It is estimated that there are between 20,000 and 25000 species of bee worldwide. Of these, there are more than 4,000 distinct types, all belonging to the Apoidea family, part of the Hymenoptera order. The Apoidea family is further broken down into nine different groups.
It is believed that bees descended from Crabronidae Wasps. Specifically, Sphecid Wasps. In the United Kingdom, there are approximately 250 species of bees. The United States has roughly 4,000 different species.
It would be almost impossible to list all 25,000 species of bees here, so let’s focus on the most common bees you will likely see in your garden.
These bumbling giants are the largest bees found in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Bumblebees are also famous for being the friendliest of all the bee species. In the United Kingdom and Europe, some of the most common types of Bumblebee include:
The Bilberry Bumblebee
The Buff Tailed Bumblebee
The Common Carder Bee
The Early Nesting Bumblebee
The Forest Cuckoo Bee
The Garden Bumblebee
The Gypsy Cuckoo Bee
The Heath Bumblebee
The Large Garden Bumblebee
The Large Garden Bumblebee
The Moss Carder Bee
The Red Shanked Carder Bee
The Red Tailed Bumblebee
The Shrill Carder Bee
The Tree Bumblebee
The White-Tailed Bumblebee
Depending on the species of the Bumblebee, they will either be solitary or social. This means that they either live alone or in a colony.
And to answer the question of whether Bumblebees make honey? Yes. The average adult bumble bee makes honey!
The Flower bee is quite rare in the United Kingdom and Europe. These small but friendly bees can be seen starting from early March. Female Flower bees look at very similar to bumble bees and have distinctive black colouring.
Male flower beds are often confused with carder bees. Specifically, the common carder bee.
If you are lucky to see the Hairy-Footed Flower bee, make sure you get a photo or two of this wonderful little creature.
Flower bees tend to be solitary, but it is not uncommon to see them living in communal groups when nesting conditions are favourable.
Honey Bees. One of nature’s most civilised and organised species! These efficient little workers have a strict hierarchy within their colony. Different ranks equal different jobs that they carry out in and out of the hive.
Just as us humans tend to have a single person ruling our lands, be it a queen, king, president or prime minister, honey bees do too. A single queen rules the colony, while all the worker bees and drones serve her.
Honey bees are famous for their honey production. In fact, they are the dominant beast pieces when it comes to producing this sweet liquid gold.
The most common type of Honeybee around the world is the Western Honey Bee, also known as the European Honey Bee, which lives in hives and pollinates plants perfectly. They also only sting when threatened, making them a welcome garden visitor. Check out this post for more information on Western honey bees.
Unless you are an expert, it is difficult to tell the difference between a Leafcutter bee and a honey bee. The similarities are striking. However, their behaviours are very different. For a start, Leafcutter bees carry pollen on the hairs on the underside of their body.
If you see a bee that is pale yellow underneath, chances are it’s a Leafcutter.
Just as their name suggests, Leafcutter bees make nests from leaves. When they find a suitable place to nest, they cut leaves and roll them into a cylindrical shape. If you have a bee hotel in your garden, don’t be surprised if one moves in.
Leaf cutter bees are not the only builders that use organic materials to build a nest. Mason bees also have the same behaviour.
The main difference is that a mason bee uses mud to construct a nest instead. These friendly little insects are solitary and are not known for aggressive behaviour.
When it comes to pollination, mason bees are among the most effective and efficient. Just as honey bees have been domesticated for honey production, mason bees and Bumblebees are now being reared for pollinating fruit crops!
Mason bees will move into crevices and cracks where they will lay their eggs and seal the entrance with a mud cap. Why not check out our DIY Mason Bee House Project for kids to make.
We have had builders, and now we move on to miners. With more than 1,300 known global species, the Mining bee is among one of the largest groups of solitary bees.
Unlike honey bees, but with similarities to Bumblebees, Mining bees tend to build their nests in the ground.
These busy little burrowers can range from just a few millimetres long to almost an inch.
Another similarity that the Mining bee has with the Bumblebee is its gentle temperament.
While you are unlikely to see a Carpenter bee in the cooler temperatures of Northern Europe and the UK, occasional sightings do happen.
Carpenter bees are a common sight in southern Europe, especially in Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Just as Leafcutter bees build a nest out of leaves, Mining bees nest underground, and mason bees nest using soil. Carpenter bees bore into wood.
It is not uncommon to see a male Carpenter bee hurtling toward you when you disrupt a nesting site. An instinct that seems to work for defending their nests. Of course, as is true with all bees, males cannot sting! Killer bees they are not.The female Carpenter bee can sting. But they have the same docile nature as Bumblebees.
Visually, it is easy to mistake a Carpenter bee for a Bumblebee. The Carpenter bee is pure black, making it slightly easier to distinguish from a Bumblebee, (although there are also black Bumblebees).
Next up in our trade list of bees is the Plasterer bee. Plasterer bees are also commonly known as cellophane bees. They get this name from the glue that they produce to line the nest cell walls. This glue is fungus resistant and waterproof and resembles cling film.
The glue is secreted from the Du four’s gland, which is located on their abdomen. Another common name used for the Plasterer bee is Collete’s Plasterer Bee.
Much like the Mining bee, Plasterer bees also prefer to live in underground burrows. European Plasterer bees have been known to nest in soft mortar and walls.
When it comes to foraging behaviour, some bees are specialists while others are happy to visit whatever flowers are nearby.Typically, the Plasterer bee is friendly and rarely ever aggressive unless it feels threatened.
Wool Carder Bees
Think of the Wool Carder bee as a specialist weaver. They collect the small fibres from plants such as Stachys byzantina (Lambs Ear) and lavender to line egg cells. Their building abilities are similar to mason bees and Leaf Cutter Bees, which incidentally, belong to the same family.
The Wool Carder bee is often mistaken for a wasp due to its striking yellow and black detailing. They are also commonly mistaken for the Sweat bee, especially when collecting pollen and taking off covered in it.
Male Carder Bees are territorial, but remember, they don’t have a stinger. They are also larger than their female counterparts.
A Little Bit About Honey
Most bees don’t make honey. But Honey Bees do!
Sweet and sticky liquid gold! We all know what honey is. And we all know where it comes from. But do you know what honey is? If your first thought is bee vomit, you are right… and wrong at the same time. Honey is made from nectar collected from flowers.
Busy little bees suck up this sweet liquid through their proboscis’, which is then stored in their second stomach. This second stomach is not used for digesting food for energy, so the nectar is not processed by the bees. (It is also where water is stored to take back to the hive)
Upon returning back to the hive, the field bees then regurgitate (transfer) the nectar to the house bees. Regurgitation, while similar to vomiting, is not actually vomiting. So honey isn’t really bee vomit.
And a Bit More About Honeycomb
After the process of transferring the nectar from field bees to house bees takes place, it is now the job of house bees to make wax. This wax is secreted from house bees and they use it to form a comb
A comb is the combination of cells arranged in a hexagonal structure, which is built by bees. The key ingredient to building comb is Wax. The bees make honeycomb mainly to store the honey, which will feed their larvae and provide food source for during Winter.
OK – Time for us to Buzz Off
These are just a few of the most common types of bees you are likely to see in the United Kingdom and across Europe. This is by no means a comprehensive list and is intended to highlight bee different species of bees you will likely find in your garden.
If you find any of these bees nesting in your garden, there’s no need to call pest control. Trust us, your garden will thank you for letting them stay.
If you want to know more about the wonderful world of bees, check our 30 Facts about Bees post. It’s well worth a read!