Social bees

As part of Pollinator Week, I thought it would be good to introduce a bit of information about the many kinds of bees there are in the world.

 

When I say the word “bee” you probably have a picture like the one below: A Honey Bee-  Erik HooymansYou immediately think “honey”, “bee” “honeybee” and “beehive” in less than a second. Why? Well, that’s easy. It’s because our society has placed a strong value on honeybees. They are a source of honey, which is (and was) one of our early ancestor’s first sources of sweetness in their diet.

Honeybees are known for producing honey. So it’s no wonder that our first thought when we say “bee” is “honeybee” and that we think “bees nest” or “bee hive” next.

But not all bees live in hives or nests. Actually, of the seven to 9 recognized families of bees (depending on your source), only three families of bees are considered eusocial (meaning that they live together in communities with specific chores/tasks being taken up by individual bees).

Social bees have complex societies, and all the bees within a eusocial bee community have a “job” to do.  Typically, within a honey bee society, there is one Queen. All the other bees work to support her and the work that she does. Her biggest job is making lots and lots of babies. She needs, however, the support of other bees to help her do her work. She can’t spend all her time doing the other things if she’s going to be a good Queen for her hive. She needs mates – many mates to make it possible for her to lay eggs which can develop into healthy bees.

Within the honeybee hive there are many other types of bees.

  • There are nurse bees, who take care of the developing bee babies.
  • There are worker bees, who build more cells so that there is more room to grow.
  • There are forager bees, who go out looking for sources of nectar and pollen, and who bring it back for everyone to enjoy.
  • There are bees that we might call “defenders” who take care of protecting the nest/hive from attack from predators.
  • There is even a bee who has to “take out the trash”.

But not all bees are social. In fact only 5% of bees are social at all. Considering that there are more than 20,000 different species of bees, and that the rest (95%) are what we call “solitary bees”, it only makes sense that we also need to learn more about solitary bees.

Stick around, I’ll bee sharing (bee jokes, gotta love them) information about all sorts of bees in my blog and on my YouTube channel.

 

 


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