Types of Bees and How to Identify Them (Pictures, Names, Identification)

bee identification - Bee Species Identification Chart

Bees are small flying insects, common in summer gardens flying from flower to flower. Most bee species are recognizable by their striped fuzzy bodies—often with black and yellow or orange markings. There are 20,000 species of bees, and the most common – the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) – is famous for producing honey.

This article is a guide to the most popular species of bees you will find in your garden. Along with pictures of common bees, descriptions of these flying types of insects will help identify various bee species.

How to Identify Bees

The best way to identify species of bees is by observing their shape, size, color, and habitats. However, bee identification can be tricky, and many species have similar characteristics. It may be easy to tell a bumble bee and honey bee apart, but identifying other bee species is challenging.

For example, bumble bees have fuzzy bodies with black and yellow stripes and are larger than honey bees. Most carpenter bees are similar to bumblebees but are mostly black, and they have shorter hairs.

The colors of bees vary from species to species. Many types of honey bees are brown or tan colors. However, larger carpenter bees are mostly black. Some bumble bee species can also be black, or some have black, white, and yellow markings. There are also fascinating bee species that have shiny green metallic colors.

Bees vs. Wasps – How to Tell the Difference

Close up pictures showing a bee and a wasp

Close up pictures of a honey bee (left) and a wasp (right)

Bees and wasps are closely related, and both belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. One way to tell bees and wasps apart is by the smoothness of their body. Wasps tend to have slender, smooth bodies, whereas bees have a furry appearance and are plumper. Also, bees can only sting once before dying, but wasps can sting multiple times.

Facts About Bees

Bees, especially honey bees, are generally social creatures that live in large colonies. A single hive can contain between 20,000 and 80,000 worker bees. A bee colony is also highly organized, with a queen, drones, and workers caring for the beehive.

Even though many species of bees swarm in large groups, other species are solitary creatures.

Bees play a vital role in most ecosystems. Bees are crucial for pollinating flowers so that we have crops of fruit and vegetables every year. Also, bees produce honey, a delicious sweet food enjoyed by humans, animals, and birds.

Although many bees are species of stinging insects, they are generally not aggressive. Bees are usually docile creatures and don’t attack humans. However, Africanized bees are aggressive and territorial insects. The problem is that Africanized honey bees look like regular honey bees—Apis mellifera—and can attack without being provoked.

Bees feed on pollen and nectar from flowering plants. As bumblebees, carpenter bees, and honey bees move from plant to plant, they pollinate the flowers. Honey bees then take the nectar and pollen back to the colony where they produce honey—a food source for bees that never leaves the hive.

Types of Bees with Names and Pictures (Including Bee Identification Guide)

Here is a list of different types of bees you might find buzzing around your garden (including bee identification guide with images).

Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Picture of Western honey bee or European honey bee (Apis mellifera)

The Western honey bee has black and orange-yellow bands on the abdomen and hair on the thorax

Western honey bees have black and tan-yellow stripes on their slender bodies. Western honey bees are easy to identify as they have a honey-colored look and a relatively smooth abdomen. Honey bees have three pairs of fuzzy black legs, a pair of antennae, and two pairs of wings.

As with all bees, honey bees have a body in three segments—a head, thorax, and abdomen. The females’ hind legs have pollen pouches that they use to transport pollen back to the hive.

Western honey bees are also called European honey bees – these winged insects are the primary bee species used for honey production. Western honey bees are popular with beekeepers because they are not aggressive and produce plenty of honey.

Although there are over 20,000 bee species in the world, there are only eight honey bee species. These honey-producing insects in the genus Apis include the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), the giant honey bee (Apis dorsata), and Koschevnikov’s honey bee (Apis koschevnikovi).

Western honey bee identification

Western honey bees have a hairy brown-colored thorax and black and dark orange bands on their relatively smooth abdomen. Look for pollen baskets (corbicula) on their black hind legs. Honey bees can grow up to 1/2” (1.2 cm) long.

Bumble Bee (Bombus)

Bumble Bee (Bombus)

Bumble bees can be identified by their fuzzy appearance and large black and yellow body with a white tail

Bumble bees are easy to spot with their round fuzzy bodies with black and yellow stripes and white tails. Depending on the bumble bee species, they may have red or yellow tails. There are 250 individual species of bumble bees, most of which have similar identifying features.

The name bumble bee literally means to buzz, hum, or move clumsily. This descriptive name accurately depicts their bumble behavior as they feed on flower pollen and nectar.

Unlike honey bees, bumble bees live in nests and smaller colonies. They only store small amounts of food in the nest. Also, bumble bees have a wider body and fuzzier appearance compared to honey bees. Similar to honey bees, bumble bees have pollen sacs on their hind legs.

Bumble bee identification

Bumble bees are large bees with hairy bodies and legs. Look for distinctive yellow and black bands and tails that are generally white, but could also be yellow or red. Bumble bees grow up to 0.6” (1.7 cm).

Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)

Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)

The underside abdomen of leafcutter bee has pale yellow hairs to carry pollen

Leafcutter bees have slender bodies with pronounced black and pale yellow stripes with pollen-carrying hairs on the underside of their abdomen. As their name suggests, leafcutter bees chew leaves that they then take back to the nest. Also called leafcutting bees, these insects are one of the largest genera of bees, with more than 1,500 species of Megachile.

These ‘leaf-cutting’ bees are medium-sized bees that don’t produce honey. They are solitary insects that live in nests, crevices, burrows, and hollow twigs. Although leafcutter bees sting, their sting isn’t as severe as a honey bee’s sting. Up close, pictures of leafcutter bees also show they have large mandibles or jaws to slice through leaves.

Leafcutter bee identification

You can easily recognize leafcutter bees by their smooth striped upper abdomen. Depending on the species, the stripes of leafcutter bees can be black and white or black and pale yellow. Leafcutter bees grow up to 0.35” (1 cm) long.

Long-Horn Bees (Eucerini)

Long-Horn Bees (Eucerini)

The hairy long-horn bees have long antennae with black and whitish-yellow bands on the abdomen

Long-horn bees have hairy bodies and legs with black and white bands. One common distinguishable feature of  long-horn bees is their long antennae.

Long-horned bees are solitary bees with about 500 species in 32 genera in the tribe Eucerini. Between the species of long-horned bees, there are few common identifying features.

Long-horn bees are commonly found feeding on pollen on sunflowers. These bees don’t produce honey and live a solitary existence where they nest in small tunnels.

Long-Horn Bee identification

Long-horn bees generally have pale black and white bands on their fuzzy bodies and two long antennae. Their six legs are hairy and a dark tan color.

Green Metallic Sweat Bee (Augochlora pura)

Green Metallic Sweat Bee (Augochlora pura)

The green metallic sweat bee has iridescent body which can have green, blue and gold hues

Green metallic sweat bees have a spectacular glossy green iridescent body. These species of sweat bees are solitary insects with over 4,000 species in 81 genera. Green metallic sweat bees are small bees measuring 0.3” (0.8 cm).

Green metallic sweat bee females live in nests in rotten wood. The males don’t survive through the winter but die in the fall.

Although the green metallic sweat bees sting, they rarely do so. But they often land on humans to lick sweat from the skin as they are attracted to salt.

Green metallic sweat bee identification

Green metallic sweat bees are easy to spot due to their striking shiny metallic green head and bodies.

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa)

Picture of all black Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa)

Most carpenter bee species are all black with a big black body, fuzzy thorax and smooth abdomen

Carpenter bees are big black bees that look similar to bumble bees. The difference between carpenter bees and bumble bees is that carpenter bees are less hairy. Another difference is that carpenter bees have a smooth, not fuzzy, abdomen. Most species of carpenter bees are all black, and a few species have white or yellow markings.

Carpenter bees get their name from their habit of burrowing in wood to nest. Another feature of these plump bees is the loud sound their wings make when they fly. Like most bees, carpenter bees sting, and their sting can be painful compared to other bee species.

Carpenter bee identification

Large carpenter bees are 0.7” (2 cm) long with fuzzy black thorax, smooth abdomens, and elongated wings.

Small Carpenter Bee (Ceratina)

Small Carpenter Bee (Ceratina)

Small carpenter bees have shiny dark and smooth body with metallic blue and black hues

Small carpenter bees are little, almost hairless, bees that have dark shiny bodies. Some of these small bees have stunning metallic colors. Look for barrel-shaped bodies and squarish heads to spot these bees. Most small carpenter bees have yellow markings, which make them easy to identify.

Similar to larger carpenter bees, species in the Ceratina genus tunnel into soft or decaying wood. Some species of carpenter bees are solitary, whereas others live in social groups.

Small carpenter bees can be mistaken for sweat bees in the family Halictidae. Both genera are small with metallic coloration. However, the mouthparts of small carpenter bees are shorter than sweat bees.

Small carpenter bee identification

Small carpenter bees are distinguishable by their shiny metallic bodies, stumpy heads, thin legs, and elongated slender body. Some species are characterized as “black shining” or “blue shining bees.”

Mason Bee (Osmia)

Close-up picture of two types of mason bees - one mason bee type has metallic blue-green body and the other mason bee in the picture (red mason bee) has black or maroon colors.

Many mason bees have metallic blue-green bodies (left picture). Some mason bees such as the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) can have black or maroon colors (right picture)

Mason bees commonly have metallic green or blue bodies with sparse hairy patches. Some species in the Osmia genus are rust-red colored or black bees. Adult mason bees are about 0.5” (1.4 cm) long with large wings and six hairy black legs.

Mason bees get their name from their habit of using masonry materials such as mud to construct nests. Some small species of mason bees also nest in crevices, hollow stems, or holes in wood.

Common species of mason bees include the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis), blueberry bee (Osmia ribifloris), and the native orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria).

Mason bee identification

Characteristic features of mason bees are the shiny metallic bodies that can be green, blue, red, or black. You can also spot mason bees by their enlarged hind area (the pollen scopa) when it’s full of pollen.

Sweat Bee (Halictidae)

Sweat Bee (Halictidae)

Different species of sweat bees vary in appearance, with some having green metallic body

Sweat bees in the family Halictidae can look different from one to another. Some species of Halictid are metallic green, blue, or black with greenish-yellow markings. Other sweat bees have black and white stripes on smooth abdomens. Like sweat bees in other bee families, species in this group are attracted to salty sweat.

Sweat bees are essential pollinators; however, they are usually solitary and don’t produce honey. These sweat bees are common throughout the eastern United States.

Sweat bee identification

There is a wide variation in the identifying features of species of sweat bees. Most have dark, metallic bodies and yellow markings, especially on their faces. The distinguishing feature of sweat bees is a strongly-curved vein on their wings.

Carder Bee (Anthidium)

Close-up picture of Carder bee (Anthidium florentinum) with black and yellow markings on its back

Carder bee with black and yellow markings on its back

Carder bees are large black and yellow bees that are a similar size to honey bees. Looking closely at these big bees, you’ll notice tufts of hairs on their legs and sides. The yellow markings on their abdomen don’t wrap all the way around their bodies, and they have a smooth black back.

It’s easy to mistake carder bees for yellow-jackets as their yellow and black markings are similar. However, carder bees are hairier than the more aggressive yellow hornets.

Carder bees are in the family Megachilidae, so, like leafcutter bees, they cut leaves to use in nests. These large bees also use resin, mud, and plant hairs to form their nests. Looking at pictures of carder bees, you’ll notice three horns at their abdominal apex.

Carder bee identification

Carder bees are large yellow and black bees with tufts of tiny spines on their legs. You can identify these bees by their bright yellow or red markings on their abdomens’ underside and sides.

Squash Bee (Peponapis and Xenoglossa)

squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, Xenoglossa strenua

The yellow and black squash bees have a fuzzy thorax and smooth abdomen. On this picture: Peponapis (left) and Xenoglossa (right)

Squash bee is the common name for two types of bees in the Eucerini tribe. Squash bees get their name because they are prolific pollinators of plants in the squash family. Squash bees are medium-sized black and yellow-colored bees that have a hairy thorax and smooth abdominal area. Squash bees also have short, fat bodies, giving them the appearance of being squashed.

Squash bees are similar in size to bumble bees and are large and fatter than honey bees.

An interesting feature of some squash bee species is that they are more active in the dark. The bees can start buzzing around flowers before sunrise, and others fly when it’s dark.

Squash bee identification

Squash bees have a characteristic stout body like bumble bees. Some squash bee species have black bodies with yellow bands, and others have a fuzzy appearance with a smooth abdomen.

Striped Green Sweat Bees (Agapostemon)

Sweat bee Agapostemon texanus

A close up image of Agapostemon texanus with metallic green head and thorax and striped black-yellow abdomen

Striped green sweat bees have a smooth black and yellow striped abdomen and metallic green head and thorax. Striped green bees have long slender bodies and no discernible hairs on them. They have a striking appearance with dark antennae, lightly-colored long legs, and shiny bodies.

Striped green sweat bees are found in temperate regions in North and South America. These sweat bee species have flight patterns similar to honey bees and bumble bees.

Striped green sweat bee identification

The distinguishing features of striped green sweat bees are their metallic green shiny head. Their striped reddish or yellow and black abdomens sometimes have a metallic shimmer also.

Miner Bee (Anthophora abrupta)

As seen in the picture, miner bees (Anthophora abrupta) have fuzzy body with creamy-yellow hairs on the thorax and black hairy abdomen

As seen in the picture, miner bees have fuzzy body with creamy-yellow hairs on the thorax and black hairy abdomen

Miner bees are fuzzy black and creamy-yellow bees similar to bumble bees. Also known as chimney bees, these medium sized, stout furry bees are coated in fine hairs, including their long legs. Mining bees typically have a black fuzzy abdomen and a light cream or yellow hairy thorax.

Miner bees have a solitary existence. Their common name comes from their burrowing habit, where they dig tunnels in the soil. They also create chimney-like tunnels for their nests.

Although miner bees have stings, they are placid insects that rarely sting humans.

Miner bees are vital pollinators for plants such as rhododendrons, irises, roses, persimmons, and parsnips.

Miner bee identification

Miner bees have an overall furry body, including their head, thorax, abdomen, and legs. The species usually lack stripes, and the thorax is a lighter color than the abdomen.

Unequal Cellophane Bee  (Colletes inaequalis)

ground bee (Colletes inaequalis)

Unequal cellophane bees have fuzzy tan-colored head, pair of translucent wings, heart-shaped face, large compound eyes, and two segmented antennae.

Also known as ground bee, the unequal cellophane bee is a black and tan-colored bee with a black abdomen and tan stripes. These ground nesting bees have fuzzy tan-colored head, pair of translucent wings, heart-shaped face, large compound eyes, and two segmented antennae.

The unequal cellophane bees are solitary bees that make nests in the ground. They tunnel into dry soil to create underground nests about 6” (15 cm) long where they raise their young.

Unequal cellophane bees typically measure 0.5” (13 mm) long and are active between March and July.

Unequal cellophane bee identification

Unequal cellophane can be identified by their fuzzy tan-colored head, pair of translucent wings, heart-shaped face, large compound eyes, and two segmented antennae.

Hairy-Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes)

Anthophora plumipes

The hairy-footed flower bee is commonly found in gardens and coastal areas

The hairy-footed flower bee is a small fuzzy dark-colored bee with reddish-orange hairs. There is color variation between the female bees and male species. For example, the female is dark brown to black with small tufts of reddish orange hairs. The male hairy-footed flower bee has longer legs and longer hairs on its abdomen. 

The hairy-footed flower bee measures 0.5” to 0.6” (13 – 15 mm) long. The bees are usually solitary, and the females build nests in clay or mud walls. The black bees with their reddish-tan hairs are active between March and June. 

Hairy-footed flower bee identification

The hairy-footed flower bee is a black to dark brown solitary bee with tan-colored stripes across its abdomen, a fuzzy thorax, and two thick antennae.

Ashy Mining Bee (Andrenidae cineraria)

Andrenidae cineraria

The ashy mining bee is identified by its black and white-gray furry body

The ashy mining bee is a black bee with gray-whitish hairs around its thorax. The black and white bee has an identifiable shiny black abdomen that can appear bluish in bright light. The furry bees also have two slender segmented antennae and heads covered in whitish-gray hairs.

Also called the gray mining bee, this nesting bee grows up to 0.6” (15 mm) long. The docile black and gray bee makes nests in sandy soil, river banks, and gardens. The ground nests are identifiable by the small mounds of dirt around the opening.

Ashy mining bee identification

The ashy mining bee is an easily recognizable black bee due to its two bands of gray hairs on the thorax. The black male ashy mining bee is entirely covered in gray hairs with a tuft of white hairs on its face. 

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrenidae fulva)

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrenidae fulva)

The tawny mining bee is covered with reddish-brown or orangey-brown hairs

The tawny mining bee is a furry, rusty-brown colored species of sand bee commonly found in Europe. The nesting bee is covered in fox-red hair on its abdomen and thorax and fuzzy black hair on its head. The small reddish-orange bees measure 0.3” to 0.4” (8 – 10 mm) long. 

Solitary tawny mining bees are active from March through May. You will find these reddish hairy bees feeding on pollen and nectar on daffodils, hawthorn, maple, oak, sycamore, and buttercup flowers. 

Tawny mining bee identification

The tawny mining bee is a non-aggressive bee with a characteristic covering of reddish-brown or golden-brown fine hairs, a pair of transparent wings, and six stumpy legs. 

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae)

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae)

the striped black and pale brown ivy bee is typically solitary and nests in sandy soils

The ivy bee is a type of plasterer bee with a distinctive dark brown body and several golden-brown bands. This striped mining bee also has recognizable dense orangey-brown hairs around its thorax and a slightly fuzzy abdomen and legs. In addition, the ivy bee has large compound eyes and two segmented antennae.

Ivy bees are around 0.51” (13 mm) long and larger than other bee species in the Colletidae family. The medium-sized brown furry bee is typically solitary and doesn’t live in colonies. The bees are active from August when they feed primarily on ivy flowers. Females mine nests in the sandy soils. 

Ivy bee identification

The ivy bee has an identifiable striped dark brown abdomen with bands of golden-brown hairs. In addition, a recognizable feature of the brown bee is its tuft of orange-brown hairs on its thorax and head. 

Yellow-Faced Bees (Genus Hylaeus)

Hylaeus signatus

A picture of Hylaeus signatus with a pale yellow patch on its face

Also called masked bees, yellow-faced bees have a distinctive bright yellow patch on their face. The small black bees are easy to mistake for black wasps due to their shape. The slender bees also have characteristic yellow spots on each side of their thorax and yellow and black legs. 

The small yellow and black bees, with their unique yellow mask-like faces, measure 0.19” to 0.27” (5 – 7 mm) long. Other identifying features of the tiny black wasp-like bees are their tubular antennae and lack of scopa—the pollen-carrying hairs on their hind legs. 

Yellow-faced bees tend to nest in pre-made holes in dead wood or stems. The bees gather nectar and typically feed on milkweed and common boneset plants. 

Yellow-faced bee identification

A yellow-faced bee is easy to identify due to its slender black body, yellow and black banded legs, and unique creamy-yellow mark on its face.

Furrow Bees (Genus Halictus)

Furrow bees are a large species of bees characterized by their dark brown or black appearance. In addition, some bee species have banded abdomens with yellow, brown, and black stripes. Generally, the bees live in small colonies in nests they burrow in the soil. Here are a few specific examples of common furrow bees: 

Ligated Furrow Bee (Halictus ligatus)

Ligated Furrow Bee (Halictus ligatus)

Ligated furrow bee (Halictus ligatus)

The ligated furrow bee is identified as a dark brown bee with golden yellow bands around its abdomen. The yellow and brown bee also has tufts of yellow hairs on its head, thorax, tail, and furry yellow or orange legs. This dark black or brown-black bee lacks the metallic patterns some furrow bees have. This dark striped bee measures 0.27” to 0.43” (7 – 11 mm) long.

Confusing Furrow Bee (Halictus confusus)

Confusing Furrow Bee (Halictus confusus)

Confusing furrow bee (Halictus confusus)

The confusing furrow bee is a solitary black bee with bands of pale-yellow hairs around its abdomen. Another identifying trait of this furrow bee is fuzzy yellowish and black legs. Some confusing bees in the species are entirely black with yellow markings on their legs and face. The tiny black bee measures 0.28” (7 mm) long.

Orange-Legged Furrow Bee (Halictus rubicundus)

Orange-Legged Furrow Bee (Halictus rubicundus)

Orange-legged furrow bee (Halictus rubicundus)

The orange-legged furrow bee is a distinctive striped, black bee with its cylindrical body, bands of pale-yellow hairs, and black and yellow legs. The orange-legged bee also has a slender head with two large, segmented antennae. In addition, the head and thorax have short tufts of yellow-brown hairs. The small furrow bee measures less than 0.39” (10 mm) long.

Parallel-Striped Sweat Bee (Halictus parallelus)

Parallel-Striped Sweat Bee (Halictus parallelus)

Parallel-striped sweat bee (Halictus parallelus)

The small parallel-striped sweat bee is a brown furrow bee with bands of yellow traversing its chocolatey brown abdomen. Other identifying marks of this sweat bee are its furry orange legs, golden brown head and thorax, and large, brown compound eyes. The brown and yellow bee measures 0.47” to 0.51” (12 – 13 mm). 

Box-Headed Blood Bee (Sphecodes monilicornis)

Box-Headed Blood Bee (Sphecodes monilicornis)

You can easily identify the box-headed blood bee with its black body and reddish abdomen

The box-headed blood bee is an unusual black bee due to its brightly colored red abdomen. The medium to large slender black and red bee has black wings, short, stumpy antennae, and fuzzy legs covered in whitish hairs. Additionally, the white hairs on the black head and thorax give the bee a grayish appearance. 

Blood bees are easy to recognize due to the crimson to bright red band around their bodies. This species, Sphecodes monilicornis, is easy to differentiate from other blood bees by its box-shaped head, thin body, and pale hairs. 

The box-headed blood bee can be aggressive to other bees. Females usually inhabit pre-existing nests and destroy the resident grub or egg living there.

Box-headed blood bee identification

The box-headed blood bee is easy to recognize in the landscape with its bright red abdomen and grayish black body with a slender box-shaped head.

Pantaloon Bees (Dasypoda hirtipes)

Pantaloon Bees (Dasypoda hirtipes)

The pantaloon bees are identified by their golden hairy back legs

The pantaloon bee is a brown and golden-yellow furry mining bee with distinctive hairy hind legs. The bee’s back legs become swollen with pollen, giving them the appearance of wearing pantaloons. This medium to large bee also has a fuzzy black abdomen with grayish-white bands around it. Additionally, the bee has an easily recognizable furry golden-brown head.

Pantaloon bees measure around 0.51” (13 mm). Due to their unique appearance, these fuzzy bees also go by the name hairy-legged mining bee. Pictures of the yellowish-brown bee show its legs and head covered in dense golden-brown setae (fine hairs). 

The hairy pantaloon bees are often found feeding on pollen and nectar on flowers in the Asteraceae family. 

Pantaloon bee identification

The pantaloon bee is one of the easiest bees to recognize. It’s a large bee with hairy hind legs, white bands around its black abdomen, and a furry golden-brown head. 

Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa)

Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa)

The Southeastern blueberry bee is covered in pale yellow hairs and is quite large

The southeastern blueberry bee is a solitary bee that looks like a tiny bumblebee. The black and pale-yellow nesting bee has a stout, hairy body covered in creamy-yellow hairs. In addition, there is a large tuft of yellowish hairs on its face between the two brown compound eyes.

Although smaller than a bumblebee, the blueberry bee is medium to large-sized. Females measure around 0.62” (16 mm). The difference between the male and female species is that the female’s head is entirely black, and the male has a yellowish patch on it. 

This hairy black bee gets its name from its habitat—it mainly pollinates blueberry plants, hence the name blueberry bee.

Blueberry bee identification

The southeastern blueberry is a stumpy black bee covered in creamy white or pale-yellow hairs. 

Africanized Honey Bee

Africanized bee Apis mellifera scutellata

Africanized honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata)

The Africanized honey bee is a non-native aggressive bee and is sometimes called the killer bee. This honey bee species is typically orange-yellow with dark brown or black bands traversing its abdomen. The large African “killer bee” measures 0.74” (19 mm) and is smaller than the European honey bee. 

The Africanized honey bee is a hybrid of various honey bee species—Apis mellifera (western honey bee), Apis mellifera scutellata (East African lowland honey bee), Apis mellifera ligustica (Italian honey bee), and Apis mellifera iberiensis (Iberian honey bee). 

Although classified as an aggressive bee, the Africanized honey bee’s behavior results from defending its territory. Also, its sting isn’t any more potent than the sting of a European honey bee. 

Africanized honey bee identification

The Africanized honey bee is identified as a golden-yellow bee with dark brown bands around its abdominal region. Although they look like honey bees, they are smaller. 

Nomad Bees (Genus Nomada)

Nomada bees

Nomada bees: Nomada affabilis (left) and Nomada luteoloides (right)

Nomad bees look more like black and yellow wasps than a typical bee. The small striped bee measures 0.31” to 0.39” (8 – 10 mm) and has a distinctive yellow and black abdomen, orange antennae, and yellowish legs. An easy way to tell the nomad bees apart from other bees is their hairless bodies. 

Here are two examples of nomad bees:

Nomada affabilis: The yellow bee has a tear-shaped abdomen with traversing brown and yellow bands. It has a black fuzzy thorax and a striking deep yellow face with curled, orange-colored segmented antennae.

Nomada luteoloides: This nomad bee has a flattened yellow oval abdomen with brown-black stripes. The rest of the bee’s body is primarily black, apart from yellow dots surrounding its thorax. The bee also has rusty brown and yellow legs and dark brownish-red antennae.

Long-Horned Bees (Genus Eucera)

Long-horned bees are native bees in North America characterized by their thick layer of fur and extra long curved antennae. The furry bee species is generally black with whitish setae covering the body, giving the bee a grayish appearance. The medium-sized hairy bee typically measures 0.43” to 0.80” (11 – 18 mm) long.

Here are a few examples of dark-colored bees in the Eucera genus:

Eucera actuosa: A blackish-gray bee with a stout oval body, furry thorax, two protruding compound eyes, and long smooth antennae.

Eucera actuosa

Eucera actuosa

Eucera fulvitarsis: A black bee with a gray covering of fine setae on its head and thorax and golden hairy legs. In flight, the bee’s orangey legs dangle down. 

Eucera fulvitarsis

Eucera fulvitarsis

Eucera frater: A brown and black bee with a stumpy oval body, black abdomen, brown hairy thorax, and fuzzy gray legs. Unusual features of this fuzzy bee are its large eyes on the side of its head and long, curved, insect-like antennae. 

Eucera frater

Eucera frater

Stingless Honey Bees (Meliponines)

Stingless Honey Bees (Meliponines)

Stingless honey bee (Meliponines)

The stingless honey bee is a tropical bee that can’t use its stinger for defense. There are many species of stingless bees, each with its own characteristics. Although they don’t sting, stingless bees can give a nasty bite that causes painful blisters when they feel threatened. 

The stingless bee Meliponula ferruginea is an orange bee with a shiny black head, a black thorax with sparse hairs, and an orange abdomen with black stripes. However, other stingless bees look entirely different. For example, one species is black with a short body covered in golden-brown hairs and a rounded rather than flattened head. 

Cuckoo Bees (Nomadinae)

Cuckoo Bees (Nomada fulvicornis)

An close up image of cuckoo bee Nomada fulvicornis

Cuckoo bees are a family of wasp-like bees with slender bodies, stumpy segmented antennae, and orange colors. Some cuckoo bees have orangey-red legs and antennae. In contrast, others have black fuzzy legs, a black thorax, and a bulbous orange abdomen. However, some cuckoo bees resemble bumblebees and have similar behavior. 

Cuckoo bees get their name from the way the females lay their eggs in the nests of other bees. This habit called kleptoparasitism means that different species of bees will raise and feed the young. 

Orchid Bees (Euglossini)

Orchid Bees (euglossa viridissima)

A picture of the orchid bee euglossa viridissima which is identified by its metallic green body

Orchid bees are a fascinating tribe of bees with metallic green bodies that look like armored vehicles. There are about 200 species of these large, solitary bees. It’s easy to distinguish orchid bees from other bee species. They are generally hairless and have shiny metallic coloration. 

Although shiny green is the predominant color, other orchid bees can be shiny blue, red, gold, or purple. Some of the most spectacular orchid bees are a combination of colors, and some have orange or yellow stripes. 

Orchid bees get their name because they mainly pollinate orchid flowers

Digger Bees (Anthophorini)

Digger Bees (Anthophora plumipes)

The large digger bees have black body covered in white hairs

Digger bees are large solitary insects with a grayish appearance due to their black bodies being covered in white hairs. These robust, hairy bees can measure up to 1.18” (30 mm) long. They get their name from their nesting habit of digging tunnels into the soil to raise young. 

There are some common characteristics of the 750 species of digger bees. For example, their wings typically appear shorter than typical bees. Because of this, the buzz they make is more like a high-pitched whine. Many species also have metallic bands traversing their abdomens.

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