We come across so many varieties of bees when we are in a garden that unless and until we are well acquainted with their varieties we cannot identify them properly. And understandingly so as the superfamily of bees comprise of innumerable families, tribes, subfamilies that together make around 20,000 species of bees. Bees belong to the suborder Apocrita and insect order Hymenoptera. All these myriad bees have special traits and characteristics which help in differentiating them. At times it is impossible to see them clearly with naked eyes as their colors get merged with the vibrant hues of flowers and leaves of plants. Observing a shining bee digging nectar and pollens from the corolla of a vibrant flower is indeed a special experience.
What are the different types of bees?
Some of the different types of bees we usually come across are:
Bumblebees: These black or yellow colored bees are quite large and hairy. These flourish mostly in tropical climates and cannot survive in the cool weather of North America. They are known to live in colonies. As in other bees, the queen bees undergo hibernation during winter and wake up during the summer season to lay eggs and form a new colony. These bees mostly nest in already created deserted holes of rodents or various other small animals. Bumblebees are stingless as well as with stings.
Honeybees: Honey bees are the most popular bees usually black or brown yellow in color with small size. These bees display a special classification of worker bees, male or done bees and queen bees and are highly social. The worker bees collect honey and pollens from the flower and protect the bee-hive whereas the queen bee mates with the male bees and produce around 2000 eggs per days as long as she is fertile. The hives of the honey bees is called honey comb which is made of bees wax.
Carpenter bees: These bees are 2 to 2.5 inches in length having black color with yellowish marks and metallic finish. These birds nest in woods or flower stalks and can travel very long in search of nectar. These bees do not produce wax and at the entrance of their nest pile of sawdust is always observed.
Ground bees: These bees are also known as mining bees because they build tunnels inside the ground for making shelter for their young ones. These tunnels are specially made where the soil is loose and the vegetation is scarce. The tunnels also comprise of chambers for food storage. Ground bees are black, small sized and are known for stinging. These bees can live in colonies or alone but in all conditions they nest in close company.
Parasitic bees: Also known as the cuckoo bees these bees as the name suggest thrive in the nest and food built by the other host-bees. Hence they are also classified as social parasites or cleptoparasitic bees. These bees attack the nesting solitary bee and keep their own eggs hidden in the chambers of the female host bee. Once the larvae hatch they feed on the food stored by the host bee and kill her eggs or the larvae. Like other bees, female parasitic bees do not have pollen baskets or pollen brushes.
Digger bees: The specialty of these bees is their long tongue and the ability to fly very fast. These bees build their nests in wood or in the grounds and carry pollen through their bushy middle or hind legs. These bees are known as the best pollinators and are prominently found in America and Canada.
Leafcutter and mason bees: These bees have very long tongues and nest in existing holes or cavities individually or in collections. These are beneficial in pollination of agriculture crops.
Sweat bees: Sweat bees get attracted by the salt produced by human perspiration. They dig their nests under the ground and are very small with dark color and very little hair. They live in societies.
Cellophane bees: These are supposed to be the primitive bees and are very much similar to wasps. They have forked yet short tongue with very little body hair. Cellophane bees create nests that has a secretion which hardens to form cellophane membrane.
Plasterer bees: These are called plasterer bees because they produce a glandular plastic like secretion when they build tunnels or dig holes for nesting.
Carder bees: These bees use the woolly or furry type of material from plants and build their nests.
Orchid bees: These bees and orchids are known to have co-evolved with each other and hence these bees are dependent on orchids for nectar and vice-versa. Orchid bees are vibrant with metallic finish body. The orchids store their nectar deeply hidden within their blossoms but the orchid bees with their long proboscis are well equipped to reach it.
Africanized honeybees: They were created when some African species imported to Brazil in 1957 mated with the European bees. These bees are comparatively more aggressive than the European honey bees and hence are also known as killer bees.