Honeybees and Solitary Bees

Most of the European Honeybees that you see are the sterile, female workers. They have a black head and a golden brown and black front-end (thorax). The tail end (abdomen) is usually orange and brown stripes. They are covered in short hairs –particularly on the head and thorax. A characteristic of Honeybees is the large basket on their broad hind legs (often full of yellow or orange pollen). If you see a small bee that is not hairy like a bumblebee and more elongated shape, it is probably a solitary bee. Many of them do not have pollen baskets but can collect pollen on their hairy legs and underside of abdomen.

Scientific name

Hymenoptera, family Apidae

Did you know..

Honeybees have a remarkable sense of smell that allows them to identify different varieties of flower and whether they offer pollen or nectar from meters away. Their exceptional smell abilities also allow recognition of their hive members and communication within the hive. There are over 250 species of bees in Britain; the majority of them are solitary bees that live alone and each female takes care for its own offspring.

Similar species

bumblebees but bees are much smaller, narrower and are more similar in shape to some wasps, although they do not have such a defined waist as wasps. A number of hoverflies and other fly species can look similar. Distinguishing features of the honeybee and solitary bees are the short hairs visible on the front end, smaller eyes, 2 pairs of wings and long antennae.

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