Stingless Carpenter Miner Bees Bumble Bees Honey

There are well over 20,000 different species of bees. They can be divided into two groups: Social bees, and Solitary bees. Social bees tend to dwell in colonies, while solitary bees live in solitary thus their names. Most kinds of bees in existence today are solitary bees.

Social bees

These bees reside in bee colonies that have as few as 10 or as many as 81,000 member bees. Honey bees seem to have the most advanced bee societies. Bumble bees and stingless bees follow honey bees in developing socially.  

+Stingless bees: Have smaller stingers that they often do not use as weapons. They prefer to bite with their jaws when defending themselves. Stingless bees are only found in tropical and near tropical locations. They are not found within Canada or the U.S. The largest of stingless bees can be found to be the same size as a honey bee, and the smallest is about the miniscule size of a mosquito. Stingless bees will most often build nests in trees, on walls, or in open areas. They usually build their honeycombs in horizontal layers on any given surface. An outer wall surrounds the nest except for a small entrance. Colonies may have as low as 50 to or as high as tens of thousands of bees. Some of the larger stingless bees can store honey. South American Indians have long used this honey for consumption.  

+Bumble bees: Can be found in bee societies consisting of 50 to several hundred bees. Their honey has a very pleasant flavour, but their nests only contain limited, smaller supplies.  

Solitary bees

These bees are known to reside alone. It is possible that at sometimes thousands of solitary bees gather in small areas and builds their nests close together, thus creating a community. There are no worker bees among the solitary bees. Each female is treated as a queen that does her own work, gathers her own food etc. She builds her own nest and stores pollen in each of the nests cells, seals the nest up, and launches off. When the eggs hatch the larvae eat the stored food provided by the parent bee. The most important kinds of solitary bees are the carpenter, leaf cutting, miner, mason, and the cuckoo bees.

 +Carpenter bees: These bees will build their nests amongst dead branches and or twigs. The female carpenter bee will dig a tunnel, insert pollen and nectar at the base, and lays an egg. She spreads tiny wood pieces cementing them together with her saliva across the top of the cell. This ceiling acts as a floor level for the cell above. The tunnel has a series of cells, each containing food and most commonly one egg.

+Leaf cutting bees: Will often cut out pieces of leaves and stuffs them together into small nests in a tunnel they have created or once created by the environment in which the bees reside in. These bees lay eggs on gathered food which they insert into their nests. They may build their tunnels in ground, in branches, or in pieces of soft wood. A tunnel may have as many as six or more cells, often being formed one above the other.

+Mining bees: These mining bees often dig boroughs in the ground. Some mining bees here will show the beginnings of new social living. After a few bees make a main tunnel, each female mining bee will dig a shorter tunnel in the side walls. She gives this tunnel pollen and nectar, and lays an egg on the previous gathered food. Some kinds of mining bees have a guard posted at the entrance to the main tunnel. This guard bee attacks any strangers upon attempting to enter.

+Mason bees: These bees will sometimes create their nests in decaying wood or in empty snail shells. One kind strengthens the snail shell with its saliva and small particles of stone. The female mason bee places food in the shell, lays an egg, and sheaths the whole nest with dried grass, twigs, or pine needles. The female provides the nests cells with food and lays an egg in each respectively.

+Cuckoo bees: These bees do not build their own nests. They also are unable to provide food for their young, because they have no pollen baskets on their hind legs. Some types of cuckoo bees will lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees, often without problems. The cuckoo bee’s larvae will emerge first and eat the food gathered by other solitary bees for their young.


Niles, David. (1995). “Kinds of bees”. World Book Encyclopaedia