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10 Types of Bees and How to Identify Them

Bees are essential to the health of our planet. Learning how to identify common species can help us to protect them.

types of bees
Written by
Calin Van Paris
Let’s talk about bees. These fuzzy, buzzy, striped insects are
hardworking stewards
of our planet. Along with providing the honey and beeswax used for centuries for food, medicinal, and topical purposes, bees help to pollinate
more than 90%
of the world's most essential crops—an estimated
$34 billion
in food. Bees may be small, but they are mighty
important to our survival
But how much do you know about the different types of bees and how they make their homes here?
There are five families of bees: Apidae (which represents the majority), Halictidae, Andrenidae, Megachilidae, and Colletidae (a small family of solitary bees). To be clear: We’re talking bees, not wasps. While
bees are descended from wasps
, the insects are distinct in appearance and behavior. Wasps are aggressive, smooth-bodied, and
at times carnivorous
(hornets and yellowjackets are both types of wasps). And though they can be a nuisance, wasps are still
, which is something to keep in mind when eradicating their nests. 
Learning about bees can help us to identify, honor, and perhaps help save the respective species. Here, ten Northern American bees and honeybees and everything you should know about them.

10 Types of Bees and What You Need to Know About Them

1. Bumblebees

types of bees

Scientific name? Bombus.
Do bumblebees sting? Yes, but only the queen and workers have stingers.
Do bumblebees make honey? Not really.
are among the most easily recognizable of all bees, with their big, round fuzzy bodies and vibrant stripes (the bold hues help to keep predators at bay). There are approximately
50 species
of bumblebees in North America, where they live in ground-nesting colonies populated by one queen and an army of workers, whose numbers can grow to a few hundred.
Bumbles are masters of
pollination, along with other agriculture. Though they can technically make honey, they don't—their one-year lifespan means they don't need to store nutrients.

2. Honeybees

Scientific name? Apis mellifera.
Do honeybees sting? Yes, but only the queen and workers have stingers.
Do honeybees make honey? Yes!
First things first: Your
comes from honeybees (shocking, we know). Honeybees, though are non-native—the pollinators
came to America
along with European settlers. So, while the insect gives us the sweet stuff, its pollination prowess pales in comparison to indigenous species.
Like bumblebees, honeybees live in colonies consisting of a queen, workers, and drones, their hives housed in hollow trees, rock crevices, and the like. While the average worker bee has a lifespan of about six months, a fertile queen can live for up to five years. Honeybees are a tawny brown with black stripes, have hairy eyes, and—unlike the majority of bees—have
no spurs
on their back legs.

3. Carpenter Bees

types of bees
Scientific name? Xylocopa.
Do carpenter bees sting? Only when handled.
Do carpenter bees make honey? No.
As indicated by their name, carpenter bees
create burrows
in wood using their impressive skills (and jaws) where they
nest and live alone
. The bees are on the large side and mostly black, their body featuring minimal hair and maximum shine.
Carpenter bees are indeed pollinators, but they aren't always the best stewards of the flower, sometimes using their mandibles to cut into the bloom to access its nectar more easily.

4. Squash Bees

Scientific name? Eucerini.
Do squash bees sting? No.
Do squash bees make honey? No.
Squash bees are pollinators of pumpkins,
, and other gourds. These cucurbit lovers look similar to honeybees, but for their
dawn shifts
(honeybees tend to do their pollination in the afternoon hours.
Female squash bees did solo nests in the ground, sometimes
directly under
the plants they pollinate.

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5. Southeastern Blueberry Bees

types of bees
Scientific name? Habropoda laboriosa.
Do blueberry bees sting? Only when handled.
Do blueberry bees make honey? No.
Southeastern blueberry bees are specialized pollinators that buzz around for just a few weeks in the early spring before returning to their solitary nests. These bees resemble small bumblebees, though with bald abdomens, and male blueberry bees have
yellow markings
on their little faces.
A blueberry bee can fly to
up to 50,000
blueberry flowers, resulting in approximately 6,000 berries!

6. Cuckoo Bees

types of bees
Scientific name? There are many.
Do cuckoo bees sting? Yes.
Do cuckoo bees make honey? No.
Cuckoo bees are the deadbeats of the bee world. They lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, the name "cuckoo" dictating the habit rather than the species, and encompassing more than one bee family (about
15% of all bees
, in fact).
As cuckoos don't have to care for their young (who they have abandoned to another nest), they don't need to collect pollen and are thus hairless. They basically
drink nectar for fun
—and energy, we suppose.

7. Sweat Bees

types of bees
Scientific name? There are many.
Do sweat bees sting? When disturbed
Do sweat bees make honey? No.
Shiny, shimmery, and with various shades, sweat bees (aka halictids) are particularly pretty. The insect has been found in hues including blue, green, gold, copper, and black—a veritable jewel box!—and are solitary nesters, with homes in the ground or within
rotted wood
Though there are some cuckoos in their midst, most sweat bees are pollinators, who spend their sometimes-social lives feeding on nectar and even
landing on humans
to supplement their diets with salt.

8. Mining Bees

Scientific name? Andrena.
Do miner bees sting? No.
Do miner bees make honey? No.
Miner bees like to mine! These bees are furry, come in various shades and sizes, and enjoy digging tunnels for either themselves or in the occasional company of close relatives.
Miners are springtime pollinators with a penchant for
apple blossoms
, azaleas, and orchids.

9. Mason Bees

Scientific name? Osmia lignaria.
Do mason bees sting? Not likely.
Do mason bees make honey? No.
Where there's an existing hole, there may be a
mason bee
. This solo species favors bores made by woodpeckers or beetles, rounding out their new homes with mud and other materials. Mason bees are fast flyers, and emerge in the early spring to pollinate flowers and berries.
Aside from their unique choice of homes, the small and many-colored bees can be spotted by their faint stripes and touches of metallic.

10. Leafcutter Bees

Scientific name? Megachilidae.
Do leafcutter bees sting? Only when provoked.
Do leafcutter bees make honey? No.
Like mason bees, leafcutter bees make their homes in holes—but as their name implies, this species opts to line its home with fragments of cut leaves.
Leafcutter bees typically have larger heads to accommodate for their powerful, leaf-cutting mandibles and favor legumes and blossoms for pollination purposes.