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Bee Classification: Honey Bees, Carpenter Bees and Bumble Bees

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Bees are incredibly significant, beneficial insects that pollinate plants and flowers. Bees can be classified on the bases of appearance, social structure and nesting habits into honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumble bees.

Honey bees measure about one-inch in length and are black or brown with very subtle stripes of orange or yellow. Honey bees are covered with hair. Honey bees have an extremely organized social order and live in hives. These hives are enclosed on all sides and have only one entry and exit point. The inside is composed of small wax cells known as honey comb, which are used to store food and provide shelter. Each hive contains one queen, a few hundred drones (male bees) and thousands of workers (female, non-laying bees). The queen is the sole egg layer with the capability of laying up to 3000 eggs in a single day. The workers store abundant amounts of honey in the hive so they can feed the young and have food for the winter. The drones' sole purpose is to mate with other queens. The drones do not work and will be forced from the hive as winter nears; they will starve or freeze. In the winter the honey bees do not hibernate, but will come together in a cluster around the queen, keeping the temperature in the hive around 90 degrees. Under normal circumstances, the queen and several thousand bees will survive the winter, and life in the hive goes on.

Carpenter bees are black or metallic greenish-black and measure between one-fourth and one-inch long. The carpenter bee has a shiny abdomen and a yellow thorax. Carpenter bees get their name from their ability to drill through wood and nest in the hole. Common structures used as nesting places are; house siding, decks, fence posts, and window frames. A single pair (male and female) will occupy the nest. The female will turn 90 degrees and bore a channel from six-inches to as long as four feet. This channel serves as a main corridor from which she will drill small chambers a few inches deep. These chambers become egg holders. The queen will deposit an egg into a chamber full of pollen for the newly hatched larvae to feed on. The queen seals the camber before she repeats the process for the next egg. The male spends most of his time flying around the nest playing guard. This action is ironic considering he has no stinger. It is not uncommon to find several pairs of carpenter bees nesting in one structure. They frequently nest near each other and often in the same area year after year.

Bumble bees are large, hairy, black and yellow bees, ranging between three-quarters to one and one-half inches long. The bumble bee resembles the carpenter bee except the bumble bee's abdomen is not shiny; it is fuzzy. A suitable place for nesting is usually on the ground, beneath a flat object; an abandoned mouse nest works nicely. The bumble bee nest consists of a spherical chamber with a single exit. The queen forms a small mound of pollen

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