Over the centuries, bees have been known to be a friend to us and to the environment. We know that bees make honey and bees’ wax. They are also known as the largest group of pollinators in the whole world. We are very familiar with these facts. But what we don’t know is that they belong to the family “Apoidea” which are the descendant of ‘sphecoid wasps’ and that there are numerous types of bees (species) present all around the world.
We know only some of the common types of bees found in our locality. Let’s get into some interesting details about these amazing small creatures.
- A group of bees is called a swarm.
- You know that honeybees travel really long distances to get a single spoon of honey they produce from nectar. But did you know that the distance they travel is nearly equal to 4 times round the Earth. Yes, they travel that long to make our favourite honey. Their speed can reach up to 12 mph.
- Honey is the winter food for all types of bees and that most of the nutrition in honey is from the honeybee’s gut.
- Bees can travel as high as the height of Mt. Everest. Means they are naturally adapted to such extreme flight and air condition.
- You must have been stung by bees at some point in your life. You must have felt pain too. Do you know that the pain is due to the presence of formic acid in sting and that the female bees sting mostly and not the male bees.
- Bees like other insects can’t see red colour but have visuals for uv rays which we can’t see. Also, bees don’t fly in dark.
Types of bees (classification)-
Based on human exploring of nature, we now know that there are thousands of species of bees. Most of them are yet to be discovered. But given so many known and unknown bee species, how do we classify them?
Bees that we know in human locality are scientifically divided on the basis of grouping. The bees that move in groups and live in colonies are the social bees, while the bees that neither live in colonies nor like to build nest next to each other are known as solitary bees. In solitary bees the male generally goes out for nectar unlike the social bees where females mostly work out of the nest.
These bees are further classified according to different species, some of which are mentioned below. So, lets learn about them.
1. Carpenter bees
These are the most popular members of bee family. The name carpenter refers to the fact that they mostly build their home on trees or in artificial wooden structures like doors, wooden beds etc. They are the kind of solitary bees, and they move generally for pollen grains. This makes them one of the largest group of pollinators. Their characteristics and appearance differ according to the region they are surviving in but most of them are black with yellow thoracic portions making them easy to distinguish from other bees. These bees generally live up to 3 years.
2. Digger bees
These are also a kind of solitary bees. Their study by various zoologists shows that sometimes they thrive in close proximity to other nests but don’t form colonies. They have relatively larger body size than other types of bees. The name indicates that they dig their nests in ground. The most remarkable property of these is that they have metallic shiny textured body. Due to the distinct markings on their body, they are easily spotted in various places. They live a very short life of only a month.
3. Mining bees
These are the group of common bees we have seen in our garden which help in pollinating the flowers there, hence we also call them as garden pollinator bees. Their sizes vary greatly due to their close proximity with humans. These are really nonaggressive ones and don’t sting. They have remarkably furry yellow and black body. These solitary bees also live a very short life of around 4 to 6 weeks.
4. Leafcutter bees
The name suggests that their activity can be traced nearby by their leaf cutting work. They make nearly circular holes in the leaf lamina. These are the type of bees with excellent pollinating capabilities that are almost 20 times the honeybees. They also have a short life span of 6 to 8 weeks.
5. Mason bees
These are the bees with life span of nearly 4 weeks. In these 4 weeks they mostly pollinate and reproduce their off springs. They are excellent builders of mud nests and hence the name, mason bees. These species are present in colours like red, blue and green which is why they are quite distinguishable. They are also nonstinging and solitary bees whose primary work is pollinating.
6. Sweat bees
The behaviour of these type of bees depends on their habitat. They can be solitary, colony forming or somewhat in between. They form their nests in ground where they live a maximum of 40 days. They have various body markings with dark and vibrant metallic lustre. They don’t sting until threatened or disturbed.
7. Plasterer bees
These are among the most talented bees due to their unique nest building way. They produce a silky and sticky substance produced in their gut that helps their walls stick together. Their nests due to this substance are fungus resistant and waterproof. They are also due to this ability are known as polyester or cellophane bees. They are one of the oldest living solitary bees.
8. Yellow faced bees
From their names it is clear that they have yellow face. Along with a yellow face they also have yellow spots and markings on legs and thoracic area. These bees live in trees and wooden structures. They are currently found only in Hawaii.
9. Bumble bees
These are very social bees whose size varies from ¾ inches to 1 inch. They have yellow and black symmetrically patterned body. They generally sting only when threatened or disturbed. Like other bee species they also can be seen mostly in summers.
These are the world’s most recognized type of bees. They make our favourite delicious honey. They have orange- yellow body with some black markings. They are found making their nests almost everywhere near human residence like on trees, on roofs or windows. They are very aggressive and have painful stings. Their stings can cause painful swelling for several days. Bitten by several honeybees can be detrimental to life and should be taken to hospital as soon as possible.
Every form of colony forming bee species have division of labour in them. They can be worker bees who solely work as guards, cleaners and maintainers of hive. They don’t participate in reproduction. They help in feeding the larvae that are going to become new bee generation.
Drone bees are all males. Their most important role in their hive is reproduction. They generally die after mating. Sometimes they are forced to leave hives on the order of queen bee.
Queen bee is only one in every hive. They are fed with special ingredients when they are in larvae stage. If by mistake another queen arises, she leaves the hive with 20% of the hive bees. She lays almost 1500 to 2000 eggs per day. When they are unable to reproduce, they are killed by worker bees collectively.
After all this knowledge about bees let’s get some ideas on benefits bees provide us.
Some benefits we get from different types of bees-
- Bees are of great importance of to the whole earth.
- The honeybee they produce contains a lot of health boosting ingredients and has antibacterial property.
- Honey is also a great alternative to sugar which harms our health. Our mothers give us honey mixed with Tulsi and ginger drops to prevent sore throat and cold which are the proof that honey also has medicinal properties.
- It is known that keeping bees near the crop fields during crop breeding seasons can help in improvement of crop production. In fact, due to bee’s attention, crops thrive and are able to produce their fruits and seeds which are the food we eat. By pollinating over a million of plant species, bees help in improving sustainability and biodiversity.
- Bees wax is used in cosmetic industry for making cosmetic products especially lipstick and kajal.
- Honey along with health also contains skin benefits. Honey can be directly applied on face as facial revitalize. Being a natural product, they have almost nil side effects. Various combinations of honey with other things are used in facial products to give you a natural glow.