Wisborough Green Division

West Sussex Beekeepers Association


Bee Identification
What have you got?

In the U.K. there are around 270 species of bees, most of which are regional due to habitat and available flora. They fall into three categories:-

Bumblebees are usually ground nesting with a maximum of around 200 bees in a nest, but often a lot less. They are the characteristic fluffy bees. The larger queen starts the nest off in the spring and rears the early workers on her own, who take over looking after the subsequent brood until they die off in the early autumn. Batches of drones (males) and queens are reared late in the season and mate. The drones die and the queens find somewhere to hibernate until the spring when the whole process starts again. All bumblebees sting, apart from the drones, but are only likely to do so if disturbed. It is very difficult to move nests, and as they are unlikely to be a problem, the best advice is to be aware of them and leave them. They do not return to the same nesting site in the following year.

Useful websites for bumblebees:-
http://www.bumble.org/
http://www.bumblebeeconservation.org.uk/bumblebees_id.htm
http://www.buglife.org.uk/discoverbugs/knowledge/typesofinvertebratesbyhabitat/terrestrial/bumblebees.htm

Solitary Bees. This is the largest group by far, and some look a bit like honeybees. They nest in a variety of places including walls, wood, and in the ground. Although they may have a sting they very rarely use it, and are no trouble at all. The female builds the nest herself and provisions the cells, then abandons it. Solitary bees are very efficient pollinators and should be encouraged. It is easy to make a nesting site for them.

Useful websites for solitary bees:-
http://www.insectpix.net/
http://www.glaucus.org.uk/SolitaryBee.html"

Honeybees. These are totally social with the whole colony living through the winter. They do sting, but usually only when seriously provoked. Their method of reproduction is for the old queen and about half the workers to leave the nest or hive and fly off to find another home. This is called a swarm. For about a week before the swarm leaves their home the colony sends out scout bees to identify a new home, and this could be an empty hive, hollow tree, or a building. When the swarm leaves the hive they cluster to make sure the queen is with them, and to gather the flying bees. It is only honeybees that swarm, and you can see two clustered swarms on the images. Honeybees vary in colour depending on their sub species, and vary from dark brown/black to a more yellow that can be confused with wasps. Please see the images for identification.

These are both honeybees, but of different sub-species

Dark Bee Dark Honeybee
Yellow Bee Yellow Honeybee



Here are two photographs of honeybee swarms.

Tree Swarm
Post Swarm






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