Types of Bees: Classification and Main Characteristics

Types of bees.
Types of bees.

What are the most common types of bees: The best known bees are honey bees, responsible for producing the honey that we know. However, there are about 4,000 types of bees distributed throughout the world. The role of bees is very important, as they are responsible for the pollination of thousands of plant species. Thanks to this process, plants are able to reproduce and survive, hence the importance of bees.

How many species of bees are there?

Bees are insects belonging to the Apoidea superfamily. They feed on the nectar of flowers and most species have an eusocial organization. The hives are made up of a queen bee, hundreds of worker bees, and some male drones.

Life cycle of bees

Bees go through four stages during their life cycle: egg, larva, pupae, and adult. Fertilized eggs develop into female workers, while unfertilized eggs are male. In this way, the hives dictate the sex of the individuals about to be born. The sperm necessary for this is kept by the queen. She is able to keep in her body the amount required to maintain the colony throughout its life.

Worker bees do not live long and the survival of a hive depends directly on the queen. When the workers suspect that they will need a new queen, they select 3 to 5 larvae that they will place in larger cells.

These larvae will only feed on royal jelly, which implies:

  • Large size, with a protruding abdomen.
  • longevity significantly higher than that of other members of the same hive. Queens reach between 3 and 5 years, unlike the workers, who often live up to 5 weeks.
  • The ability to lay up to 2,000 eggs a day.
  • Absence of the suction organ.
  • Different shades, reaching a tan color.

Taxonomic classification of bees

The taxonomic classification of bees is divided as follows:

  1. Class: Insecta
  2. Order: Hymenoptera
  3. SuperfamilyApoidea
  4. Families:

Each of these families has, in turn, various subfamilies, tribes, genera and species. Next, we will review the different types by families.

Types of bees of the Andrenidae family

The Andrenidae family contains four subfamilies:

  • Alocandreninae
  • Andreninae
  • Panurginae
  • Oxaeinae

Characteristics of Andrenidae bees

The main characteristics of this type of bees are:

  • They are solitary insects.
  • It is possible to find them all over the world, except Australia.
  • They have two sub antennas surrounding the main antennas.
  • Usually to build their hives they burrow holes in the ground.
  • They feed on the nectar of specific flowers.

Andrenidae species of bees

Some of the most representative types of bees of this family are:

  • Mesoxaea tachytiformis
  • Alloxaea brevipalpis
  • Protoxaea australis
  • Ferrugineous notoxaea
  • Oxaea schwarzi
A bee of the family Andrenidae sits on human finger

Types of bees of the family Apidae

The Apidae is made up of three subfamilies of bees:

  • Nomadinae
  • Xylocopinae
  • Apinae

Characteristics of Apidae bees

This family includes a great variety of species with diverse characteristics. This type of bee species includes both solitary and eusocial bees.

  • Some form eusocial organization.
  • Others have solitary habits.
  • Some bees only reuse the nests of other species.
  • In some colonies, more than two females coexist that fulfill the same functions.
  • They nest on the ground or the trunk of trees.
  • In cities, it is common to see that they build honeycombs on the walls or on electric poles.

Species of bees of the family Apidae

Some species of this family are:

  • Thyreus albomaculatus
  • Brachynomada cearensis
  • Brachynomada chacoensis
  • Ceratin acantha
  • Ceratin allodapoides

Types of bees of the Colletidae family

The Colletidae family of bees includes the subfamilies:

  • Diphaglossinae
  • Euryglossinae
  • Hylaeinae
  • Xeromelissinae

Characteristics of Colletidae bees

Some main characteristics of this type of bees are:

  • Bees in this group are solitary.
  • They build their hives in the ground or trees.
  • Species in this family inhabit the entire Southern Hemisphere, including Australia.
  • They cover the inside of the honeycombs with a secretion from the Dufour gland, located in the abdomen. This secretion becomes transparent and impervious to contact with oxygen.

Colletidae species of bees

Some bees that belong to this family are:

  • Colletes albohirtus
  • Colletes albomaculatu
  • Hylaeus adriaticus
  • Andean Cadegualina
  • Cadegualina sericata
Bee of the Colletidae family sitting on a flower

Types of bees of the family Halictidae

Another family of bees is the Halictidae, which includes the following subfamilies:

  • Halictinae
  • Nomiinae
  • Nomioidinae
  • Rophitinae

Characteristics of Halictidae bees

These bees present diverse social organizations, as well as other curious characteristics:

  • Some exhibit solitary behavior.
  • Others are parasocial, that is, the colonies include bees of a single generation.
  • Others are eusocial at a primitive level. That is, the difference in size between queen and worker is not noticeable, there is a division of labor.
  • These bees often attracted to perspiration during the summer, which is why they are called “sweat bees”.
  • They nest in the ground and trees.
  • Their body is multicolored: yellow, black, blue and green.

Halictidae species of bees

Among the types of bees that belong to this family are:

  • Ceylalictus celebensis
  • Ceylalictus cereus
  • Morawitzella nana
  • Ceratalictus ischnotes
  • Ceratalictus psoraspis
A multicolored (yellow, blue, green and black) bee of the family Halictidae

Types of bees of the Megachilidae family

The Megachilidae family includes two subfamilies:

  • Fideliinae
  • Megachilinae

Characteristics of Megachilidae bees

Among the main characteristics of the Megachilidae bees, the following stands out:

  • They are usually solitary.
  • Some species have the habit of two queens sharing the same honeycomb, although each one takes care of everything necessary to condition its cell.
  • Some species parasitize the colonies.
  • They build their colonies with dried leaves and resins that they extract from plants.

Megachilidae species of bees

Some bees that are part of this family are:

  • Fidelia hessei
  • Fidelia kobrowi
  • Pararhophites orobinus
  • Pararhophites quadratus
  • Radoszkowskiana gusevi
Purple bee of the family Megachilidae on a yellow background.

Types of bees of the family Melittidae

The family Melittidae includes the subfamilies:

  • Dasypodainae
  • Meganomiinae
  • Melittinae

Characteristics of Melittidae bees

The main characteristics of this type of bees are:

  • They nest on the ground, where they burrow holes in the ground.
  • Most of the Melittidae species of bees are found in Africa, Europe and Asia, in addition to some areas of North America. On the contrary, there are no species in the southern part of America or Australia.
  • They are oligolectic, that is, they only collect pollen from a certain number of plant species.

Melittidae species of bees

Some species of Melittidae family:

  • Meganomia andersoni
  • Meganomia binghami
  • Dasypoda albipila
  • Dasypoda argentata
  • Afrodasypoda plumipes
Yellow black bee of the family Melittidae covered in pollen

Types of bees of the family Stenotritidae

The family Stenotritidae is the smallest of all groups of bees and includes the following genera:

  • Ctenocolletes
  • Stenotritus

Characteristics of Stenotritidae bees

The most striking characteristics of these bees are:

  • Bees of this family are found only in Australia.
  • They are distinguished by having robust bodies covered with villi.
  • They nest on the ground.
  • The fly very fast compared to other bee species.
  • Like the bees of the Colletidae family, they coat the cells of the combs with an impermeable secretion.

Stenotritidae species of bees

Some types of bees that belong to this family are:

  • Ctenocolletes albomarginatus
  • Stenotritus elegantior
  • Ctenocolletes centralis
  • Stenotritus elegans
  • Ctenocolletes fulvescens
  • Stenotritus elegans
  • Stenotritus elegantior
Types of bees: Bee representative of the family Stenotritidae found in Australia

Why is bee conservation important?

Bees perform an important ecological purpose in pollinating a variety of food crops. In addition, conservation practices help improve the quality of our water, soil, wildlife habitats and various ecosystems.


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