Bee Identification Ultimate Guide: 11 Most Common Bee Species

11 Types of Bees and How to Get Rid of Them

Without bees, humans – and most other animals – would go hungry. Experts estimate that between 50% and 80% of the world’s food supply is either directly or indirectly linked to honey bee pollination. From the pollination of apple trees to the seeds used to grow livestock grain, honey bees are a major link in our food chain.

They also provide us with honey, pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, and propolis.

Honey bees aren’t the only type of helpful bee. In fact, there are more than 20,000 types of bees.

We’re going to look at the most common species, so you can learn more about these buzzing – sometimes pesky – insects.

Bee Identification – The 11 Most Common Bee Species

These 11 species of bees are the most common in the world. If you’re trying to get rid of bees in your yard or home, we encourage you to look up bee type pictures for each species to see what they look like.

1. Honey Bee

Honey bees are the bees most people are familiar with – and the pollinators that help drive our food supply. Honey bee colonies are found across the globe, and they pollinate more than 100 crops in the U.S. alone.

If you’re performing bee identification in the U.S., you’re most likely dealing with a species of the honey bee.

Unlike other species, honey bee colonies can survive for many years. In the winter, the family huddles together and eats honey to survive the winter.

Honey bees have barbed stingers, and can only sting once. Their stingers tear off when they try to fly away.

Honey Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1/2″
  • Color: Golden yellow with brown stripes

Diet

The honey bee pollinates plants, and produces honey from the nectar and pollen. That honey is stored in a honeycomb in the nest, and serves as a food source in the winter.

Habitat

These bees can build hives just about anywhere, and the sizes of their nests can vary greatly. Trees are the most common places for nests, but they can also be found in chimneys or attics.

Removal

Honey bee nests can be extremely large, and quite messy to remove on your own. This species of bee has also suffered from large-scale die-offs in recent years, so non-fatal removal methods are preferred.

A professional can remove these bees from your property, or you can follow our guide on how to remove honey bees yourself.

2. German Black Bee

For bee identification in the UK, the German black bee is a common species. Better known as the European dark bee, these bees are a species of the honey bee. Originally, their range stretched all the way from western regions of Russia to Northern Europe.

The European dark bee is larger than most other honey bees, and have unusually short tongues.

German Black Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Color: Straw yellow with thick black bands

Diet

Like other types of honey bees, this species collects pollen and nectar, and produces honey. Colonies collect the honey in their hives, and use it to survive the winter.

The German black bee has significant winter hardiness, and has excellent defense against invaders.

Habitat

The European dark bee commonly builds nests in the crevices of trees, but they may also build nests in attics, chimneys, and roof eaves.

Removal

If you have a colony of German black bees in or near your home, use the same removal methods you would use for any other type of honey bee.

Calling in a professional may be wise if the hive is very large, but you can also use our guide (linked above) to remove them yourself.

3. Carpenter Bee

The carpenter bee, sometimes called the “wood bee,” is a species of solitary bees, which means they build nests just for themselves and only feed their babies.

Just as their name suggests, these bees drill through wood, which can make them a nuisance for homeowners. If left unchecked, these bees can do some serious damage to a home (or any other structure).

These bees do not have barbed stingers, so they can sting more than once.

Carpenter Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1”
  • Color: Blue-black

Diet

Carpenter bees thrive on nectar and pollen.

Habitat

Female carpenter bees bore through wood, and create a nest gallery where she’ll lay her eggs. Her nest protects her offspring as they develop. Some tunnels are only a few inches deep, while others can be as long as ten feet. Many of these tunnels have rooms where eggs and food are stored.

All of the bits of wood chewed by female carpenter bees are deposited outside the nest. These deposits are known as “frass.”

Removal

Carpenter bees are mostly harmless. While they can sting, they will only do so if provoked. With that said, they can cause damage to wood structures. It’s best to take steps to deter them or remove them altogether.

Use our guide on how to get rid of carpenter bees to create or buy a carpenter bee trap, and keep these pesky bees away from your home.

4. Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are sometimes called “big bees” because of their wide bodies, but they’re really no bigger than the average carpenter bee.

The bumble bee is a special species, and these highly social creatures live in very large families. They pollinate plants and crops, too.

These bees don’t have barbed stingers, so they can sting more than once.

Bumble Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1”
  • Color: Black with yellow bands

Diet

Worker bees in the colony collect nectar and pollen from flowers, and use that to feed colony members and larvae.

Habitat

Unlike honey and carpenter bees, bumble bees actually build their nests in the ground, although they can also be found above ground near decks and patios. In some cases, they will build their nests underneath roof beams or inside attics.

Removal

Bumble bees are extremely aggressive when defending their nests, and will chase invaders for long distances. Their stings are one of the most painful, and swelling can last for several days.

Because they are aggressive defenders, it’s often best to call in a professional to remove a nest. But there are ways to get rid of these bees on your own (use our guide for tips), and ways to repel them.

5. Sweat Bee

The sweat bee is one of many types of ground bees, and there are about 1,000 varieties in the U.S., Central America, and Canada. These bees are also flower pollinators, and they enjoy one strange thing: human sweat.

These bees have really short tongues, which are great for lopping up human sweat. But because these bees are so small, humans often don’t realize their presence.

The sweat bee is not aggressive, and will only sting if pressed against the skin. Their stings are considered one of the least painful.

Sweat Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: .125” – .5”
  • Color: Metallic blue, green or bronze

Diet

Sweat bees collect pollen from flowers, and they aren’t picky about the flowers they visit. They often feed in swarms.

The feeding habits of sweat bees can sometimes be troublesome for flowers, as they do best when pollen is moved between the same type of flower.

Experts believe these bees have more complex digestive and detox systems than their peers because they can metabolize grains from a variety of flowers.

Habitat

Like bumble bees, sweat bees build their nests in the ground by burrowing holes in the soil. Some members of the colony are more solitary than others, and will live in individual cells far from other colony members.

Removal

Sweat bees will only sting if handled, so removal of their nests is a little less complicated than other bee species. With that said, their nests are underground, so removal isn’t quite as easy as knocking down a beehive.

While you can call in a professional, DIY removal is also possible (our sweat bee removal guide shows you how).

6. Digger Bees

Digger bees are a part of the Anthophorini tribe, and there are more than 750 species of these bees across the world.

All species in this tribe are solitary, but it’s not uncommon for them to nest in large aggregations.

Digger Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: Up to 3cm
  • Color: Pale yellow with black bands

Diet

Like sweat bees, digger bees aren’t fussy about which flowers they visit to collect pollen and nectar. These bees have long tongues, which make it easy to drink the nectar of deep-throated flowers.

Some species of this bee, including the Anthophora urbana, are pollinators of specific food crops, such as cherry tomatoes.

Although solitary, these bees will provide their young with nectar and pollen.

Habitat

The name “digger bees” is fitting for this tribe, as they prefer to burrow into the ground to build their nests. They prefer to dig their nests in flat, sandy ground.

Digger bees remain in the pupa stage underground all winter, and emerge as adult bees in the spring. The males hover around the colonies to wait for females to emerge for mating.

Once they emerge and mate, females will dig a new hole for a nest, and lay her eggs.

Removal

Digger bees are docile, and will only sting if handled or seriously provoked. But like other ground bees, their nests can be difficult to remove. To tackle the problem, you can call in a professional, or read our guide on how to remove digger bees.

7. Mining Bees

Mining bees, formally known as Andrena, are the largest genus of the Andrenidae family. There are more than 1,300 species of this black and white bee, making it one of the largest of the bee genera.

These bees often nest in lawns, which can be a nuisance to homeowners. However, they pose no threat because their stingers are not powerful enough to penetrate human skin.

Mining Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 8-17 mm
  • Color: Black with whitish abdominal stripes

Diet

Mining bees are one of the most common types of bees that forage in the spring. Some species emerge and begin foraging as early as February. They visit a wide variety of flowers, but some species are specialists.

Habitat

All mining bees build their nests underground, and they prefer sandy soil. More often than not, they build nests underneath or near shrubs.

Andrena bees mark the entrance of their nest with a mound of soil, known as tumulus. Many species nest in huge aggregations of tens of thousands of bees.

Removal

A number of Andrena species are imperiled or vulnerable, so removal methods must be used with caution. We share some common ways to get rid of mining bees, but you can also call in a professional if you have the budget.

8. Megachile

The Megachile genus is a group of solitary bees that are often referred to as leafcutting or leafcutter bees. They get this nickname from certain species in the genus, which neatly cut pieces of petals or leaves to build nests in cavities.

There are more than 1500 species of Megachile bees.

Megachile Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 5-24 mm
  • Color: Black with thin yellow bands

Diet

Leafcutting bees in general are very important pollinators, and pollinate wildflowers, vegetables and fruits.

Commercial growers use these bees to pollinate blueberries, carrots, onions and alfalfa.

Habitat

Megachile bees build their nests in hallowed out wood, soil and even plant stems. They have also been known to build nests in dead snail shells, holes in concrete walls and holes in other man-made objects.

These bees cut plants and flowers, and use this material to line their nests. It is believed that the material prevents the desiccation of the larvae food supply.

Nests contain numerous cells, each one containing just one egg (each cell will produce one bee). Each cell has a supply of food, typically pollen. Nectar may also be mixed with the pollen.

Female bees build a cap and seal off the cell walls. The larvae then hatch and eat the food supply. In the spring, the bee emerges as an adult.

Removal

Megachile bees are extremely beneficial pollinators of wildflowers and certain agricultural crops. They do not aggressively defend their nests, and will only sting if handled. Their stings are not considered painful either.

It is often best to leave these bees alone, but if you must remove them, call in a professional. They will know the best way to remove these bees in a safe, non-destructive way.

9. Killer Bees

Their name is enough to incite terror – and rightfully so. Killer bees are Africanized bees that look just like regular honey bees. The only real distinctive difference is in wing measurements.

Africanized bees live in Western and Southern areas of the United States as well as South America.

These bees will chase people for more than a quarter mile if they become aggressive or excited.

These bees are called “killer” bees because they will attack in very large numbers and are relentless in their chase of invaders or provokers. But their venom is no more dangerous than the average honey bee.

Thankfully, these bees can only sting once.

Killer Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1/2″
  • Color: Golden yellow with dark brown bands

Diet

Worker killer bees collect nectar and pollen from plants. The pollen and nectar are used to feed other members of the colony and the larvae.

Habitat

Killer bees have smaller colonies, so they are known to build their nests in strange places. Nests have been found in boxes, crates, abandoned cars and even tires.

If you find a bee’s nest in a strange place in or near your home, you may be dealing with killer bees.

Removal

Although the killer bee’s venom is no more potent than the average honey bee, they tend to attack in much greater numbers, and this increase the risk of an allergic reaction.

These bees are relentless chasers. If you are being chased by these bees, run in a zigzag pattern, and seek shelter. Avoid jumping into water, as they will wait around until you come up for air.

Because these bees are so aggressive and can be dangerous if you have even a slight allergy, it is recommended that you call a professional to remove a colony.

10. Western Honey Bee

The western honey bee, sometimes called the European honey bee, is one of the most common honey bee species. These bees were one of the first domesticated insects, and are still the primary species kept by beekeepers.

These bees are now found in every part of the world except Antarctica, and is now considered the world’s most important pollinator for agriculture.

Western Honey Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1/2″
  • Color: Golden yellow with dark brown bands

Diet

Worker western honey bees collect nectar and pollen from plants. The nectar and pollen are used to feed other members of the colony and their offspring.

Habitat

Like other honey bees, western honey bees live in hives, or nests. Their nests can be built in trees, or inside human structures.

These bees huddle together during the cold winter months to stay warm and to survive. They live on the honey they produce and store during the spring and summer.

Removal

Western honey bees are facing many of the same threats other honey bees are facing. Conservation efforts are being made to protect hives and prevent colonies from dying.

For this reason, you may consider calling in a professional beekeeper to help remove western honey bees from your home or yard.

11. Colletidae

Commonly known as the plaster bee, colletidae bees are a widespread genus with 90 species in North America.

These slender, hairy bees vary greatly in size, and carry pollen in a pocket in their hind legs.

While these bees can be found all over the world, most are in Australia and South America.

Colletidae Bee Facts

  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 0.3”-0.6”
  • Color: Black with pale stripes of hair

Diet

Some colletes are floral specialists, and will only visit a select number of plant species. Most of these specialists are found in California.

Habitat

Colletidae bees are solitary, and they build their nests in the ground. They got the nickname “plaster bee” because of their smooth brood cells. Colletes line the walls of their cells with a cellophane-like material that’s waterproof. This membrane protects the brood from fungal attacks.

Removal

Colletidae bees are valuable pollinators and are only active for three to five weeks. These bees are not aggressive unless provoked, so leaving their nests alone may be the best course of action.

If these bees are becoming a nuisance, contact a local beekeeper who can safely remove these bees.

Bee Mimicker – the Hoverfly

There’s one last insect we need to talk about: the hoverfly. This is a type of fly that looks like a bee, and is often mistaken for one.

Sometimes called flower flies, the hoverfly is a part of the Syrphidae family.

These flies are often found nectaring or hovering near flowers. That’s because many species live on pollen and nectar.

The maggots, however, feed on a wide range of different foods. Some maggots eat decaying animal or plant matter, while others eat other insects, such as thrips and aphids.

There are about 6,000 species of hoverflies, and they are common in most parts of the world (except for Antarctica).

Just like bees, hoverflies are important pollinators. Some visit wild plants, while others prefer agricultural crops. They are largely considered the second-most important pollinators, just behind wild bees.

Hoverflies are harmless and do not sting. They’re also important pollinators, and many of the maggots feed on aphids (helpful for keeping plants healthy).

Now that you know more about the most common types of bees, you can determine the best course of action to get rid of them (or relocate them). Remember, there are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world. These are just a handful of the most common types, so be sure to search for pictures to confirm the species you’re dealing with.

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