Description Bumble bees are members of the superfamily Apoidea. Bees form a large group of insects that are specialized for feeding at flowers and gathering honey and pollen. More than 3,500 species occur in North America. Bees, 1/8-1″ (4-25 mm) long, may be black, brown, or banded with white, yellow, or orange. In many species the tongue is long and pointed, adapted for probing into flowers.
- All bees are covered with branched or feathery hair but some have more hair than others. When a bee visits a flower, pollen sticks to the hair. Most female bees have a pollen-collecting apparatus; males do not collect pollen and lack this structure. In most species the pollen is combed into a special pollen basket or brush, which is usually located on the hind leg. In leafcutting bees, the pollen is carried in a brush of hair on the underside of the abdomen.
- A few species, as well as parasitic bees, have no pollen basket. Most bees are solitary – each female constructs a nesting tunnel underground or in a plant stem or wood, then stocks the brood cells with pollen and nectar for the larvae. Eggs are laid on pollen balls inside the tunnel. Honey Bees and bumble bees are social – they live in colonies consisting of a fertile queen, sterile female workers, and males, or drones. They are the only bees to produce and store honey. The parasitic bees lay eggs in the nests of other bee species; their larvae eat the pollen and honey intended for the host’s larvae. Most bees can sting, but only the social species do so readily in defense of the colony.
- Bees are important in the pollination of many plants, including commercial crops. The families of bees are distinguished by structural details that are often difficult to see, including the tongue structure and length, wing venation, and placement of the pollen-collecting apparatus.
- Warning This bee stings but is not aggressive.