There are over 20,000 different species or types of bees, which are classified by characteristics such as how they build their hives, how they socialize, how they behave and what they look like. All types of bees belong to one of nine families, which can be found all over the world. They can also be divided into two main groups, which are social bees, which live in colonies, and solitary bees, which live alone.
Honey is produced by bees.
Social bees live in colonies that can contain up to 80,000 bees with one or more queens. Of the social bees, the best known are honeybees, stingless bees and bumblebees. Most bees are solitary, but often these types of bees build their nests close to each other. These bees do not contain worker bees, and each female separately acts as a queen, building her own nest and laying eggs in it. Examples of solitary bees include carpenter, cuckoo, stonemason, leaf cutter, and miner bees.
A queen bee surrounded by assistants.
Honeybees are the only types of bees that produce honey and wax in sufficient quantities for humans to be able to harvest them. Honey and wax are used to build large hives that are made up of many cells and are used to raise and feed young bees. Like most bees, they use a venomous stinger to protect their homes and defend themselves, and will die if they need to use the stinger. An exception to this is the stingless bee, which uses its jaws to bite despite having a tiny sting. These bees live in tropical areas and are not found in the United States.
Bumblebees are larger types of bees and are usually mostly black, yellow and covered with fine hairs. These bees do not die if they use their stinger and can sting repeatedly when defending. The queen bee is the only member of the colony that lives through the winter and starts a new colony in the spring.
One of the main types of solitary bees is the carpenter bee, which builds its nest on dead wood, twigs or bamboo. Female carpenter bees dig a tunnel which they seal off after laying an egg along with pollen and nectar. Another solitary bee is the cuckoo bee, which cannot provide food for its own young because it cannot collect pollen on its hind legs. Some cuckoo bees are known to lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees, which will hatch before the other and “steal” the food that is left for it.