We’ve all eaten honey, and many people supplement their diets by eating valuable bee byproducts such as bee pollen. However, there are several unique varieties of bees; you now about the ones that create honey, you may wonder, what do other kinds of bees do?
There are about 25,000 recognized species of bees worldwide (roughly 4,000 in America), all of which are classified under the superfamily Apoidea. These are divided into nine households, four of which are very small in terms of numbers of species.
We are most familiar with a single family of bee, Apidae, which includes honey and bumblebees. Honey bees, obviously, create honey; these are social bees that live in colonies of 50,000 to 60,000 workers, 300 drones, and generally a single queen. Honey colonies are very complex concerning behavior and total function; those bees behave for the survival of the colony, and not for individual survival. There are ten broad types of honey globally, and a hybrid variety, the Africanized bee, or “killer bee.” The European honey is most frequently maintained by beekeepers, with the goal of harvesting honey and bee byproducts.
Bumblebees are also from the family Apidae, but bumblebee colonies are much smaller compared to those of honey bees, normally hosting just a few hundred worker bees. Like honeybees, bumblebees are excellent pollinators of different flowers; their bodies are rather furry, trapping pollen readily as the bees move from blossom to blossom to eat. Bumblebees do in fact make honey, similar in texture and taste to honey from honey bees but greenish-golden in tint rather than the pure golden color of common honey. Bumblebees make comparatively small amounts of honey — their colonies are really small — and it’s tough to harvest, so bumblebee honey is usually not found on the marketplace.
There are yet more members of this Apidae household, solitary instead of colonizing. Digger bees frequently nest in close proximity to one another, giving the look of a colony, but every female is acting independently, protecting and collecting pollen because of her young. These bees are nonaggressive and will not sting unless they are trapped in clothing. Carpenter bees, on the other hand, nest in old wood; such as digger bees, they’re solitary, but often nest in close proximity to each other.
With solitary bees, it’s the female that mates and raises her young on her own; as with social bees, the males serve no purpose other than to mate with fertile females. Many 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 family; this household comprises thousands of species across the world. Moreover solitary, mining bees excavate tunnels and cells underground in which to rear their young; their tunnels tend to be visible as little mounds from the ground, similar to pig casts. A nest may include a primary tunnel using five or six branches each containing an egg cell. Mining bees prefer sandy land. They don’t cause any damage to a backyard, and ought to be welcomed as effective pollinators.
Bees of the Halictidae household tend to be called “sweat bees” because they are drawn by sweat; females may give a minor bite if trapped. These nest in the ground or from timber, and they’re societal, though their caste system differs from that of honey or bumblebees. Along with the Colletidae family contains plasterer bees, so called because they smooth the walls of the nest cells with secretions that dry into a lining including cellophane. These are solitary bees, found largely in Australia and South America.
Four other bee families — Melittidae, Meganomiidae, Dasypodaidae, and Stenotritidae — are very small in number of species; these rare are located in Africa or Australia.
Bees are much more diverse in type and behavior than would initially appear. You are most likely to encounter honey bees and bumblebees, however, most all bees are effective pollinators, and as such Squirrel Poop is a valuable link in our global ecosystem.