Different Types of Bees

There are over 250 species of wild bees here in Britain as well as the honey bee, they need identifying before anything can be done

Honey Bees

A swarm of honey bees settled in a hawthorn tree If you have a swarm of honey bees arrive in your garden, you will see a large cloud of bees in the air and they will settle on a tree, hedge or wall and form a large cluster as large as a rugby ball. Keep children and pets indoors but once settled they are not likely to attack any one provided you do not disturb it. These can be collected by a local beekeeper and safely re-hived. Ask your neighbours if they know of a local beekeeper near by. If you contact your local beekeeping association secretary, they some times have a list of beekeepers who collect swarms, but they are only available to collect a swarm of honey bees and not other insects such as bumble bees or wasps, so get them properly identified, you can find more information by clicking on the link below. http://www.bbka.org.uk/help/ The local police station and your local council might have a list of beekeepers who can collect swarms.

Bumble Bees

Queen Bumble Bee warming in the sun, note the hairs on her legs ready to load with pollen.

Bumble bees are large, noisy and colourful. In the spring the large queen bee can be seen buzzing around the gardens gathering nectar and pollen to help her build up her strength and she starts to build her nest alone, just like the queen wasp. The nest might be under a shed, in a compost heap, a pile of grass cuttings, or any where nice and dry, they sometimes take over an old mouse nest or even a bird box and start her nest in the dry material left over from last year.

Thanks to one of our visitors for this fine photo of a bumble bee nest in a bird box, this family of bumble bees will be happy to be in such a grand setting for the rest of the year and looked after by some friendly people. At the end of Autumn when they are no longer to be seen, it is best to remove all nesting material so that the birds (or the bees) can start again in the spring. She will make a small cluster of wax cups and lay her eggs in them, these are made from her own wax and look rather dirty compared to our honey comb made by the honey bee. The Queen bumble bee is seen foraging alone as she is feeding her developing larvae. When her daughters hatch out they will help her build the nest, feed the larvae and collect pollen and nectar from the flowers in the area, only a small amount is stored in these wax pots.The queen bee stays inside the nest to lay her eggs. The early bumble bees that hatch out are smaller than their sisters that follow as the nest builds up in numbers as the spring and summer get into full swing. Late summer and the queen produces drone bees and queen bees who will mate, these mated queens are the only bumble bees that over winter to start the cycle again next year, the rest of the bumble bees including all of the workers, drones and the old queens die out late Autumn as they come to the end of their life. The newly mated Queens find a suitable place to hibernate and over winter to emerge in the spring to start the cycle again. If you notice a bumble bee nest and feel that it has got to go, just remember that they will all disappear at the end of summer and the nest can then be safely removed as it is not used again, they do not cause any damage and are best left alone since they are difficult to re-establish once moved.

It is easier for humans to accommodate bees than it is for bees to accommodate humans.

Bumble bees are very important pollinators as they will visit flowers that other species of bees might not and they are out flying at different times of the day than other bees

Do Bumble bees make honey? well yes but only a very small amount, about a tablespoon full of watery honey is stored in their open wax pots to keep them going in the summer The Bumble bees only have enough honey and pollen to help them build their colony and keep ticking over, unlike the honey bees, they do not over winter. So they do not have any surplus to give to us. Bumble bees do have a sting but rarely use it, she will only use it to defend their nest or if she has been trapped causing a her to over react.
Do Bumblebees return to their nest next year? Many people ask this question, no is the simple answer, because apart from the mated Queens, all of the bees die and the old nest is not used by any other queen in the spring. This You Tube clip below, explains the life cycle of the Bumblebees well and is narrated by Sir David Attenborough http://youtu.be/0BoLoWyvd7o

Just like our honey bees. the bumble bees are suffering from our modern world with intensive farming, the use of pesticides and their natural habitats of flower rich meadows being lost to cereals and silage. There are 25 species of bumble bees here in the UK, three are extinct and seven are listed as endangered. The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust was launched in May 2006 and to find out more visit their web site on….. http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-us

If you think that your Bumble Bee nest needs removing, The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust has some useful advise on this link…..http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/faqs/moving-bumblebee-nests/

Tree Bumble Bee

Download Bombus Hypnorum.jpg (851.5 KB)

Tree Bumble Bee Bombus Hypnorum. L Queen being mated by a Drone. Photo Credit David Heath

This is a recent bee spotted in many places in Britain and has caused some alarm and concern. They tend to be more defensive than other Bumble Bees and in the Spring/ early Summer many drones can be seen hovering around the entrance to their nest waiting for new Virgin Queens to emerge. Many people are reporting seeing these using a bird box or in eaves as a nest, they are different in colour and have longer antennae than our more common species. The link below gives an excellent article by Clive Hill which explains about this species well. http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Bee_Craft_May_2013,_Bombus_hypnorum.pdf

Hover Flies These are not bees, but some have a similar appearance to our honey bee and can be seen hovering around and landing on similar plants visited by the bees, they are noticed from about April to September, there was one spotted on the orhids in Derbyshire and another was visiting the ivy flowers in October. They have a shiny waxy appearance and look like motionless bees in the air as they hover and then dart about, they look like hovering bees, but our bees don’t tend to hover like these, when our bees are hovering they tend to be moving around all of the time looking for food supplies or hovering around their hives entrance to get their bearings. The Shropshire Invertebrates Group have an interesting article about hover flies. Click on the link below http://www.naturalshropshire.org.uk/EcologicalDataSEDN/SpeciesRecordingGroups/ShropshireInvertebratesGroup/Hoverflies/tabid/131/Default.aspx Hover Fly inspecting an Early Purple Orchid in The Derbyshire Dales at Spring time.

Hover Fly on Autumn flowering Ivy


Ivy Bee

Credit John Calford.
This Bee is not unlike our Honey Bee at first glance, but with a stripy abdomen and hairy thorax.

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Solitary Bees Masonry Bees, Mining Bees, Leaf Cutting BeesLeaf Cutting Bees.

Red Mason Bee nest

There are about 250 different species of solitary bees. Solitary bees might make holes in the lawn, walls, stones or in the ground to lay their eggs. They suddenly appear in the spring and cause a bit of concern but as fast as they arrive they, soon disappear. The worry about any structural damage being done is unnecessary, because they do not attack sound mortar. They will find soft material or natural holes or crevices to tunnel in to and lay their eggs. They are very usefull pollinating insects and left alone will not sting anyone, indeed most are stingless.


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