Bees are flying insects known for their role in pollination. They’re closely related to wasps and, you may be surprised to know, ants. There are over 16,000 known species of bees and they are found in every continent except Antarctica.
The most commonly known bee species are social and therefore are territorial – they will sting to protect their colony from any perceived danger, though there are plenty of other bees that operate solo and essentially just want to be left alone.
Arizona is home to many social bees including honey bees. They have brownish gold hair all over their body and have black stripes on their abdomen, and can grow to around ¾ of an inch in length.
According to the University of Florida, up to 90% of all bees in Arizona are Africanized Honey Bees (originally produced by cross-breeding East African lowland honey bees to various European honey bees). The Africanized honey bee, known colloquially as the killer bee, is much more defensive than other varieties of honey bee and reacts to disturbances more aggressively and often attack in large swarms.
Regular honey bees aren’t usually much of a threat, but they will still sting you if they perceive you as a danger to their hive and colony.
Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair, and have black and orange, yellow, or white bands on their bodies. While honey bees have many stripes of yellow and black, bumblebees usually have blocks of color variable among species, most species having areas of black hair. They’re hairier, and their abdomens have a more rounded tip.
They can grow to be an inch long, typically bigger than honey bees, but their colonies are smaller, growing as few as 50 in a nest.
Unlike honey bees that can sting only once, bumblebees can sting multiple times. They are however not aggressive bees and generally ignore humans and animals alike unless they perceive a threat to their small colony.
Carpenter bees resemble honey bees, but typically have a shiny, black abdomen that lack hairs like the other two bees we’ve discussed. They’re bigger, growing up to be about an inch long. They have large jaws that help them chew through wood where they make their nests.
Also unlike the previous bees discussed, they are also traditionally considered solitary bees, though a mother and her daughters may cohabit. In this scenario, a division of labor occurs where they share in foraging and nesting duties, or one does all the foraging and nesting while the others guard.
They’re docile and rarely sting unless directly provoked. Male carpenter bees may approach other animals, but they’re harmless as they cannot sting.
Bees are essential to the planet. While there are others that help cross-pollinate flowers and plants such as birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles, bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 1/6 of the world’s flowering plant species. They’re responsible for pollinating billions of dollars’ worth of crops, and produce more than a hundred million dollars’ worth of honey.
If you find bees or a hive on your property, get in touch with an expert for help.