It’s no secret that we love bees here at Nature Bee! Being such fans, we thought it’d be cool to share some fun facts about the different types of bees, how beeswax is made, and talk about an imposter in the bee community.
Common Types of Bees
The most familiar bee to most people is the western honeybee. Despite their name being the western honeybee, they actually aren’t native to North America! They were imported hundreds of years ago from Eurasia because of their reputation for efficient pollination and honey production. They’re easily distinguishable because of their golden brown body with black abdominal stripes. It’s also rare that they are found in wild colonies as they are mostly domesticated. All the honeybees that you see pollinating are female workers (wahoo, female power!) and carry the pollen in the pollen baskets on their legs.
Next to honeybees, bumble bees are very well known for their cute and fuzzy bodies! Unlike western honeybees, there are known to be 49 species of bumble bees native to north america. They’re usually larger than honeybees and their fuzzy abdomen is what really sets them apart from carpenter bees. Bumble bees got their name from the noise they make when they’re inside a flower! They work so fast that they sonicate pollen from the flowers onto their hairs. Bumble bees live in small colonies of about a few dozen bees in the ground. You’ll often find their colonies in abandoned mammal holes.
Carpenter bees are often mistaken as bumble bees although they have a much worse rep than their cute and fuzzy counterparts. Carpenter bees look quite similar to bumble bees except they have bigger and broader bodies and heads. They’ve managed to build a negative reputation because they tend to drill holes into wood to create their nest and male carpenter bees can be aggressive and territorial! They’re also known as robbers in the bee community because they’ll often chew into flowers that they are too big to fit into and steal the nectar without pollinating the flower. Male carpenter bees can’t sting but have the tendency to get in your face as they’re very territorial.
Mason bees are small, fast-flying pollinators with hues of metallic blue, black, and green throughout their body. Unlike the last three mentioned, mason bees don’t have pollen baskets on their legs and will carry the pollen in the hairs on their abdomen instead. They get their name from the fact that they use mud to seal the cavities in their nest which are usually found in hollowed-out stems. Like carpenter bees, only female mason bees can sting but all mason bees are much more gentle than carpenter bees.
Another kind of gentle bees are blueberry bees. These bees are the size of a honeybee but look like small bumble bees. They’ve evolved with blueberry plants and have become the perfect size to fit inside a small blueberry flower (hence the name). They’re not as efficient in pollination as other native pollinators, but still a great species!
Now it’s time to talk about the imposter of the bee community: hoverflies! Hoverflies are pollinating flies that very closely resemble an average bee. The reason they look so similar is for their own protection and you can distinguish them from bees as they only have two versus four wings and their eyes are also quite large and sit on the sides of their head. They’re not as efficient in pollination as most bees, but still pollinate and are especially attracted to sweet flower nectar. Being a sort of fly, they don’t have stingers and their larvae feed on pests which makes hoverflies a positive addition to the environment!
How is Beeswax Made?
Our beeswax is sourced from a local farm called Country Bee Honey Farm, located just minutes away from our production facilities here on Vancouver Island! Beeswax is secreted from abdominal glands of the bee and often picks up bits of honey, propolis, and pollen which darkens the colour. It is used for the construction of the honeycomb shape found in beehives. Beeswax is a by-product of bees and therefore does not harm any bees. At Country Bee Honey Farm, the wax is collected from nests when the bees are out pollinating and doing their regular activities.
At Nature Bee we put environmental and societal well-being first, therefore it’s very important to us that all of our ingredients are being sourced sustainably and ethically! Now that you’ve got the expertise of a Queen Bee, get out there and share the knowledge with your hive!
Allaby, Michael. "beeswax." A Dictionary of Ecology. : Oxford University Press, , 2015. Oxford Reference. Date Accessed 11 Sept. 2020 <https://www.oxfordreference-com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780191793158.001.0001/acref-9780191793158-e-601>.
Oder, Tom. "How to Identify Different Types of Bees" Treehugger : Home & Garden, 2020. Date Accessed 11 Sept. 2020 <https://www.treehugger.com/how-identify-different-types-bees-4864333>.