Bees Types, Family and Taxa

There are about 20,000 different species of bees in the world. Bees live in colonies and 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, 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. The queen’s only job is to lay eggs.

Click on the links below to reveal the information on the types of bees, how we have organised them into 'family' or 'taxa' and also some links that you may find useful in further understanding the problem and solutions related to CCD.
    Types of Bees
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    The Honey Bee (Family: Apidae)

    Honey bees are classed as ‘social’ bees, as they live in colonies usually consisting of around 50,000 – 60,000 workers. There are 10 types of honey bee world wide, and one hybrid: the Africanized bee. The European Honey Bee is commonly kept by beekeepers in the West, who then harvest their honey. For more information about honey bees, click here.

    As with many types of bees, honey bees have been experiencing problems, i.e. Colony Collapse Disorder or the 'missing bees' phenomenon. Honey bees play an important role, along with beekeepers, in conservation. Learn more here. Honey bees are also used extensively in crop pollination too, and along with other bees, they help to put food on our plates.
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    The Bumblebee (Family: Apidae)

    Most bumblebee colonies are fairly small, from 50 to 400 workers, but usually around 120 to 200. Pictured left is Bombus lucorum - The White-tailed bumblebee. Most species are ‘social', but there are also 'social parasite' species, known as 'cuckoo bumblebees'. These parasitic bumblebees inhabit the nests of other bumblebee hosts.

    Bumblebees are also excellent pollinators of all kinds of flowers, and are a welcome and familiar site in gardens. Their efficiency as pollinators is partially down to their furry body shape, but also because they have the ability to 'buzz pollinate'. To read more about bumblebees generally, click here.
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    Leafcutter and Mason bees (Family: Megachilidae)

    These types of bees are solitary bees. With solitary bees, usually, a single female mates, then constructs a nest alone, and provides for the egg cells that will become larvae.

    However, some solitary bees in one sense, do live in a simple form of society (or social group) in that a few individual bees may nest close to each other, and in some cases, even share nest guarding and foraging duties! Mason bees like to make nests in crevices, sometimes in old mortar, where as leaf cutter bees like hollow stems and ready made holes in wood.
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    Digger Bees and Carpenter Bees (Family: Apidae)

    These are also solitary bees, and are good pollinators. Not surprisingly, digger bees usually make their nests in soil. They have hairy bodies, and can be up to 3cm long!

    Carpenter bees vary. Some species in the USA, for example, may have a ginger brown, hairy body, or have predominantly black shiny bodies. This picture (left), is of a carpenter bee species that is found in Italy and some other southern European countries. It's called a 'Violet Carpenter Bee' - Xylocopa violacea. It likes to nest in old wood. Recently, it has been spotted in the UK, but is a very recent arrival. To learn more about these kinds of bees, click here.
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    Mining Bees (Family: Andrenidae)

    Not to be confused with 'Digger Bees', Mining bees belong to a different family of bees altogether - and it's a huge family of bees, consisting of thousands of types of bees across the world. Mining bees are solitary, although females usually build nests quite close to each other.

    From the name, you probably guessed that mining bees excavate tunnels and cells under-ground. If you're lucky, you may see evidence of them in your garden: little mounds of earth in lawns, borders, or even in pots that look a bit like worm casts. In general, they seem to prefer sandy soil. They will not cause any damage, and indeed, mining bees should be welcomed in the garden, as again, they are not only enchanting little creatures, they are also valuable pollinators of plants and flowers. Pictured here is the Tawny Mining Bee – Andrena frigidai, a species found in Northern America.
    Bees by 'Family' or 'Taxa'

    Super-family: Apoidea

    (Note: This family also includes 'Sphecoid Wasps', not detailed here)

    • ApidaeIncludes honey bees and bumblebees.
    • MegachilidaeMostly solitary bees, including leafcutter and mason bees.
    • AndrenidaeMining bees. A large family of bees, with many species. It includes the genera 'Andrena', with another 1,300 species alone.
    • ColletidaeBelieved to consist of around 2,000 species, and includes plasterer and yellow-faced bees.
    • HalictidaeOften called 'sweat bees', these are smallish bees, mostly dark coloured, but some having green, yellow or red markings.
    • MelittidaeA small family of bees in Africa, with around 60 species belonging to 4 genera.
    • MeganomiidSmall bee family of about 10 species in 4 genera. Found in Africa.
    • DasypodaidaeOriginally called 'dasypodidae'. Small bee family found in Africa, with more than 100 species in 8 genera.
    • StenotritidaeSmall bee family with around 21 species in 2 genera. Found in Australia. Originally part of the 'Colletidae' family.
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