Bees play an integral part in our ecosystem. As pollinators, their activities support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants providing food and shelter for animals in our ecosystem. Without bees, the beauty we see in our gardens, and the foods we love to eat would no longer exist.
How many types of bees are there?
According to the US Department of the Interior USGS,
There are over 20,000 known bee species in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States. They range from the tiny (2 mm) and solitary Perdita minima, known as the world’s smallest bee, to kumquat-sized species of carpenter bees. Our bees come in as many sizes, shapes, and colors as the flowers they pollinate. There is still much that we don’t know about native bees—many are smaller than a grain of rice and about 10% of bees in the United States have yet to be named or described—but all of these bees have jobs as pollinators.
Native bees are the primary insect pollinator of agricultural plants in most of the country. Crops that they pollinate include squash, tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. Native bees were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers (honeybees are not native to North America). Honeybees are key to a few crops such as almonds and lemons, but native bees like the blue orchard bees are better and more efficient pollinators of many crops, including those plants that evolved in the Americas. Native bees are estimated to pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants around the world.
Many of our native wild and crop plants have sets of bees that are so specialized that they restrict their visits to those plants alone. The most important facet of bee conservation is the encouragement and retention of all of our flowering native plants.
What are the most common bees?
Honeybees and bumblebees differ. Here are some fun facts:
- Bumblebees are chubby and fuzzy. Honeybees are slight and thinner and often mistaken for wasps.
- Honeybees call a hive their home with thousands in the colony. As their name implies, they make honey!
- Bumblebees live in a nest with a few hundred bees. They produce for self-consumption.
- Honeybees sting once before dying; bumblebees can sting multiple times.
Did you know that just about 89% of all bees are solitary? Solitary bees are loners, in a sense. They do not produce honey, nor do they have a queen bee. They do not live in hives but may nest close to each other. They are the most common type of bee. Because they are living light with no honey to protect, they are calm and non-aggressive. The males generally have no stinger, and the females will only sting if they are maltreated. They are not known to swarm like honeybees and yellowjackets.
Carpenter bees are large, shiny, black, and yellow bees. You will find them flying around the outside of your home, searching for wood. These bees live up to their name. Female carpenter bees have strong, sharp teeth. They drill and bore into wood in perfectly symmetrical and tubular holes. Here they will lay their eggs.
- Carpenter bees love wood and prefer clean, untreated, and unpainted wood.
- Carpenter bees do not eat the wood like termites. They drill through the wood, and you may find sawdust near the opening of the holes.
- Females create these tubes or holes to lay their eggs.
- Carpenter bees look like bumblebees, but their bellies are shiny and hairless.
- Male carpenter bees do not have stingers; females do but do not use them unless threatened.
Mortar or Mason bees.
Mortar bees, also called mason bees, are in the family of non-aggressive insects that play a role in nature with spring pollination. Mason bees create breeding nests by drilling holes in brick masonry. Mason bees are solitary yet communal. Each bee’s nest is independent of the other’s nests. Interestingly, it is very common to find several nests existing peacefully in the proximity of each other.
Mason bees have enlarged rear legs, perfect for removing mortar from brickwork joints whereby creating a nest. Over time, this nesting may cause structural damage and should not be left untreated. The tunnels and holes can allow water to enter the structure, causing significant structural damage.
Long-term control of mason bees is critical to avoid future damage to your home or business structure, culminating in unnecessary treatment and repair expenses.
Yellowjackets are usually less than 1/4 inch long and have bright yellow and dark black stripes. Often confused with mud daubers, honeybees, and paper wasps, yellowjackets are in a class of their own.
Unlike bees with a hive, yellowjackets build paper-like nests often in underground holes or inside walls. Thousands of yellowjackets can make up a colony. Aerial yellowjackets build hanging nests and usually do not bother people unless you approach the nest, attempt to remove it or spray them.
Yellowjackets are much more aggressive than other stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, or bees. Yellowjackets can sting and bite, and they do not lose their stinger. This gives them the advantage to sting numerous times. Yellowjackets will sting even when unprovoked. They are carnivorous and are not serious pollinators. They have been known to poach honeybees’ hives for that sugary goodness when their food supply dwindles.
Are all bees dangerous?
According to Noble Research Institute, numerous myths surround bees, creating fear and hesitation in beekeeping interest.
MYTH #1: ALL BEES STING.
Not all bees can sting. For example, male bees cannot sting. The stinger, or sting, is a modified egg-laying device. Therefore, only females have them. However, despite having a stinger, the females of many bee species actually cannot sting. Bees tend to sting to defend their nest, so most bees won’t sting unless they are provoked or feel threatened.
MYTH #2: HONEYBEES CAN STING THEIR VICTIM REPEATEDLY.
Honeybee workers can sting other insects repeatedly. However, barbs in their stingers get caught in the skin of the animals they sting, especially mammals with thick skin such as humans. Removing the stinger is fatal to the bee, so it dies afterward.
MYTH #3: WASPS ARE BEES.
Although wasps belong to the same order of insects, they are not bees. Bees are vegetarians, collecting pollen and nectar for their young. Wasps are carnivores. Some species can be very aggressive, especially if you disturb their nests. Bees are usually nonaggressive. The exception is Africanized bees, a species not commonly found in the United States. Read more myths….
Should I get rid of honeybees and bees around my home?
The bee population, in general, is declining in the U.S. at a rapid rate. At Accurate Pest Control, typically, we will not kill the honeybees and try our best to preserve them due to the colony collapse disorder currently facing these bees. We have joined forces with local beekeepers who will remove the hive, relocate, and save it. We will remove the appendaged structure to access the hive and repair of the structure once the hive is removed.
Honeybees can become very territorial and aggressive if you agitate them or the hive. Please do not attempt to remove the hive on your own. Seek immediate medical attention if you are stung and unsure of the reaction you may experience from bee stings.
Despite being a pest control service, we advocate preserving the pollinators such as honeybees or bumblebees. Contact us for a free inspection, and together we can find a solution to protect both you and your family and the bees.
Resources: Noble Research Institute, USGS