Members of the Apidae family, bees are flying insects that collect nectar and pollen. Bees are entirely dependent on flowers for food, which consists of pollen and nectar, the latter sometimes modified and stored as honey. Bees are beneficial, as they act as pollinators of many fruit trees and other plants. Bees are generally harmless and will usually only sting if seriously provoked.
Species of Bees
Bumblebees Bumblebees are wild and form short-lived social colonies and construct their own nests in cavities in hedgerows, under rocks, or in disused mouse or birds’ nests. There are about 22 species in Britain and over 200 across the world. They are docile and only sting if severely aggravated.
Identification: Bumblebees range in size from about 12 to 25mm in length. Are generally striped yellow and black, but can also have splashes of red and/or white.
Honey Bee Honey bees, both feral (semi-wild) and colonised, are important beneficial insects and are not normally considered as pests. They live either in rare cases in the wild in nests as feral colonies, or more normally, as colonies in hives managed by beekeepers. In either case, they will only sting people if strongly provoked.
Identification: Adult worker: 11-15 mm long.
Queen: 15-20 mm long. The pointed abdomen extends beyond the wing, and has a smooth stinger.
Drones: 15-17 mm long, with no stingers.
Markings on a Honey Bee: Characteristic black and yellow/orange striped abdomen, black head and thorax.
Ivy Mining Bee The Ivy Bee is a species of mining bee that was first recorded in Britain in 2001. These are solitary bees and do not live in colonies and do not overwinter as adults. They nest in claysandy soils. Like many other solitary bees, they can often be found nesting in dense aggregations, sometimes numbering many tens of thousands of nests.
Identification: Females 13 mmm in length, 10 mm in length. The thorax of the adults is covered by orangebrown hair, the abdomen is yellow/orange and black striped. Only active between September and November its primary food source is the pollen from ivy blossom - the last of the year's flowers.
Solitary Bees This species of bee is solitary, living in close proximity but each female lives alone. They are usually the first bee to attract the attention of the home owner, as they appear in late April or early May depending how warm the weather is.
Identification: Britain has 227 species of solitary bee, compared to one species of honeybee. Many solitary bees look like honeybees in shape and colour but are usually smaller. Many properties are affected by Mining or Masonry Bees.
Tree Bumble Bee A new-ish species in the UK having colonised from mainland Europe and first observed in 2001. Since then it has colonised surprisingly quickly, It is species of bee that does well in urban and suburban gardens. It is an aerial nesting species, using hollows in trees, bird boxes and loft spaces.
Identification: Thorax: tawny to reddish brown Abdomen: charcoal grey to black Tail: white