Bee

Bee

Overview
Bees are flying insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s closely related to wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s and ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, and are known for their role in pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 and for producing honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 and beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

. Bees are a monophyletic
Monophyly
In common cladistic usage, a monophyletic group is a taxon which forms a clade, meaning that it contains all the descendants of the possibly hypothetical closest common ancestor of the members of the group. The term is synonymous with the uncommon term holophyly...

 lineage within the superfamily Apoidea
Apoidea
The superfamily Apoidea is a major group within the Hymenoptera, which includes two traditionally-recognized lineages, the "sphecoid" wasps, and the bees, who appear to be their descendants.- Nomenclature :...

, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s.

Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar
Nectar (plant)
Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid produced by plants. It is produced in glands called nectaries, either within the flowers, in which it attracts pollinating animals, or by extrafloral nectaries, which provide a nutrient source to animal mutualists, which in turn provide anti-herbivore protection...

 and pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 and other nutrients.
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Encyclopedia
Bees are flying insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s closely related to wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s and ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, and are known for their role in pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 and for producing honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 and beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

. Bees are a monophyletic
Monophyly
In common cladistic usage, a monophyletic group is a taxon which forms a clade, meaning that it contains all the descendants of the possibly hypothetical closest common ancestor of the members of the group. The term is synonymous with the uncommon term holophyly...

 lineage within the superfamily Apoidea
Apoidea
The superfamily Apoidea is a major group within the Hymenoptera, which includes two traditionally-recognized lineages, the "sphecoid" wasps, and the bees, who appear to be their descendants.- Nomenclature :...

, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s.

Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar
Nectar (plant)
Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid produced by plants. It is produced in glands called nectaries, either within the flowers, in which it attracts pollinating animals, or by extrafloral nectaries, which provide a nutrient source to animal mutualists, which in turn provide anti-herbivore protection...

 and pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e.

Bees have a long proboscis
Proboscis
A proboscis is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate. In simpler terms, a proboscis is the straw-like mouth found in several varieties of species.-Etymology:...

 (a complex "tongue") that enables them to obtain the nectar from flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s. They have antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

 almost universally made up of 13 segments in males and 12 in females, as is typical for the superfamily. Bees all have two pairs of wings
Insect wing
Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

, the hind pair being the smaller of the two; in a very few species, one sex or caste has relatively short wings that make flight difficult or impossible, but none are wingless.

The smallest bee is Trigona minima, a stingless bee
Stingless bee
Stingless bees, sometimes called stingless honey bees or simply meliponines, are a large group of bees, comprising the tribe Meliponini . They belong in the family Apidae, and are closely related to common honey bees, carpenter bees, orchid bees and bumblebees...

 whose workers are about 2.1 mm (5/64") long. The largest bee in the world is Megachile pluto
Megachile pluto
Megachile pluto is a very large Indonesian resin bee . As females can be as large as 39 mm long with a wingspan of 63 mm , Megachile pluto is regarded as the largest bee in the world, and has been referred to as Wallace's Giant Bee...

, a leafcutter bee whose females can attain a length of 39 mm (1.5"). Members of the family Halictidae
Halictidae
Halictidae is a cosmopolitan family of the order Hymenoptera consisting of small to midsize bees which are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance...

, or sweat bees, are the most common type of bee in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

, though they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies.

The best-known bee species is the European honey bee
European honey bee
The Western honey bee or European honey bee is a species of honey bee. The genus Apis is Latin for "bee", and mellifera comes from Latin melli- "honey" and ferre "to bear"—hence the scientific name means "honey-bearing bee"...

, which, as its name suggests, produces honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

, as do a few other types of bee. Human management of this species is known as beekeeping
Beekeeping
Beekeeping is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper keeps bees in order to collect honey and other products of the hive , to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers...

 or apiculture.

Bees are the favorite meal of Merops apiaster, the bee-eater bird
Bee-eater
The bee-eaters are a group of near-passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa and Asia but others occur in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies, and usually elongated central tail feathers...

. Other common predators are kingbird
Kingbird
The genus Tyrannus is a group of large insect-eating birds in the Tyrant flycatcher family Tyrannidae. The majority are named as Kingbirds.They prefer semi-open or open areas. These birds wait on an exposed perch and then catch insects in flight...

s, mockingbird
Mockingbird
Mockingbirds are a group of New World passerine birds from the Mimidae family. They are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. There are about 17 species in three genera...

s, beewolves, and dragonflies
Dragonfly
A dragonfly is a winged insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera . It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body...

.

Pollination


Bees play an important role in pollinating
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s, and are the major type of pollinator
Pollinator
A pollinator is the biotic agent that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization or syngamy of the female gamete in the ovule of the flower by the male gamete from the pollen grain...

 in ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s that contain flowering plants. Bees either focus on gathering nectar or on gathering pollen depending on demand, especially in social species. Bees gathering nectar may accomplish pollination, but bees that are deliberately gathering pollen are more efficient pollinators. It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees, especially the domesticated European honey bee
European honey bee
The Western honey bee or European honey bee is a species of honey bee. The genus Apis is Latin for "bee", and mellifera comes from Latin melli- "honey" and ferre "to bear"—hence the scientific name means "honey-bearing bee"...

. Contract pollination
Pollination management
Pollination Management is the label for horticultural practices that accomplish or enhance pollination of a crop, to improve yield or quality, by understanding of the particular crop's pollination needs, and by knowledgeable management of pollenizers, pollinators, and pollination...

 has overtaken the role of honey production for beekeeper
Beekeeper
A beekeeper is a person who keeps honey bees for the purposes of securing commodities such as honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly; pollinating fruits and vegetables; raising queens and bees for sale to other farmers; and/or for purposes satisfying natural scientific curiosity...

s in many countries. Monoculture
Monoculture
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

 and the massive decline
Pollinator decline
The term pollinator decline refers to the reduction in abundance of pollinators in many ecosystems worldwide during the end of the twentieth century....

 of many bee species (both wild and domesticated) have increasingly caused honey bee keepers to become migratory
Seasonal human migration
Seasonal human migration is very common in agricultural cycles. It includes migrations such as moving sheep or cattle to higher elevations during summer to escape heat and find more forage...

 so that bees can be concentrated in seasonally varying high-demand areas of pollination.

Most bees are fuzzy and carry an electrostatic charge, which aids in the adherence of pollen. Female bees periodically stop foraging
Foraging
- Definitions and significance of foraging behavior :Foraging is the act of searching for and exploiting food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce...

 and groom themselves to pack the pollen into the scopa
Scopa (biology)
The term scopa is used to refer to any of a number of different modifications on the body of a non-parasitic bee that form a pollen-carrying apparatus. In most bees, the scopa is simply a particularly dense mass of elongated, often branched, hairs on the hind leg...

, which is on the legs in most bees, and on the ventral abdomen
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 on others, and modified into specialized pollen basket
Pollen basket
The pollen basket or corbicula is part of the tibia on the hind legs of the four related lineages of apid bees that used to comprise the family Apidae: the honey bees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and orchid bees...

s on the legs of honey bees and their relatives. Many bees are opportunistic foragers, and will gather pollen from a variety of plants, while others are oligolectic, gathering pollen from only one or a few types of plant. A small number of plants produce nutritious floral oils rather than pollen, which are gathered and used by oligolectic bees. One small subgroup of stingless bee
Stingless bee
Stingless bees, sometimes called stingless honey bees or simply meliponines, are a large group of bees, comprising the tribe Meliponini . They belong in the family Apidae, and are closely related to common honey bees, carpenter bees, orchid bees and bumblebees...

s, called "vulture bee
Vulture bee
Vulture bees are a small group of three closely related American stingless bee species in the genus Trigona which feed on rotting meat rather than pollen or nectar. These are the only known bees which do not rely on plant products for food...

s," is specialized to feed on carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

, and these are the only bees that do not use plant products as food. Pollen and nectar are usually combined together to form a "provision mass", which is often soupy, but can be firm. It is formed into various shapes (typically spheroid
Spheroid
A spheroid, or ellipsoid of revolution is a quadric surface obtained by rotating an ellipse about one of its principal axes; in other words, an ellipsoid with two equal semi-diameters....

), and stored in a small chamber (a "cell"), with the egg deposited on the mass. The cell is typically sealed after the egg is laid, and the adult and larva never interact directly (a system called "mass provisioning
Mass provisioning
Mass provisioning is a term used in entomology to refer to a form of parental behavior in which an adult stocks all of the food for each offspring in a small chamber prior to laying the egg...

").

In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 scientists discovered that three genera of native bees have evolved to open flower buds of the native mistletoe Peraxilla tetrapetala. The buds cannot open themselves but are visited by birds such as the tui
Tui (bird)
The tui is an endemic passerine bird of New Zealand. It is one of the largest members of the diverse honeyeater family....

 and bellbird
New Zealand Bellbird
The New Zealand Bellbird , also known by its Māori names Korimako or Makomako, is a passerine bird endemic to New Zealand. It has greenish colouration and is the only living member of the genus Anthornis. The bellbird forms a significant component of the famed New Zealand dawn chorus of bird song...

 which twist the top of the ripe bud. That action releases a mechanism which causes the petals to suddenly spring open, giving access to the nectar and pollen. However, when observing the native bees in the Canterbury
Canterbury, New Zealand
The New Zealand region of Canterbury is mainly composed of the Canterbury Plains and the surrounding mountains. Its main city, Christchurch, hosts the main office of the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Regional Council - called Environment Canterbury - and the University of Canterbury.-...

 province in the South Island
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

, the scientists were astonished to see the bees biting the top off the buds, then pushing with their legs, occasionally popping open the buds to allow the bees to harvest the nectar and pollen, and therefore aid in the pollination of the mistletoe which is in decline in New Zealand. Nowhere else in the world have bees demonstrated ability to open explosive bird-adapted flowers.

Visiting flowers can be a dangerous occupation. Many assassin bugs and crab spider
Crab spider
Crab spider is a common name applied loosely to many species of spiders, but most nearly consistently to members of the family Thomisidae...

s hide in flowers to capture unwary bees. Other bees are lost to birds in flight. Insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s used on blooming plants kill many bees, both by direct poisoning and by contamination of their food supply. A honey bee queen
Queen bee
The term queen bee is typically used to refer to an adult, mated female that lives in a honey bee colony or hive; she is usually the mother of most, if not all, the bees in the hive. The queens are developed from larvae selected by worker bees and specially fed in order to become sexually mature...

 may lay 2000 eggs per day during spring buildup, but she also must lay 1000 to 1500 eggs per day during the foraging season, mostly to replace daily casualties, most of which are workers dying of old age. Among solitary and primitively social bees, however, lifetime reproduction is among the lowest of all insects, as it is common for females of such species to produce fewer than 25 offspring.

The population value of bees depends partly on the individual efficiency of the bees, but also on the population itself. Thus while bumblebee
Bumblebee
A bumble bee is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they are common in New Zealand and in the Australian state of Tasmania.Bumble bees are social insects that are characterised by black...

s have been found to be about ten times more efficient pollinators on cucurbits
Cucurbitaceae
The plant family Cucurbitaceae consists of various squashes, melons, and gourds, including crops such as cucumber, pumpkins, luffas, and watermelons...

, the total efficiency of a colony of honey bees is much greater due to greater numbers. Likewise during early spring orchard blossoms, bumblebee populations are limited to only a few queens, and thus are not significant pollinators of early fruit.

Pollinator decline


From 1972 to 2006, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of feral
Feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

 honey bees in the US, which are now almost absent. At the same time there was a significant though somewhat gradual decline in the number of colonies maintained by beekeepers. This decline includes the cumulative losses from all factors, such as urbanization
Urbanization
Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....

, pesticide use, tracheal
Acarapis woodi
Acarapis woodi is a mite that is an internal parasite of honey bees, originally described from the Isle of Wight. Tracheal mites are related to spiders and have eight legs. Acarapis woodi live and reproduce in the tracheae of the bees...

 and Varroa
Varroa
Varroa is a genus of parasitic mites associated with honey bees, placed in its own family, Varroidae. The genus was named for Marcus Terentius Varro, a Roman scholar who was also a beekeeper.-History and behavior:...

mites, and commercial beekeeper
Beekeeper
A beekeeper is a person who keeps honey bees for the purposes of securing commodities such as honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly; pollinating fruits and vegetables; raising queens and bees for sale to other farmers; and/or for purposes satisfying natural scientific curiosity...

s' retiring and going out of business. However, in late 2006 and early 2007 the rate of attrition reached new proportions, and the term colony collapse disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony collapse disorder is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of...

 was coined to describe the sudden disappearances. After several years of research and concern, a team of scientists headed by Jerry Bromenshenk published a paper in October 2010 saying that a new DNA-based virus, invertebrate iridescent virus or IIV6, and the fungus Nosema ceranae
Nosema ceranae
Nosema ceranae is a microsporidian, a small, unicellular parasite that mainly affects Apis cerana, the Asiatic honey bee. It may cause nosemosis, also called nosema...

were found in every killed colony the group studied. In their study they found that neither agent alone seemed deadly, but a combination of the virus and Nosema ceraneae was always 100% fatal. Bromenshenk said it is not yet clear whether one condition weakens the bees enough to be finished off by the second, or whether they somehow compound the other’s destructive power. "They're co-factors, that’s all we can say at the moment. They’re both present in all these collapsed colonies." Investigations into the phenomenon had occurred amidst great concern over the nature and extent of the losses. In 2009 some reports from the US suggested that 1/3 of the honey bee colonies did not survive the winter, though normal winter losses are known to be around 25%.

Apart from colony collapse disorder, many of the losses outside the US have also been attributed to other causes. Pesticides used to treat seeds, such as Clothianidin
Clothianidin
Clothianidin is an insecticide developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer AG. Similar to thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, it is a neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides which act on the central nervous system of insects with lower toxicity to mammals...

 and Imidacloprid
Imidacloprid
Imidacloprid is a nicotine-based, systemic insecticide, which acts as a neurotoxin and belongs to a class of chemicals called the neonicotinoids. Although it is now off patent, the primary manufacturer of this chemical is Bayer CropScience,...

, have been considered prime suspects. Other species of bees such as mason bee
Mason bee
Mason bee is a common name for species of bees in the genus Osmia, of the family Megachilidae. They are named from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood boring insects....

s are increasingly cultured and used to meet the agricultural pollination need.

Native pollinators include bumblebees and solitary bees, which often survive in refuges in wild areas away from agricultural spraying, but may still be poisoned in massive spray programs for mosquito
Mosquito
Mosquitoes are members of a family of nematocerid flies: the Culicidae . The word Mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for little fly...

es, gypsy moth
Gypsy moth
The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, is a moth in the family Lymantriidae of Eurasian origin. Originally ranging from Europe to Asia, it was introduced to North America in the late 1860s and has been expanding its range ever since...

s, or other insect pests
Pest (animal)
A pest is an animal which is detrimental to humans or human concerns. It is a loosely defined term, often overlapping with the related terms vermin, weeds, parasites and pathogens...

. Although pesticide use remains a concern, the major problem for wild pollinator populations is the loss of the flower-rich habitat on which they depend for food. Throughout the northern hemisphere, the last 70 or so years have seen an intensification of agricultural systems, which has decreased the abundance and diversity of wild flowers
Wildflower
A wildflower is a flower that grows wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted. Yet "wildflower" meadows of a few mixed species are sold in seed packets. The term "wildflower" has been made vague by commercial seedsmen who are interested in selling more flowers or seeds more...

.

Legislation such as the UK's Bees Act 1980
Bees Act 1980
The Bees Act 1980 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It seeks to stop the damage caused by diseases, chemicals and pests that damage the wellbeing of bees...

 is designed to stop the decline of bees.

Evolution


Bees, like ants, are a specialized form of wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

. The ancestors of bees were wasps in the family Crabronidae
Crabronidae
Crabronidae is a large family of wasps, that includes nearly all of the species formerly comprising the now-defunct superfamily Sphecoidea. It collectively includes well over 200 genera, containing well over 9000 species. Crabronids were originally a part of Sphecidae, but the latter name is now...

, and therefore predators of other insects. The switch from insect prey to pollen may have resulted from the consumption of prey insects which were flower visitors and were partially covered with pollen when they were fed to the wasp larvae. This same evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

ary scenario has also occurred within the vespoid
Vespoidea
Vespoidea is a superfamily of order Hymenoptera of class Insecta, although older taxonomic schemes may vary in this categorization, particularly in their recognition of a now-obsolete superfamily Scolioidea...

 wasps, where the group known as "pollen wasp
Pollen wasp
Pollen wasps are unusual wasps that are typically treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but have in the past sometimes been recognized as a separate family, "Masaridae", which also included the subfamily Euparagiinae. It is a small subfamily, unique among wasps in feeding their larvae exclusively...

s" also evolved from predatory ancestors. Up until recently, the oldest non-compression bee fossil had been Cretotrigona prisca in New Jersey amber and of Cretaceous age
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

, a meliponine. A recently reported bee fossil, of the genus Melittosphex, is considered "an extinct lineage of pollen-collecting Apoidea sister
Cladistics
Cladistics is a method of classifying species of organisms into groups called clades, which consist of an ancestor organism and all its descendants . For example, birds, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor form a clade...

 to the modern bees"
, and dates from the early Cretaceous
Early Cretaceous
The Early Cretaceous or the Lower Cretaceous , is the earlier or lower of the two major divisions of the Cretaceous...

 (~100 mya). Derived features of its morphology ("apomorphies") place it clearly within the bees, but it retains two unmodified ancestral traits ("plesiomorphies") of the legs (two mid-tibial spurs, and a slender hind basitarsus), indicative of its transitional status.

The earliest animal-pollinated flowers were pollinated by insects such as beetle
Beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s, so the syndrome of insect pollination was well established before bees first appeared. The novelty is that bees are specialized as pollination agents, with behavioral and physical modifications that specifically enhance pollination, and are generally more efficient at the task than any other pollinating insect such as beetles, flies
Fly
True flies are insects of the order Diptera . They possess a pair of wings on the mesothorax and a pair of halteres, derived from the hind wings, on the metathorax...

, butterflies
Butterfly
A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, the butterfly's life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured...

 and pollen wasps. The appearance of such floral specialists is believed to have driven the adaptive radiation
Adaptive radiation
In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is the evolution of ecological and phenotypic diversity within a rapidly multiplying lineage. Starting with a recent single ancestor, this process results in the speciation and phenotypic adaptation of an array of species exhibiting different...

 of the angiosperms, and, in turn, the bees themselves.

Among living bee groups, the "short-tongued" bee family Colletidae
Colletidae
Colletidae is a family of bees, and are often referred to collectively as plasterer bees or polyester bees, due to the method of smoothing the walls of their nest cells with secretions applied with their mouthparts; these secretions dry into a cellophane-like lining...

 has traditionally been considered the most "primitive", and sister taxon
Cladistics
Cladistics is a method of classifying species of organisms into groups called clades, which consist of an ancestor organism and all its descendants . For example, birds, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor form a clade...

 to the remainder of the bees. In the 21st century, however, some researchers have claimed that the Dasypodaidae
Dasypodaidae
The family Dasypodaidae is a small bee family, with more than one hundred species in eight genera, found in Africa and the northern temperate zone, primarily in xeric habitats....

 is the basal group, the short, wasp-like mouthparts
Insect mouthparts
Insects exhibit a range of mouthparts, adapted to particular modes of feeding. The earliest insects had chewing mouthparts...

 of colletids being the result of convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

, rather than indicative of a plesiomorphic condition. This subject is still under debate, and the phylogenetic relationships among bee families are poorly understood.

Eusocial and semisocial bees


Bees may be solitary or may live in various types of communities. The most advanced of these are eusocial colonies found among the honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Sociality, of several different types, is believed to have evolved separately many times within the bees.

In some species, groups of cohabiting females may be sisters, and if there is a division of labor
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

 within the group, then they are considered semisocial.

If, in addition to a division of labor, the group consists of a mother and her daughters, then the group is called eusocial. The mother is considered the "queen" and the daughters are "workers". These castes may be purely behavioral alternatives, in which case the system is considered "primitively eusocial" (similar to many paper wasp
Paper wasp
Paper wasps are -long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material...

s), and if the castes are morphologically discrete, then the system is "highly eusocial".

There are many more species of primitively eusocial bees than highly eusocial bees, but they have rarely been studied. The biology of most such species is almost completely unknown. The vast majority are in the family Halictidae
Halictidae
Halictidae is a cosmopolitan family of the order Hymenoptera consisting of small to midsize bees which are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance...

, or "sweat bees". Colonies are typically small, with a dozen or fewer workers, on average. The only physical difference between queens and workers is average size, if they differ at all. Most species have a single season colony cycle, even in the tropics, and only mated females (future queens, or "gynes") hibernate (called diapause
Diapause
Diapause is the delay in development in response to regularly and recurring periods of adverse environmental conditions. It is considered to be a physiological state of dormancy with very specific initiating and inhibiting conditions...

). A few species have long active seasons and attain colony sizes in the hundreds. The orchid bees include a number of primitively eusocial species with similar biology. Certain species of allodapine
Allodapini
The Allodapini is a tribe of bees in the family Apidae, subfamily Xylocopinae, occurring throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australasia.Many of the species in the tribe form small social colonies where a group of females cooperatively care for the developing larvae...

 bees (relatives of carpenter bee
Carpenter bee
Carpenter bees are large, hairy bees distributed worldwide. There are some 500 species of carpenter bee in 31 subgenera...

s) also have primitively eusocial colonies, with unusual levels of interaction between the adult bees and the developing brood. This is "progressive provisioning
Progressive provisioning
Progressive provisioning is a term used in entomology to refer to a form of parental behavior in which an adult feeds its larvae directly after they have hatched, feeding each larva repeatedly until it has completed development...

"; a larva's food is supplied gradually as it develops. This system is also seen in honey bees and some bumblebees.

Highly eusocial bees live in colonies. Each colony has a single queen, many workers
Worker bee
A Worker bee is any female eusocial bee that lacks the full reproductive capacity of the colony's queen bee; under most circumstances, this is correlated to an increase in certain non-reproductive activities relative to a queen, as well...

 and, at certain stages in the colony cycle, drones
Drone (bee)
Drones are male honey bees. They develop from eggs that have not been fertilized, and they cannot sting, since the worker bee's stinger is a modified ovipositor .-Etymology:...

. When humans provide the nest, it is called a hive
Beehive (beekeeping)
A beehive is an enclosed structure in which some honey bee species of the subgenus Apis live and raise their young. Natural beehives are naturally occurring structures occupied by honeybee colonies, while domesticated honeybees live in man-made beehives, often in an apiary. These man-made...

. Honey bee hives can contain up to 40,000 bees at their annual peak, which occurs in the spring, but usually have fewer.

Bumblebees


Bumblebee
Bumblebee
A bumble bee is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they are common in New Zealand and in the Australian state of Tasmania.Bumble bees are social insects that are characterised by black...

s (Bombus terrestris, Bombus pratorum, et al.) are eusocial in a manner quite similar to the eusocial Vespidae such as hornet
Hornet
Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

s. The queen initiates a nest on her own (unlike queens of honey bees and stingless bees which start nests via swarm
Swarm
Swarm behaviour, or swarming, is a collective behaviour exhibited by animals of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or perhaps moving en masse or migrating in some direction. As a term, swarming is applied particularly to insects, but can also be applied to...

s in the company of a large worker force). Bumblebee colonies typically have from 50 to 200 bees at peak population, which occurs in mid to late summer. Nest architecture is simple, limited by the size of the nest cavity (pre-existing), and colonies are rarely perennial. Bumblebee queens sometimes seek winter safety in honey bee hives, where they are sometimes found dead in the spring by beekeeper
Beekeeper
A beekeeper is a person who keeps honey bees for the purposes of securing commodities such as honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly; pollinating fruits and vegetables; raising queens and bees for sale to other farmers; and/or for purposes satisfying natural scientific curiosity...

s, presumably stung to death by the honey bees. It is unknown whether any survive winter in such an environment.

Bumblebees are one of the more important wild pollinators, but have declined significantly in recent decades. In the UK, 2 species have become nationally extinct during the last 75 years while others have been placed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as priority species in recognition of the need for conservation action. In 2006 a new charity, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is an organisation in the UK that makes efforts to conserve bumblebees and their habitat.-History:Due to its position, most of its research work takes place in Scotland. It was formed in June 2006.-News items:* * * * *...

, was established in order to coordinate efforts to conserve remaining populations through conservation and education.

Stingless bees


Stingless bee
Stingless bee
Stingless bees, sometimes called stingless honey bees or simply meliponines, are a large group of bees, comprising the tribe Meliponini . They belong in the family Apidae, and are closely related to common honey bees, carpenter bees, orchid bees and bumblebees...

s are very diverse in behavior, but all are highly eusocial. They practise mass provisioning, complex nest architecture, and perennial colonies.

Honey bees




The true honey bees (genus Apis) have arguably the most complex social behavior
Social behavior
In physics, physiology and sociology, social behavior is behavior directed towards society, or taking place between, members of the same species. Behavior such as predation which involves members of different species is not social...

 among the bees. The European (or Western) honey bee
European honey bee
The Western honey bee or European honey bee is a species of honey bee. The genus Apis is Latin for "bee", and mellifera comes from Latin melli- "honey" and ferre "to bear"—hence the scientific name means "honey-bearing bee"...

, Apis mellifera, is the best known bee species and one of the best known of all insects.

Africanized honey bee


Africanized bees, also called killer bees, are a hybrid strain of Apis mellifera derived from experiments by Warwick Estevam Kerr
Warwick Estevam Kerr
Warwick Estevam Kerr is a Brazilian agricultural engineer, geneticist, entomologist, professor and scientific leader, notable for his discoveries in the genetics and sex determination of bees. The Africanized bee in the western hemisphere is directly descended from 26 Tanzanian queen bees Warwick...

 to cross European and African honey bees. Several queen bees escaped from his laboratory in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and have spread throughout the Americas. Africanized honey bees are more defensive than European honey bees.

Solitary and communal bees


Most other bees, including familiar species of bee such as the Eastern carpenter bee
Eastern carpenter bee
The common eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, is the carpenter bee most often encountered in the eastern United States. It is often mistaken for a large bumblebee species, as they are similar in size and coloring...

 (Xylocopa virginica), alfalfa leafcutter bee
Alfalfa leafcutter bee
Megachile rotundata, the alfalfa leafcutter bee or lucerne leafcutter bee is a European bee that has been introduced to other regions...

 (Megachile rotundata), orchard mason bee
Orchard mason bee
Osmia lignaria, commonly known as the orchard mason bee or blue orchard bee, is a megachilid bee that makes nests in reeds and natural holes, creating individual cells for their brood that are separated by mud dividers. Unlike carpenter bees, they cannot drill holes in wood. O...

 (Osmia lignaria) and the hornfaced bee
Hornfaced bee
Osmia cornifrons, commonly known as the hornfaced bee, has been used commercially for several decades in Japan to pollinate apples, as it is now in the US. A single hornfaced bee can visit 15 flowers in a minute. This solitary bee nests in reeds, tubes and holes in wood....

 (Osmia cornifrons) are solitary in the sense that every female is fertile, and typically inhabits a nest she constructs herself. There are no worker bees for these species. Solitary bees typically produce neither honey nor beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

. They are immune from acarine and Varroa
Varroa
Varroa is a genus of parasitic mites associated with honey bees, placed in its own family, Varroidae. The genus was named for Marcus Terentius Varro, a Roman scholar who was also a beekeeper.-History and behavior:...

mite
Mite
Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

s, but have their own unique parasites, pests and disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

s (see also diseases of the honey bee).

Solitary bees are important pollinators, and pollen is gathered for provisioning the nest with food for their brood. Often it is mixed with nectar to form a paste-like consistency. Some solitary bees have very advanced types of pollen-carrying structures on their bodies. A very few species of solitary bees are being increasingly cultured for commercial pollination.

Solitary bees are often oligoleges, in that they only gather pollen from one or a few species/genera of plants (unlike honey bees and bumblebees which are generalists). No known bees are nectar specialists; many oligolectic bees will visit multiple plants for nectar, but there are no bees which visit only one plant for nectar while also gathering pollen from many different sources. Specialist pollinators also include bee species which gather floral oils instead of pollen, and male orchid bees, which gather aromatic compounds from orchids (one of the only cases where male bees are effective pollinators). In a very few cases only one species of bee can effectively pollinate a plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 species, and some plants are endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 at least in part because their pollinator is dying off. There is, however, a pronounced tendency for oligolectic bees to be associated with common, widespread plants which are visited by multiple pollinators (e.g., there are some 40 oligoleges associated with creosote bush in the US desert southwest, and a similar pattern is seen in sunflower
Sunflower
Sunflower is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence . The sunflower got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. The sunflower has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads...

s, asters, mesquite
Mesquite
Mesquite is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico through the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Deserts, and up into the Southwestern United States as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California,and east to the eastern fifth of Texas, where...

, etc.)

Solitary bees create nests in hollow reeds
Phragmites
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

 or twigs, holes in wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, or, most commonly, in tunnels in the ground. The female typically creates a compartment (a "cell") with an egg and some provisions for the resulting larva, then seals it off. A nest may consist of numerous cells. When the nest is in wood, usually the last (those closer to the entrance) contain eggs that will become males. The adult does not provide care for the brood once the egg is laid, and usually dies after making one or more nests. The males typically emerge first and are ready for mating when the females emerge. Providing nest boxes for solitary bees is increasingly popular for gardeners. Solitary bees are either stingless or very unlikely to sting (only in self defense, if ever).

While solitary females each make individual nests, some species are gregarious, preferring to make nests near others of the same species, giving the appearance to the casual observer that they are social. Large groups of solitary bee nests are called aggregations, to distinguish them from colonies
Colony (biology)
In biology, a colony reference to several individual organisms of the same species living closely together, usually for mutual benefit, such as stronger defense or the ability to attack bigger prey. Some insects live only in colonies...

.

In some species, multiple females share a common nest, but each makes and provisions her own cells independently. This type of group is called "communal" and is not uncommon. The primary advantage appears to be that a nest entrance is easier to defend from predators and parasites when there are multiple females using that same entrance on a regular basis.

Cleptoparasitic bees


Cleptoparasitic bees, commonly called "cuckoo bee
Cuckoo bee
The term cuckoo bee is used for a variety of different bee lineages which have evolved the kleptoparasitic habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other bees, reminiscent of the behavior of cuckoo birds. The name is technically best applied to the apid subfamily Nomadinae...

s" because their behavior is similar to cuckoo
Cuckoo
The cuckoos are a family, Cuculidae, of near passerine birds. The order Cuculiformes, in addition to the cuckoos, also includes the turacos . Some zoologists and taxonomists have also included the unique Hoatzin in the Cuculiformes, but its taxonomy remains in dispute...

 birds, occur in several bee families, though the name is technically best applied to the apid
Apidae
The Apidae are a large family of bees, comprising the common honey bees, stingless bees , carpenter bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees, bumblebees, and various other less well-known groups...

 subfamily Nomadinae
Nomadinae
The subfamily Nomadinae is the largest and most diverse group of cleptoparasitic "cuckoo bees" with 31 genera in 10 tribes; they occur worldwide, and utilize many different types of bees as hosts. As parasites, they lack a pollen-carrying scopa, and are often extraordinarily wasp-like in appearance...

. Females of these bees lack pollen collecting structures (the scopa
Scopa (biology)
The term scopa is used to refer to any of a number of different modifications on the body of a non-parasitic bee that form a pollen-carrying apparatus. In most bees, the scopa is simply a particularly dense mass of elongated, often branched, hairs on the hind leg...

) and do not construct their own nests. They typically enter the nests of pollen collecting species, and lay their eggs in cells provisioned by the host bee. When the cuckoo bee larva hatches it consumes the host larva's pollen ball, and if the female cleptoparasite has not already done so, kills and eats the host larva. In a few cases where the hosts are social species, the cleptoparasite remains in the host nest and lays many eggs, sometimes even killing the host queen and replacing her.

Many cleptoparasitic bees are closely related to, and resemble, their hosts in looks and size, (i.e., the Bombus subgenus Psithyrus, which are parasitic bumblebees that infiltrate nests of species in other subgenera of Bombus). This common pattern gave rise to the ecological principle known as "Emery's Rule
Emery's Rule
In 1909, the entomologist Carlo Emery noted that social parasites among insects tend to be parasites of species or genera to which they are closely related. Over the years, this pattern has been recognized in many additional cases, and generalized to what is now known as Emery's Rule...

". Others parasitize bees in different families, like Townsendiella, a nomadine
Nomadinae
The subfamily Nomadinae is the largest and most diverse group of cleptoparasitic "cuckoo bees" with 31 genera in 10 tribes; they occur worldwide, and utilize many different types of bees as hosts. As parasites, they lack a pollen-carrying scopa, and are often extraordinarily wasp-like in appearance...

 apid
Apidae
The Apidae are a large family of bees, comprising the common honey bees, stingless bees , carpenter bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees, bumblebees, and various other less well-known groups...

, one species of which is a cleptoparasite of the dasypodaid
Dasypodaidae
The family Dasypodaidae is a small bee family, with more than one hundred species in eight genera, found in Africa and the northern temperate zone, primarily in xeric habitats....

 genus Hesperapis, while the other species in the same genus attack halictid
Halictidae
Halictidae is a cosmopolitan family of the order Hymenoptera consisting of small to midsize bees which are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance...

 bees.

Nocturnal bees


Four bee families (Andrenidae
Andrenidae
The family Andrenidae is a large cosmopolitan non-parasitic bee family, with most of the diversity in temperate and/or arid areas , including some truly enormous genera...

, Colletidae
Colletidae
Colletidae is a family of bees, and are often referred to collectively as plasterer bees or polyester bees, due to the method of smoothing the walls of their nest cells with secretions applied with their mouthparts; these secretions dry into a cellophane-like lining...

, Halictidae
Halictidae
Halictidae is a cosmopolitan family of the order Hymenoptera consisting of small to midsize bees which are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance...

, and Apidae
Apidae
The Apidae are a large family of bees, comprising the common honey bees, stingless bees , carpenter bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees, bumblebees, and various other less well-known groups...

) contain some species that are crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 (these may be either the vespertine
Vespertine (biology)
Vespertine is a term used in the life sciences to indicate something of, relating to, or occurring in the evening. In botany, a vespertine flower is one that opens or blooms in the evening. In zoology, the term is used for a creature that becomes active in the evening, such as bats and owls...

 or matinal type). These bees have greatly enlarged ocelli
Ocellus
A simple eye refers to a type of eye design or optical arrangement that contains a single lens which detect light. A "simple eye" is so-called in distinction from a multi-lensed "compound eye", and is not necessarily at all simple in the usual sense of the word...

, which are extremely sensitive to light and dark, though incapable of forming images. Many are pollinators of flowers that themselves are crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

, such as evening primroses
Oenothera
Oenothera is a Genus of about 125 species of annual, biennial and perennial herbaceous flowering plants, native to North and South America. It is the type genus of the family Onagraceae, the Evening Primrose Family. Common names include evening-primrose, suncups, and sundrops.The species vary in...

, and some live in desert habitats where daytime temperatures are extremely high.

Flight


In his 1934 French book Le vol des insectes, M. Magnan wrote that he and a M. Saint-Lague had applied the equations of air resistance to bumblebee
Bumblebee
A bumble bee is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they are common in New Zealand and in the Australian state of Tasmania.Bumble bees are social insects that are characterised by black...

s and found that their flight could not be explained by fixed-wing calculations, but that "One shouldn't be surprised that the results of the calculations don't square with reality". This has led to a common misconception that bees "violate aerodynamic theory", but in fact it merely confirms that bees do not engage in fixed-wing flight, and that their flight is explained by other mechanics, such as those used by helicopters.

In 1996 Charlie Ellington at Cambridge University showed that vortices created by many insects’ wings and non-linear effects were a vital source of lift; vortices
Vortex
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

 and non-linear phenomena are notoriously difficult areas of hydrodynamics, which has made for slow progress in theoretical understanding of insect flight
Insect flight
Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

.

In 2005, Michael Dickinson and his Caltech colleagues studied honey bee flight with the assistance of high-speed cinematography
Cinematography
Cinematography is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography...

 and a giant robotic mock-up of a bee wing. Their analysis revealed that sufficient lift was generated by "the unconventional combination of short, choppy wing strokes, a rapid rotation of the wing as it flops over and reverses direction, and a very fast wing-beat frequency". Wing-beat frequency normally increases as size decreases, but as the bee's wing beat covers such a small arc
Arc (geometry)
In geometry, an arc is a closed segment of a differentiable curve in the two-dimensional plane; for example, a circular arc is a segment of the circumference of a circle...

, it flaps approximately 230 times per second, faster than a fruitfly
Drosophilidae
Drosophilidae is a diverse, cosmopolitan family of flies, which includes fruit flies. Another family of flies called Tephritidae also includes fruit flies. The best known species of Drosophilidae is Drosophila melanogaster, within the genus Drosophila, and this species Is used extensively for...

 (200 times per second) which is 80 times smaller.

Bees and humans


Bees figure prominently in mythology
Bee (mythology)
The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld...

 and have been used by political theorists as a model for human society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

. Journalist Bee Wilson states that the image of a community of honey bees "occurs from ancient to modern times, in Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 and Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

; in Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 and Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

; in Erasmus and Shakespeare; Tolstoy
Tolstoy
Tolstoy, or Tolstoi is a prominent family of Russian nobility, descending from Andrey Kharitonovich Tolstoy who served under Vasily II of Moscow...

, as well as by social theorists Bernard Mandeville and Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

."

Despite the honey bee's painful sting and the stereotype of insects as pests, bees are generally held in high regard. This is most likely due to their usefulness as pollinators and as producers of honey, their social nature, and their reputation for diligence. Bees are one of the few insects regularly used on advertisements
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

, being used to illustrate honey and foods made with honey (such as Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey Nut Cheerios is a variation of Cheerios breakfast cereal, introduced in 1979 by the General Mills cereal company. This is the second variation from Original Cheerios, it is sweeter than the original, with a honey and almond flavor...

).

In ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, the bee was seen to symbolize the lands of Lower Egypt
Lower Egypt
Lower Egypt is the northern-most section of Egypt. It refers to the fertile Nile Delta region, which stretches from the area between El-Aiyat and Zawyet Dahshur, south of modern-day Cairo, and the Mediterranean Sea....

, with the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 being referred to as "He of Sedge
Cyperaceae
Cyperaceae are a family of monocotyledonous graminoid flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble grasses or rushes. The family is large, with some 5,500 species described in about 109 genera. These species are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group...

 and Bee" (the sedge representing Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt is the strip of land, on both sides of the Nile valley, that extends from the cataract boundaries of modern-day Aswan north to the area between El-Ayait and Zawyet Dahshur . The northern section of Upper Egypt, between El-Ayait and Sohag is sometimes known as Middle Egypt...

).

In North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, yellowjacket
Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...

s and hornet
Hornet
Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

s, especially when encountered as flying pests, are often misidentified as bees, despite numerous differences between them.

Although a bee sting
Bee sting
A bee sting is strictly a sting from a bee . In the vernacular it can mean a sting of a bee, wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket. Some people may even call the bite of a horse-fly a bee sting...

 can be deadly to those with allergies, virtually all bee species are non-aggressive if undisturbed and many cannot sting at all. Humans are often a greater danger to bees, as bees can be affected or even harmed by encounters with toxic chemicals in the environment (see also bees and toxic chemicals
Bees and toxic chemicals
Bees can suffer serious effects from toxic chemicals in their environments. These include various synthetic chemicals, such as insecticides and fertilizers, as well as a variety of naturally occurring chemicals from plants, such as ethanol resulting from the fermentation of organic material...

).

In Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 bee larvae are eaten as a companion to rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

, after being mixed with shredded coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 "meat", wrapped in banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

 leaves, and steamed.

See also


  • Apiology
    Apiology
    Apiology is the scientific study of honey bees, a subdiscipline of melittology, which is itself a branch of entomology...

  • Bee and wasp stings
  • Honey bee life cycle
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
    International Union for the Study of Social Insects
    International Union for the Study of Social Insects is an association of entomologists from different countries engaged in research of social insects...

  • Pesticide toxicity to bees
    Pesticide toxicity to bees
    Pesticides vary in their effects on bees. Contact pesticides are usually sprayed on plants and can kill bees when they crawl over sprayed surfaces of plants or other media...

  • Schmidt Sting Pain Index
    Schmidt Sting Pain Index
    The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona...

  • Starr sting pain scale
    Starr sting pain scale
    Starr sting pain scale or "A Pain Scale for Bee, Wasp, and Ant Stings" was created by the entomologist Christopher Starr as a scale to compare the overall pain of Hymenopteran stings on a four-point scale. 1 is the lowest pain rating; 4 is the highest....

  • Proboscis extension reflex
    Proboscis extension reflex
    Proboscis extension reflex is when a bee extends her proboscis as a reflex to antennal stimulation. It is evoked when a sugar solution is touched to a bee's antenna.- Use of PER :...


External links


Further reading

  • O'Toole, Christopher, and Raw, Anthony. (1991). Bees of the World. Facts on File.
  • Michener, Charles D. (2007). The Bees of the World, second edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.