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Bee Species

There are about 20,000 different species of bees in the world in nine recognized families. The actual number of species may be higher as new species are discovered each year. Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica and in every habitat where insect-pollinated flowering plants grow. Certain bees live in colonies while others are solitary. There are three types of bees in each colony. There is the queen bee, the worker bee and the drone. The worker bee and the queen bee are both female, but only the queen bee can reproduce. All drones are male. Worker bees clean the hive, collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony and they take care of the offspring. The drone’s only job is to mate with the queen. The queen’s only job is to lay eggs.

Bees store their venom in a sac attached to their stinger and only female bees sting. That is because the stinger, called an ovipositor, is part of the female bee’s reproductive design. A queen bee uses her ovipositor to lay eggs as well as sting. Sterile females, also called worker bees, don’t lay eggs. They just use their ovipositors to sting.

Bees see all colors except the color red. That and their sense of smell help them find the flowers they need to collect pollen. Not only is pollen a food source for bees, but some of the pollen is dropped in flight, resulting in cross pollination. The relationship between the plant and the insect is called symbiosis.

Certain species of bees die after stinging because their stingers, which are attached to their abdomen, have little barbs or hooks on them. When this type of bee tries to fly away after stinging something, part of the abdomen is ripped away.

Bees produce honey the same way today as they have for at least 150 million years. Bees produce honey so that they have food for the hive during the long months of winter when flowers aren't blooming and when little or no nectar is available to them. Bees consume mainly pollen, a good source of protein and vitamins, for the first half of their lives, but come winter they switch to honey. European honeybees, genus Apis Mellifera, produce such an abundance of honey - far more than the hive can eat over a single winter - that humans can harvest the excess without risk to the honeybees.

Mature worker bees run about ten one-hour trips to and from the hive every day. Each can fly up to five miles in search for nectar, storing what she gathers in her “honey sac.” As the worker bees buzz on flowers, they collect a little water, a substance called propolis, (also referred to as “bee glue) and nectar (the sweet liquid flowers excrete to attract bees and other insects.) Their movement from flower to flower also provides one of nature’s most crucial functions – pollination. While collecting nectar, pollen collects on and falls off the bees’ legs, helping to fertilize flowers so they can produce seeds and fruit. Each variety of flower produces a unique type of pollen and a unique type of nectar both of which will affect the color, texture, flavor, and others properties of the honey. Since it is a product of nature, nectar and pollen can change from season to season and from year to year.

Back at the hive, bees will turn the nectar into honey, which is their primary food. Inside the hive, house worker bees remove and handle the nectar, passing it off from one another and fanning their wings rapidly to help evaporate moisture and concentrate the nectar. During this process known as "ripening," special enzymes on their bodies work with evaporation to transform the nectar into honey. When ready, the worker bees deposit the droplets of honey into hexagon-shaped wax cells and seal the cell with more wax. In her lifetime, the average worker bee makes only 1/12 teaspoon of honey, just a few small drops. Bees consume about 8 pounds of honey for every pound of surplus taken by the beekeeper.


Honeybees live in large "families" and are found all over the world. The honeybee is the only social insect whose colony can survive many years. That is because they huddle together and eat honey to keep themselves alive during the winter months. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 crops in the U.S. Their wings flap 11,000 times per minute, which is why it sounds like they are "buzzing". Honeybees can only sting once, because their stingers are barbed and tear off when they try to get away.

Amegilla Bee

Amegilla bees are a group of bee species, native to Australia, that do not produce honey but are important pollinators of crops and wild plants. Amegilla bees are not aggressive but can sting for defence. They have a mild sting that is much less painful than that of a honey bee. Amegilla bees, often known as banded bees because of their characteristic striped abdomens, are medium-sized bees with a golden brown head . Males rest overnight by clinging to plant stems. They live independently of others and nest in burrows in the soil, soft sandstone, old mortar or even mud bricks.

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bees are a group of, mostly large, metallic-colored bees that construct nests in flower stalks or wood. When female carpenter bees construct tunnels in solid wood, their chewing of the wood can be heard from several feet away. Piles of sawdust beside the nest entrance and the presence of many bees in flight in the area provide clues that a nest is near. There are about 730 species of carpenter bees. They live throughout the world wherever woody plants abound, especially in forested regions. Most species live in the tropics. Carpenter bees resemble bumble bees but do not have yellow markings. Carpenter bees typically fly long distances and visit many kinds of flowers. They can maintain their body temperature when the air is cool. Several species form colonies that display interesting social behaviors. Some of these species pass through several stages of social development as the colony matures. Different generations of these bees have been known to occupy a nest for over 14 years. Some types of carpenter bee form several communal nests in logs from a common nest entrance. A hierarchy is established among the females, and a bee guards the entrance at all times. Carpenter bee stingers are not barbed, so they are able to sting over and over again.

Leafcutter Bee

Leafcutter bees are important native insects of the western United States. They use cut leaf fragments to construct their nest cells. They often are essential pollinators of wild plants. Some leafcutter bees are even semidomesticated to help produce alfalfa seed. However, their habit of leaf cutting, as well as their nesting in soft wood or plant stems, often attracts attention and concern. Most leafcutter bees are approximately the size of the common honeybee, although they are somewhat darker with light bands on the abdomen. They also have different habits. Leafcutter bees are not aggressive and sting only when handled. Their sting is very mild, much less painful than that of honeybees. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, meaning that they don't produce colonies. Instead, individual female leafcutter bees do all the work of rearing. This includes digging out nesting areas, creating nest cells and providing their young with food. Adult females may live up to two months and lay some 35 to 40 eggs during this time.

Killer Bee

The Africanized Honeybee, also known as the "killer bee" lives in South America and the Western and Southern United States. They have been known to chase people for over a quarter of a mile once they get excited and aggressive. Even though they are called "Killer" bees, their venom is no more dangerous than regular honeybees. Their attacks are more harmful because they tend to attack in greater numbers, increasing your chance of having a severe allergic reaction to the venom released when they sting you. "Killer bees" can only sting once, because their stingers are barbed and tear off when they try to get away.

Ceratina Bee

Ceratina bees are found on all continents except Antarctica. There are 21 species of Ceratina that are common in the U.S. and Canada, but are rare in desert habitats. This group is unusual because it has several species that are parthenogenetic: females can produce eggs without mating. Ceratina are long, shiny, sturdy, sparsely haired and dark black, blue or green. Most species have yellow or white markings on the face and females often have a yellow bar in the middle of their face below their antennae.. Females carry dry pollen on scopa on their hind legs. The tip of a females abdomen is shaped like a shield. While females have scopa on the back of their legs, they usually have very small pollen loads. Ceratina includes solitary species and social species. While commonly called carpenter bees, they usually excavate their nests with their mandibles in the pithy centers of dead stems rather than in wood. Females will overwinter as adults in excavated stems and then modify this winter nest into a brood nest by excavating it further. Some of the shrubs they commonly use for nests are elderberry, box elder, and sumac.

Chckoo Bee

Cuckoo Bees belong to the subgenus of Bumblebees that live parasitically in the colonies of other bumblebees and have lost the ability to collect pollen. Before finding and invading a host colony, a female will feed directly from flowers. Once she has infiltrated a host colony, the female will kill or subdue the queen of that colony and forcibly (using pheromones and/or physical attacks) "enslave" the workers of that colony to feed her and her young. The female Cuckoo also has a number of morphological adaptations, such as larger mandibles and a larger venom sac that increase her chances of taking over a nest. Upon hatching, the male and female Cuckoo disperse and mate. Like non-parasitic bumblebee queens, female Cuckoo will find a suitable location to spend the winter.

German Black

Honey bees are not native to the New World, although North America has about 4,000 native species of bees. Honey bees were brought to America in the 17th century by the early European settlers. These bees were most likely the German or “black” bee. This stock is very dark in color and tends to be very defensive, making bee management more difficult. One of the German bees’ more favorable characteristics is that they are a hardy strain, able to survive long, cold winters in northern climates. However, because of their defensive nature and their susceptibil¬ity to many brood diseases, this stock lost favor with beekeepers well over a century ago. Although the feral bee population in the U.S. was once dominated by this strain, newly introduced diseases have nearly wiped out most wild honey bee colonies, making the German bee a rare stock at this time.


Bumble bees are similar to their close relatives, the honey bees, in that their colonies are headed by a queen, who is the main egg-layer, and many workers, who are the daughters of the queen, and in that drones (males) are produced during the mating season. However, the colonies of bumble bees, unlike those of honey bees, only survive during the warm season; new queens hibernate alone to begin another colony the following spring. In addition, there are usually fewer individuals in a bumble-bee colony than in a honey-bee colony, and bumble bees do not use a dance to communicate the location of food to other members of the colony, as honey bees do. Also, although bumble bees collect nectar and store it as honey, they do not hoard large amounts of it, as do honey bees.

Orchid Bee

Orchid Bees are a group of brightly colored tropical bees, also known as “gold bees”. There are more than 175 species. They occur only in the western hemisphere in tropical and subtropical regions from northern Mexico to Argentina. Many species of orchid bees collect nectar, pollen, and other substances from orchids. Orchid bees are among the most brilliantly colored insects. Many species are green, blue, purple, gold, or red. Some are black with yellow or white hairs and resemble bumble bees, to which they are closely related. Orchid bees range from 0.3 to 1.2 inches long and have tongues that, in some species, may be twice as long as the body. The long tongue allows them to reach nectar in deep-throated tropical flowers. Orchid bees are fast, strong fliers and can travel great distances. Some are known to fly as far as 28 to 31 miles in search of flowers.

Long Horn

Long Horn or Digger Bees, are a group of robust, fast-flying, ground-nesting bees with velvety fur. These bees live throughout the world. There are several thousand species, more than 900 of which occur in the United States and Canada. Digger bees visit a wide variety of flowers and are important in pollination. They are called long horned bees due to the exceptionally long antennae of the males. Digger bees display very interesting nesting and foraging behavior. Many species nest in dense aggregations, and swarms of males cruise around the nesting sites searching for emerging females. In one species, the males can detect the females in the ground before they emerge. These males dig a hole into the ground where the female will emerge and then await her arrival. Other males attempt to take over and fights ensue. The largest bee usually wins.

Mason Bee

Mason Bees are solitary bees that build part or all of their nests with mud or plant fiber chewed into a paste. Some species construct mud nests on exposed surfaces such as rocks. Others construct mud partitions between a linear series of brood cells (compartments for the larvae) that are produced in soil, hollow plant stems, or preexisting cavities, including empty snail shells and insect tunnels bored in wood. Mason bees have stout bodies, and many species are metallic green or bluish in color. Mason bees are common in the western United States, especially in forested regions, about 140 species of mason bees are found in North America out of about 200 species worldwide. These bees have a sting but do not attack defensively unless handled. The orchard mason bee is a metallic blue-black species native to North America that specializes in collecting pollen from the flowers of fruit trees. In some parts of the United States, these bees are cultivated to pollinate orchard crops, especially apples. This bee nests in holes in wood and the females prefer to make nests close to each other. Blocks of wood with holes drilled in them attract nesting bees. Orchard mason bees are very effective pollinators. Two or three females can pollinate the equivalent of a mature apple tree in one season. They fly in cool or rainy weather and can supplement or replace honey bees as commercial pollinators in some situations.

Sweat Bee

Sweat Bee is a common name for any of a large family of bees, many of which are attracted to the salts in human perspiration. Most sweat bees are small and are generally black or metallic colored, and some are brilliant green or brassy yellow. Sweat bees are among the most common bees wherever bees are found, except in Australia, where they are relatively uncommon. There are about 1000 species found in North and South America. Sweat bees are particularly numerous in North America. Although their small size makes them relatively inconspicuous, hundreds may swarm over flowers in gardens or meadows. The different species are often difficult to distinguish. Most sweat bees visit a variety of flowers. They sting only if handled. Most species nest in the ground, but some nest in wood. Nests usually consist of a single main tunnel having one or more clumped cells arising from lateral branches. In some species, the bees constantly guard the nest entrances.

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