Bees coming out of a wall

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Types of bees

When you think of bees, a small yellow and black insect that occasionally stings probably comes to mind. In reality, there are many different types of bees.

Unlike their more aggressive counterparts, wasps and hornets, bees are farily docile and in most cases, they provide a valuable service to the environment. By helping to pollinate plants and flowers, bees are good for you garden, crops and, of course, are responsible for honey production.

In the case of medical concerns or the more destructive bee species, bees may be cause for concern. If you do feel that you have a problem with beehives or bees around your home or on your property, contact Ehrlich today.

Here, we've compiled a comprehensive list of the most common types of bees found in the eastern United States.

Social bees

Solitary bees

Social bees

Social bees are bees that form large colonies. When people think of bees, this is usually the type of bee that comes to mind. Social bee hives contain many bees crawling over each other, creating combs, feeding their larvae and creating honey. Although very common in nature, these bees are most likely to be seen creating hives or working together to build a community.

Bumble bees

Bumble bees look a lot like carpenter bees, but are usually smaller and appear to have fine hairs all over their bodies. Bumble bees do not bore into wood and will not cause damage to wooden structures around your home or property.

Bumble bees prefer to nest underground and are very rarely a problem. They do not have stingers, and may bite if provoked. They are usually only a concern if they set up their nest in a high traffic area near a home or business.

honey bee on honeycomb

Honey bees

Honey bees are one of the most common types of bees that people encounter in their daily life. They are yellow and black with slender bodies that often cause confusion with hornets or wasps. They are not usually aggressive.

Honey bees have been known to swarm around perceived threats to their nests and will sting to fend them off. They will also swarm in order to establish a new colony.

Africanized honey bees

These bees look a lot like your standard honey bee, but they have a vastly different disposition. Africanized honey bees will defend their nests viciously and they guard a territory much wider than your average honey bee.

Africanized bees are a lot more aggressive than a standard bee. They will attack in huge swarms around threats with the intent of stinging whatever the threat is to death. They will also chase after a perceived threat for much longer distances than the average honey bee.

Africanized honey bees prefer to the warmer climates and are located in southern states and western states that are warm year round.

If you find yourself attacked by Africanized honey bees, be sure to:

  • Run away as fast as you can and seek a stable shelter such as a home, shed or something sturdy.

  • Do not jump in water as bees will wait for you to come up for air.

  • Make sure that the stingers are removed as quickly as possible because they will continue to pump venom.

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Solitary bees

Unlike social bees, solitary bees prefer to operate on their own or in very small colonies. Solitary bees tend to have very small nests, fly alone, and make just enough food to feed their larvae they have and no more. There are many solitary bee species, and most of them are relatively harmless to humans. Only a few of them can create problems that might make you want to contact a pest control specialist.

Carpenter bees

Carpenter bees are large, hairy bees usually seen flying around on their own rather than in large colonies. Carpenter bees do not sting because they don't have stingers, but sometimes fly around aggressively to try and intimidate any threat.

Carpenter bees bore into wood to lay eggs, leaving large oval holes. They can do damage to homes and wooden structures around your property.

mason bee

Mason bees

Mason bees look very similar to small black flies, but they have two sets of wings. They are known to burrow into soft mortar around buildings. The nesting holes are small, but if enough bees decide to set up their nests, the brick or mortar veneer of a home can become peppered with unsightly mason bee nests. Given their size, the holes generally do not pose any kind of structural risk with them.

Like with most solitary bees, the risk of being stung by a mason bee is low. Male mason bees do not sting at all and female will only sting when they feel threatened.

Digger bees

Though they behave quite similarly, digger bees are smaller than carpenter bees, but both are quite hairy. Generally, diggers are around 12 to 18mm in length. You might find them emerging from holes in the ground. There, they build chambers to use as their nest. Once digger bees create their underground burrow, they use their special glands to line it with a waterproof, fungus-resistant lining that protects the nest and its contents. Digger bee tunnels usually have one major chamber and a few branching tunnels off of it. These tunnels are used for food storage and for their larvae and eggs.

There is very little risk of being stung by a digger bee.

Sweat bees

If you've ever found yourself outside on a hot summer day, you may have noticed a tiny bee hovering around your head. You find them in this environment because they are attracted to sweat from humans and other animals. That being said, their size makes a sweat bee sting very unlikely. Sweat bees aren't generally aggressive in nature. When people do get stung by sweat bees, it's usually because they accidentally crushed the insect, pressing the stinger into their skin.

Sweat bees can be as small as 3mm in length. They tend to have hairy bodies and, although they are solitary, groups of them can build nests, usually underground, in clusters with telltale mounds of earth at the openings.

leafcutter bee on leaf

Leafcutting bees

Leafcutting bees are about 7 to 18mm in length and are very dark in color. When they're carrying pollen, the abdomen underside will appear a golden color.

Leafcutting bees often construct their nests within rotting wood. They may also use wood shingle siding and insulated panels of buildings, which is when they end up in contact with people. Their name comes from their tendency to cut pieces of of leaves and plants to use as nesting material in their burrows.

These bees are more of a threat to your plants than you. Their primary purpose is to pollinate.


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