Kinds of Bees
Both types of bees are almost always present in North American backyards, going about their day pollinating garden plants and flowers.
Of course, the formal world of bees extends beyond the Apidae, and the video on the right provides a brief review of some less familiar types of bees.Bumblebees
Bumblebees (genus Bombus), underground nests consist of the traditional bee colony structure, queen, workers and drones.
Like honeybees, native honeybee populations continue to feel stress, to one degree or another.
Franklin's Bumblebee (Bombus franklini), a native species of Southern Oregon and Northern California, for example, is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Population declines of other native species are also being recorded around the world.
Researchers hypothesize that the introduction of non-native species into the commercial market solely for pollination, also introduced the diseases associated with the commercial bumblebees. As the commercial bumblebees escaped into the wild, the mites and viruses associated with them began afflicting native bumblebee populations.
Increased pesticide use and habitat alteration which reduces the number of native flowering plants associated with native bumblebee species are also hypothesized as factors contributing to bumblebee population stress.
Because of the population problems, native bumblebee identification has moved to the top of the agenda for many professional entomologists and insect enthusiasts.
Identifying bumblebee species involves following a set of rules that are similar to other insect identification tasks.
Their body consists of a head, thorax and abdomen, and different species show different hair colors and patterns along the thorax and abdomen.
A few bumblebee species, including the Eastern Bumblebee (bombus impatiens), the Two-spotted Bumble Bee (bombus bimaculatus), the Half-black Bumble Bee (Bombus vagans) and the Brown-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis), share many physical similarities.
The white tail of the Western Bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis) makes it a fairly easy species to identify. Finding one is an altogether different story.
Once common throughout the Western United States, the population experienced a dramatic decline. Scientists hypothesize that the species contracted a parasitic fungi, Nosema bombi, when it was exported to Europe to create commercial colonies for pollinating greenhouse plants.
When the colonies were re-imported, escaped greenhouse species spread the fungus through the native population.
Three different Bombus occidentalis populations are recognized, each with a slightly different look. The Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest populations have the white tail. The Rocky Mountain population also has a yellow ring around the middle of the abdomen.Cuckoo Bees
Hairless and small in size, Cuckoo Bees family resemble wasps more than they resemble bees, making them among the least known of the family (Apidae).
The common name cuckoo refers to the bee's practice of brood parasitism, like it's namesake in the bird world, the Cuckoo bird.
Adults lay their eggs in ground nests of other bee species, and then let the young fend for themselves.
Adults nectar on flowers as they look for suitable nest sites.
The Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) looks like an over sized version of a bumblebee without a hairy abdomen.
Its range extends through most of the eastern half of the United States. Like bumblebees, they are social insects that spend their day pollinating flowers.
As the name suggests they build their nest in wood, which occasionally causes problems in residential areas.
A circular hole on the surface of untreated wood, along with a trail of sawdust, are typical indications of carpenter bee activity.
The best way to deal with carpenter bee problems in the home is to discourage them by insuring exterior wood areas such as siding and fences, are either painted or treated with a wood preservative.
© 2005-2013 Patricia A. Michaels