When people think of bees they usually think of black and yellow hairy bees that make honey. But, in fact, these types of bee do not make honey; only honey bees make honey. There are three main types of bee in the United Kingdom of which there are hundreds of different varieties. Here is a guide to identifying the bees you might see.
Bumblebees are usually large when compared to other bees. These are the black and yellow hairy bees you will often see in your garden that sometimes look as if they are too heavy to fly and can be quite clumsy. These bees live in a colony or ‘hive’ and are very sociable creatures. Many types of bumble bee do not have a sting and are generally less aggressive than honey bees, if one comes near you just stand still until it realises you are not a flower and it will fly away. Bumble bees do not produce enough honey for people to collect but they are very important in pollinating flowers and should be encouraged to visit your garden.
These bees are generally quite small but often swarm together due to them being very sociable. The honey bee hive is made up of three levels of bee; a queen bee, drone bees and worker bees. The queen bee lays thousands of eggs that hatch to become the new bees in the hive and are fertilised by the drone bees. The drone bees are all male and have no sting as their job is only to help make more bees. Worker bees are all female but cannot lay eggs, there are thousands of worker bees in a hive and they are the ones who collect nectar, build and repair the nest as well as look after the eggs that the queen bee lays. These bees have a nasty sting but will only use it if they, or the hive, is threatened.
Most people think that all bees live in a hive made up of hundreds and thousands of bees, but some bees prefer to live by themselves. In fact, most bees are solitary bees and there are more than 250 different types in the United Kingdom alone. They are distinguished by the way that they build their nests as well as their different markings. Some of them dig a nest in the ground, some make nests in the cracks in buildings and some bees even build nests by cutting out bits of leaves! Most solitary bees are harmless if they do not feel in danger so if you do see one do not make any sudden moves but watch how it behaves and try and find out which type of bee it is by looking it up in a book or on the internet.