We have all eaten honey, and several of us supplement our diets by eating beneficial bee byproducts like bee pollen. But, there are several different species of bees; which ones create honey, and what do other sorts of bees do?
There are about 25,000 identified species of bee global (roughly 4,000 in america), all of which are classified under the superfamily Apoidea. These are split into nine households, four of which are very small with respect to numbers of species.
We’re most comfortable with a single family of bee, Apidae, including honey and bumblebees. Honey bees, obviously, produce honey; these are social bees that live in colonies of 50,000 to 60,000 workers, 300 drones, and usually a single queen. Honey colonies are very complex concerning behavior and overall function; those bees behave for the survival of the colony, rather than for individual survival. There are ten broad types of Bat Poop and honey worldwide, and a hybrid variety, the Africanized bee, or “killer bee.” The European honey is most frequently maintained by beekeepers, for the purpose of harvesting bee and honey byproducts.
Bumblebees can also be from the family Apidae, but bumblebee colonies are much smaller than those of honey bees, generally hosting only a couple hundred worker bees. Like honey, bumblebees are excellent pollinators of different flowers; their bodies are rather furry, trapping pollen easily as the bees go from flower to flower to consume. And bumblebees do in fact make honey, similar in texture and flavor to honey from honey bees but greenish-golden in tint in place of the pure gold color of frequent honey. Bumblebees make comparatively small quantities of honey — their colonies are so small — and it is tough to harvest, therefore bumblebee honey is generally not found on the marketplace.
There are yet more members of this Apidae family, solitary instead of colonizing. Digger bees usually make their nests in the dirt, rearing their young in soil colonies; their bodies are hairy, and sometimes up to 3 centimeters long. Digger bees often nest in close proximity to one another, giving the appearance of a colony, but every female is acting independently, protecting and collecting pollen because of her young. These bees are nonaggressive and won’t sting unless they’re trapped in clothes. Carpenter bees, on the other hand, nest from old wood; like digger bees, they are solitary, but frequently nest in close proximity to each other.
Leafcutter bees and mason bees are members of their Megachilidae family; they are solitary, with leafcutters making nests in hollow plant stems and ready holes in wood and mason bees nesting in old mortar and assorted crevices. A number of these solitary bees are increasingly being reared commercially available for pollination purposes, particularly as honey bee populations around the world are dwindling for as yet unexplained reasons.
Mining bees belong to the Andrenidae household; this family comprises tens of thousands of species across the world. Also solitary, mining bees excavate tunnels and cells underground in which to rear their young; their tunnels tend to be visible as little mounds in the floor, akin to worm casts. A nest may include a primary tunnel with five or six branches each comprising an egg cell. Mining bees prefer sandy land. They do not cause any damage to a garden, and ought to be welcomed as effective pollinators.
Bees of the Halictidae family tend to be called “sweat bees” because they are attracted by sweat; females may provide a slight bite if trapped. These nest from the ground or in timber, and they’re societal, although their caste system differs from that of either honey or bumblebees. Along with the Colletidae family comprises plasterer bees, so called because they smooth the walls of their nest cells using secretions that dry into a lining resembling cellophane. All these are solitary bees, located mostly in Australia and South America.
Four other bee households — Melittidae, Meganomiidae, Dasypodaidae, and Stenotritidae — are extremely small in many species; these rare are found in Africa or Australia.
Bees are much more diverse in type and behaviour than would at first seem. You are most likely to encounter honey bees and bumblebees, however, most all bees are more effective pollinators, and as such a valuable link in our global ecosystem.