bees (Habropoda laboriosa, Southeastern Blueberry Bee)
These bees are around the size of a honeybee, but due to their banding and hair patterns, they resemble a smaller bumblebee or carpenter bee.
Because they have evolved alongside natural blueberries and their bodies have developed into the ideal form for bell-shaped blueberry blossoms, they have acquired their name.
They pollinate other plants in addition to being great blueberry pollinators. Once they locate blueberry plants, blueberry bees will often build their nests close to them in the ground.
Long-Horn Bees (Eucerini)
The body and legs of long-horn bees are hairy and feature black and white bands. The large antennae of long-horn bees are one of its most distinctive characteristics.
The tribe Eucerini has roughly 500 species of long-horned bees spread across 32 genera. There aren’t many traits that all long-horned bee species have in common.
Sunflower pollen is a frequent food source for long-horn bees. These bees don’t make honey and live alone, building their nests in tiny tunnels.
Identification of the Long-Horn Bee
On their fuzzy bodies, long-horn bees often have two long antennae and pale black and white bands. Their six legs are dark brown in hue and hairy.
One of the biggest families of bees, mining bees have over 1400 recognized species. Greek translates the name Andrena as “buzzing bug.” Although female mining bees often construct their nests near to one another, they are solitary insects.
Several major crops, including blueberries, apples, and cranberries, depend on the pollination of Andrena species.
You presumably inferred that mining bees excavate subterranean tunnels and chambers based on the name. If you’re lucky, you could see signs of them in your yard, such as little earthen mounds in borders and lawns that resemble worm castings. They often appear to like sandy soil.
The sweat bee (Halictidae), so named because of its love to perspiration, is a little bee with vibrant metallic green and blue coloring, while some of the more than 500 species in this family are brown and black. All sweat bees are prized for their role in pollinating plants, and some of them have colored bands.
The average species is on the lesser end of the adult size spectrum, measuring between 14 and 34 inches. Sweat bees are found worldwide, although they prefer temperate climates. They build subterranean nesting colonies and gather nectar and pollen for the colony’s benefit as well as their own.
Only female sweat bees sting, and when they do, they keep injecting their victims with venom until they are freed. Brush the bee off as soon as it stings to lessen the discomfort of a sweat bee bite.
Key Features: Despite having more than 500 species and a variety of hues, sweat bees can be challenging to recognize. Many also have a metallic shine and are modest in size. Additionally, they are drawn to sweat.
Squash bee (genera Peponapis and Xenoglossa)
Squash bees, which are native solitary bees, are members of the Apidae family and belong to the genera Peponapis and Xenoglossa.
They resemble honeybees in terms of coloration but are larger and bulkier than bumblebees. They have longer antennae and rounder faces than honeybees.
Squash bees were the primary pollinators of squash and gourds that were cultivated by indigenous peoples throughout the Americas until Europeans introduced honeybees to the New World.
Nowadays, male squash bees may be seen swarming from squash bloom to squash flower in the early morning hours in quest of mates.
The only source of pollen for females, squash, pumpkin, and gourd blooms are consumed as food. In addition to many other types of the cucurbit family, they are excellent pollinators of zucchini and butternuts. Because to their diligence, subsequent visits by honeybees have little impact on the same crops.
These bees are solitary and construct underground homes for themselves. Male squash bees, however, may stay the night within closed blooms before returning to their jobs the following morning.
Hoverflies (Family: Syrphidae)
The most prevalent pollinating flies are hoverflies, often known as flower flies, which make up a sizable and significant group of pollinators. There are more than 6,000 species, many of which imitate bees seeking cover.
You will start to see hoverflies everywhere once you understand the distinction between flies and bees and become accustomed to looking for them. Bees and flies both have four wings, however bees have four, while flies only have two.
Another is that the ocular structures of hoverflies and bees are highly dissimilar. For example, flies have enormous eyes on either side of their heads.
Flowers with sweet-tasting nectar draw hoverflies in particular. Mountain mint, asters, and hyssop are a few of these.
Green Metallic Sweat Bee (Augochlora pura)
The body of green metallic sweat bees is a stunning glossy green with iridescence. These solitary sweat bee species comprise more than 4,000 species in 81 genera. The 0.3-inch-long green metallic sweat bees are a small species of bee (0.8 cm).
Female green metallic sweat bees build their homes in rotting wood. The males pass away in the fall rather of making it through the winter.
The green metallic sweat bees sting only infrequently. But since they are drawn to salt, they frequently land on people to suck perspiration from the skin.
Identification of sweat bees in green metallic
Due to their eye-catching glossy metallic green heads and bodies, green metallic sweat bees are simple to identify.
Large carpenter bees (Family: Apidae)
Large, robust bees are carpenter bees. There are more than 500 Xylocopa species known to exist. Tropic areas, the United States, Canada, and Europe are all home to many species. It is known that they buzz pollinate.
Greek meaning “wood worker,” Xylocopa alludes to this species’ practice of gnawing holes into wood to construct nests.
When observed in gardens, the species seen above, the Eastern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica, is occasionally mistaken for a Bumble Bee.
The Africanized bee (A.m. scutellata), a highly defensive bee that is also referred to as a “killing bee,” is a hybrid of the western honeybee and the east African lowland honeybee. The Africanized bee (not “African” bee) is far more aggressive and will attack humans, whereas the typical honeybee is territorial and will protect its colony.
Over 1,000 individuals have died as a result of Africanized bees. Since being released in Brazil in the 1950s, this aggressive bee has been slowly moving north; it is currently present in the southern United States. Despite the fact that this bee aids in pollination, it is a pollinator that should be avoided because it is an invasive species.
By eye, it might be challenging to distinguish this bee since it resembles the European honeybee but is a little smaller. When a bee becomes aroused, it will behave aggressively for up to 30 minutes, which is one indication that you may be looking at an Africanized bee.
Africanized bees migrate and sting in big swarms, so a victim might receive a lethal dosage of venom. The sting of an Africanized bee is not more painful than that of a conventional honeybee, but it is more likely to be fatal.
Key Characteristics: Pay close attention to the behavior of an Africanized bee to recognize it. Although it resembles a European honeybee almost exactly, Africanized honeybees are more aggressive, more prone to sting without reason, and more likely to migrate in big swarms.
Facts About Bees
Bees, particularly honey bees, are gregarious animals that dwell in enormous colonies. The number of worker bees in a single hive can range from 20,000 to 80,000. A bee colony, which consists of a queen, drones, and workers who take care of the beehive, is also very well structured.
Although many bee species swarm in vast groups, certain bee species live alone.
Most ecosystems rely on bees in one way or another. Bees are essential for flower pollination so that humans can enjoy yearly harvests of fruit and vegetables. Additionally, bees create honey, a delectable sweet meal that is loved by people, animals, and birds.
Despite the fact that many bee species are stinging insects, they are often not hostile. Bees often don’t assault humans because they are peaceful animals.
Africanized bees, however, are aggressive, territorial creatures. The issue is that Africanized honey bees can attack without being provoked and have a similar appearance to common honey bees (Apis mellifera).
Bees consume nectar and pollen from blossoming plants. Bees like honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees pollinate flowers as they fly from plant to plant. The nectar and pollen are subsequently brought back to the colony by honey bees, who turn them into honey, a food supply that never leaves the hive.