Bee Species

A Beginner's Guide To Bee Species

A recent document published through the American Museum of Natural History has compiled a new listing of all known bee species on the planet, with the totals toppling 19,200. This is an astounding number, towering over all of the known mammal and bird species combined.

Granted, scientists admit that there are some 5 to 100 million species of living creatures on earth, of which only 2 million have been identified and defined. But the rising numbers of bee species, and the notable detriment that we see in its absence, speaks to the importance of this insect to the delicate balance of our world.

There are three general categories under which bee species fall:

The bee

The wasp

The hornet

The bee tends to have an overall reputation as hive dwelling, honey making entities only, but this is simply not true.

Thousands of bee species do no colonize at all, and the species that we know as the honeybee, which is a hybrid version of a native African species, is the only species who makes honey.

Also, despite the widely honored belief to the contrary, honeybees are the only bees who die after stinging.

The wasp is most notable for his sleek and intimidating profile, as he tends to be long and pointy and, well, scary. A shiny exoskeleton which varies in colors, from deep solid black to beautiful iridescent greens and purples, makes him seem harder to defend against.

The truth is, aside from a few of the more aggressive wasp species such as the mud dauber, we really should not be as intimidated as we are. The sting rendered is a nasty one indeed, but they tend to ask questions first and sting later.

The hornet has a nasty reputation as the least patient and democratic of the bunch, and their aggressive nature is shown in the speed at which they pursue their irritants.

Unlike the majority of their counterparts, who will only attack when threatened or under duress, hornets run well organized patrols of their territorial boundaries. Should one breach this invisible line in the sand, they are fair game for the strike that will most often follow.

Hornets can fly faster than their mild mannered cousins, and have been known to pursue a target as far as 1 mile from the site of the infraction.

The bald-faced hornet, in particular, is prone to an almost punching tactic, flying directly into his target with stinger protruded.

Many hornets have the same presence and shape of a wasp, and are hard to decipher from a distance. The risk is probably not worth the reward in this case, as knowing the difference could be a painful experience.