Types of Bees - Bumblebee
September 16, 2019/Bee
  • By Nectar Foods

Good day friends, its nice meeting you again. I hope you enjoyed our last post on fun facts about bees?  Before proceeding with today’s post on types of bees, let’s do a quick recap.

There are about 20,000 different types of bees (species) in the world. They live in colonies and there are three types of bees in each colony, this is the queen bee, the worker bee, and the drone. The worker bee and the queen bee are both females, but the queen bee alone can reproduce. While all the drones are male. Worker bees clean the hive, collecting 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 bee. The queen’s only job is to reproduce.

Without wasting words let’s move on to our next topic in this series which is types of bees.  I hope you know that  I am not the only type of bee that exists, which is one of the reasons I am specifically called the honey bee. There are two (2) main types of bees existing, they are:

  1. The social bee, and
  2. The solitary bee.

Now, we are going to look into the various types of bees under each class. 

Social bees

  • Bumblebees
  • Honey bees

Solitary bees

  • Carpenter bees
  • Digger bees
  • Mining bees
  • Leaf-cutting and mason bees
  • Sweat bees
  • Plasterer bees
  • Yellow-faced Bees

Social Bees

Bumblebees are very large, black and yellow, bees that you see flying around your garden during the warmer months. The large (10 to 23 mm), hairy bees and the only truly social bees found in the United States. Bumblebees are social, have a queen, workers, and scouts who seek out food that they then bring back to the nest to nurture their young. Overwintering queens form new colonies in the spring and nest in the ground. Bumblebees are used commercially to pollinate crops such as tomato. Pollen is carried on the hind legs on corbiculae (enlarged areas surrounded by stiff hairs). They are one of the biggest pollinators, probably second only to the honey bee, on the planet and vital to the overall ecosystem of Earth. Bumblebees obsessively seek out flowers in search of nectar and pollen.

Types of Bees - Bumblebee

Honey bees are one of the most common social insects on the planet, honey bees create colonies that can be as large as 80,000 individual insects, live in hives and create honey. Honey bees are quite simply the number one pollinator insect on the entire planet and one of the most vital links in the entire ecosystem. Honey bees do not look hairy like bumblebees, are generally smaller than the bumblebees and have longer, narrower bodies. Honey bees are often confused with hornets and wasps because their body structure is somewhat similar. Honey bees have colonies that work in a caste system. Each bee has a specialized role in maintaining the hive and helping the colony thrive. There tend to be three castes:

  • Queen 
  • Worker 
  • Drone 

The difference between honey bees and other bees, wasps, and hornets, is that they have a barbed stinger. This means that when a honey bee stings someone, that stinger gets stuck in the flesh and, when they fly away, their insides get pulled out of them. This causes the death of the bee but leaves behind the mechanisms that pump venom into their intended victim. Other stinging pests can sting over and over again. Honey bees are so vital to the ecosystem that many of them are protected now.

Types of Bees

Solitary bees

Some bees prefer to operate on their own or with very small colonies. All creatures, of course, want to find a mate and create offspring. These bees do, too, but solitary bees tend to have very small nests, fly by themselves, and generate enough food just to feed what larvae they have and that’s it. There are a lot of species of solitary bees, and most of them are relatively harmless to humans. Only a few of them can create problems that might make you want to contact a pest control specialist. 

Carpenter bees get their name because they prefer to make their nests inside wood using their mandibles and forelegs. They chew into almost any kind of wood, trees, and logs out in the wild to make their nest. They are tricky to spot and look like very large, very plumpy, very hairy bumblebees. However, they are different from bumblebees. To see the differences you would likely have to look up closer than you would prefer. Carpenter bees are blue-black in appearance, with striped furs that resemble a bumblebee. However, the bumblebee (in addition to being slightly smaller) has hair all over its body and carpenter bees do not have hair on its abdomen.

Types of Bees - Carpenter bees

Digger bees are smaller than carpenter bees but are also quite hairy. Generally, diggers are about 12 to 18mm in length. They create a burrow in the ground and then use special glands within their bodies to line it with a waterproof, fungus-resistant lining that protects the chamber and their young. Digger bees tunnels will generally consist of one major chamber and a few branching tunnels off of it for storage or food and their larvae and eggs. They are known as the ground-nesting bee.

Types of Bees - Digger bee

Mining bees are very similar in their behaviour as digger bees. Mining bees create complex tunnels and nests underground. Sometimes offspring set up their nests in the ground right nearby. Depending on the species, they may be dark or shiny metallic, often with yellow, white or rust-coloured markings. The females are very fuzzy, which allows them to carry pollen on their bodies. Like other bees, they eat nectar and pollen from flowers, but the particular flowers they like to forage from differs depending on the species.  Some feed on many types of flowers while others feed only from selected flower species.

Types of Bees - Mining bee

Leaf-cutting bees have dark bodies and light hairs under the abdomen. Their heads are broad because they have large jaws for cutting leaves. They are about 7 to 18mm in length and look like they are made from some light metal or are very dark in colour. Leaf-cutting and mason bees are of the same family, but leaf-cutting bees prefer to make their tunnels and create their nests in rotting wood, wood shingle siding and the insulated panels of buildings when they end up in contact with people. In areas, other than buildings, they will use hollow spaces in old logs and trees.

Types of Bees - Leaf-cutting Bees

Sweat bees are small, ranging from 0.125 to 0.5 inches or 3mm in length, and their small size may prevent many people from noticing their presence. Male sweat bees are typically more slender than females. These bees are known for their metallic colouring. Most are shades of green, blue and bronze, although some are a dull, metallic black. They are also the type of bee that prefers to build their nests underground. They tend to have hairy bodies and, although they are solitary, groups of them can build nests in clusters with telltale mounds of earth at the openings. They play an important role in pollinating the native plants of the areas they inhabit. Females are equipped to carry pollen on the backs of their legs, although males are not.

Types of Bees - Sweet Bee

Plasterer bees are a little bigger than sweat bees, coming in around 10 – 18mm in length and also quite hairy-looking. They are also known as Colletes or cellophane bees. Colletes means ‘one who glues’, and it refers to the nest construction habits of this particular species of bee These bees make a waterproof, fungus-resistant substance – silky cellophane that they use to glue and line the walls of their nest cells, and which they apply with their short, forked tongues.. They are ground-burrowers, but will also use crevices located in bricks and stone to build their nests.

Types of Bees - Plasterer Bees

Yellow-faced bees are part of the same family as plasterer bees and are very tiny, coming in about 6mm at their biggest. They get their name, as you might have guessed, from their yellow-coloured (sometimes white) faces. They build nests and burrows in crevices in brick and stone or even inside plant stems. A few species will even dig burrows in the ground.

Types of Bees - Yellow-faced bees

Below are the types of bee classified under their family/species.

Family Notes
Apidae  Honey bees, bumblebees, digger bees and carpenter bees.
Megachilidae Leafcutter and mason bees.
Andrenidae Mining bees
Colletidae Plasterer and yellow-faced bees.
Halictidae sweat bees