Types of Bees and How to Tell Them Apart

types of bees

Bees are one of the oldest insects to inhabit this world. They are one of the primary agents of pollination, which means most of the flowers, trees, plants, and fruits that you see around you are due to the existence of bees. In some way or the other, types of bees are majorly responsible for life on earth to continue. As humans, we get several products from bees.

Belonging to the superfamily of Apoidea, bees have 20,000 more species to themselves. They belong to the suborder of Apocrita and the order Hymenoptera. Now, types of bees like honeybee, wasps, bumblebee fall under this suborder. However, one should not confuse the types of bees and wasps, as even though they are similar and fall under the same family, the two are different in particular ways. Either way, bees are incredibly essential for the continuance and persistence of a healthy, viable environment for humans and other animals to live.

Now, just stating this fact does not resolve all doubts. It may make you wonder in what ways we may be dependent on bees. It is also essential to know the various types of bees that exist. In this article, we will talk about a few commonly seen members of the family of bees, and we shall also help you distinguish between all of them rather efficiently. First, let us understand how bees help us to maintain a healthy world.

How Do Bees Help Us?

As we were discussing earlier, bees are responsible for life on earth. It is a legitimate reason for all of us to worry, considering the decreasing number of bees on the earth with every passing year. Humans need to know how bees help us in quite a few crucial ways. We have enlisted every contribution the family of bees makes in our ecosystem.

Bees Are the Primary Pollinators

Out of the number of agents of pollination present in this world, the most essential and crucial pollinator is the bee. The relationship bees and flowering plants share are codependent. The bees depend on flowers for the nectar and pollen. The flowers, in turn, get pollinated. The process of pollination is quite impressive. The bees fly from one flower to another to collect pollen. During this act, some amount of the dust gets stuck to the hairy body of the bees. The dust that gets attached to their body is rubbed off on the next flower that they visit, thereby pollinating them. They are responsible for both types of pollination in flowers, self-pollination, and cross-pollination. In cases of cross-pollination, the amount of pollen lost is considerable.

Bees Are Responsible for A Healthy Environment

For the sole reason of pollination, you can experience greenery around you. The produce in the markets is the primary product of pollination. One might be mistaken to consider honey and wax being the essential product from bees. The UK economy would face a cost of £1.8 billion approximately without bees as efficient pollinators.

Honey and Beeswax

Is any breakfast ever complete without a drizzle of honey over it? Bees collect nectar and store it in their hives. It ultimately gets converted to honey, and the honeycomb is used to extract beeswax. Beeswax is an essential ingredient in cosmetics and candles.

What Are the Types of Bees That Are Most Commonly Found?

Keeping in mind that there are thousands of bees present in this world, we can’t list all of them. Thus, we will be keeping it short, with only the most commonly found bees. You can look up the types of bees’ pictures and bee identification chart on the Internet.

Honey Bee

It is the type of bee that everyone is exceptionally familiar with. It is one of the species that people get to know at the earliest time of their life. Also, it justifies how common and crucial they are to the ecosystem of the world. Honeybees are oval-shaped and about half an inch in their size. They can be spotted by the golden and brown stripes on their body.

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The various types of honeybees are the number one pollinators of flowers that help the food chain remain intact. Bees help the food supply to be continuous, and they are the reason people get their fresh produce from the markets of the world. These particular types of bees are found all over the world. They pollinate a few hundreds of crops worldwide. Honeybees can live long in terms of lifespan when compared to other types of bees. They undergo hibernation during the winter months. They spend most of it keeping to their beehives with the rest of the swarm. To survive the harsh winters, they feed themselves on the honey that they spend the rest of the year collecting from the flowers.

For their self-defense, the honeybees are not very well equipped. Even though they have a barbed stinger, they can only use this sting once in their lifetime. The time they use their sting, the stinger separates from the body and tears off when they try to fly away.

The honey we extract from the honeycombs is the primary source of diet for these creatures. They collect nectar and pollen from the plants they visit. This nectar transforms into honey once stored in their hives for a long time. You can find their hives mostly on trees, windows and chimneys of houses, and attics. All types of honeybees are attracted to warm places.

German Black Bee

It is the type of bee that is very common in the United Kingdom. It is popularly known as the European Dark Bee. These bees are a close relative of the honey bee, which is otherwise commonly found in the United States. The striking difference between the honeybee and a German black bee is their size. The German Black Bee is quite large compared to the honeybee. They are oval and possess shorter tongues. This particular bee is pale yellow with thick dark black bands on their bodies.

The colonies of German Black Bees also collect pollen and nectar. They store the nectar in their hives, which then transforms into honey, which the German Black Bee colonies feed upon. However, German Black Bees are surprisingly more resilient to temperature changes. They can take the harshness of a cold winter better than most bees. They can also protect themselves well in case of danger of other animals or insects. You will find their hives on the trees and the roof of houses. Take a look at the bee identification chart to understand the differences better.


The big bees on your block can be identified as bumblebees. They have vast bodies compared to the size of their wings. They seem to be quite significant, but in reality, they are as big as the carpenter bees in size. These bees are shaped at about an inch. Bumblebees are black with yellow bands on their body. Unlike the honeybee, bumblebees come equipped with a stinger that does not have a barb around it. As a result, they can sting several times. Stings of a bumblebee can induce significant amounts of pain and usually cause swellings that take time to disappear. The blisters on the skin can remain for days at a stretch.

Bumblebees function like honeybees as far as gathering of food is considered. They feed on pollen and nectar. Furthermore, they also use nectar to feed their larvae and other member bees of the colony they live in.

One striking characteristic of bumblebees is that they build their nests underneath the ground. It quite unlike the other types of bees nests. They choose to live in and around the earth’s surface as a result of which they may also be found the patios and ground floors of houses. A key trait of bumblebees is that they can be incredibly hostile in times of danger. Whenever they sense a threat, they turn aggressive to protect the members of their colony. They make it a point to chase the larger animals who try to attack them for long distances until the threat is out of their sight. Thus, removing a hive that belongs to a colony of bumblebees can be a challenging task. It is always better to call for help from professionals as managing a job; this difficult single-handedly can be tricky.

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Carpenter Bee

Commonly known as the wood bee, carpenter bees are the exact opposite of bumblebees in terms of their social skills. They like to live a life in solitude. This very characteristic is expressed by their nests, which are often made only for themselves and their larvae.

Carpenter bees can work their ways through the wood. It is how they get their name; ‘carpenter’ bees. They function similar to a woodpecker. However, they can cause severe damage to homes as they might drill through windows and doors in the house. To make matters worse, they may often build a nest inside your house. Female carpenter bees are responsible for this. They bore through wood and hatch eggs inside the woodwork. The length of the tunnel the dig through can vary from a few centimeters to a few feet in length. They keep storing food inside till the time the wood of the house starts showing problems

Carpenter bees are an inch in size and oval-shaped as well. They have a striking blue-black color to themselves. Their bodies do not come with a barbed stinger, which makes them similar to bumblebees.

Digger Bees

Digger bees are bees that have around 750 species of their own all over the world. Like the carpenter bees, digger bees are also solitary creatures that build the nest for themselves and their immediate family. However, you might find a colony or two of digger bees as it is not that uncanny to see them not minding their own business.

Digger bees are oval-shaped bees, which are almost three centimeters in length. They are pale yellow. Their bodies have black bands all over them. They are equipped with a long tongue that collects nectar and pollen from flowers much more than a regular bee does. You will find digger bees pollinating plants like cherry tomatoes more often.

Digger bees have their nests within the ground. They choose sandy soils on flat ground to dig through it and build their nest. It is how they earn their name; ‘digger’ bees. Their nests are quite unlike the other types of bees nests.

This type of bee is not as aggressive as the other bees. They will only sting you if they feel incredibly vulnerable.

Killer bees

Even though these types of bees are not commonly found all over the world, we found them intriguing enough to keep them on this list. They are native to Africa, especially to the Southern and Western regions of Africa. You will also find killer bees in the southern parts of South America. Such bees look quite similar to regular honeybees. However, they can be deadly when stung. By dangerous, however, we do not mean that the venom of this particular bee is poisonous. The terror lies in the manner in which they attack.

The only way to distinguish a killer bee from a honey bee is to consider their wing lengths. Killer bees are named so as they tend to attack in large swarms. They are violent in their approach and chase the invaders down for quite a long distance. Killer bees are about half an inch in size and golden in color. They have dark brown bands all over them. These bees can sting only once in their lifetime as they have a barbed stinger. If you Google types of bees pictures, this particular bee is sure to grab your attention.

Final Thoughts

Even though there are thousands of species and various types of bees in this world, it is essential to make sure we save bees as their numbers have been decreasing down the years. Bees are responsible for 80% of the produce in this world. With no bees, we will no longer have a stable and feasible ecological unit. Thus, make sure to make efforts to save the various types of bees and wasps in your locality.

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