Do all bees look the same? No way!
Yellow, black striped, wings and antennae. Clearly a bee, right? But is it really that simple?
In the blog article “The little bumblebee 1×1” we have already shown that the bees have a similar body structure as we humans have. Each bee has a head, a body, and legs.
But if we take a closer look at the World of Wildbees, we are surprised by the amazing diversity. Because, just like us humans, the different bee species are individual. Even within a species, there are outliers with their very own look. It’s like a party – how likely is it that they will all wear the same outfit?
But how is it that we all picture bees the same way? This is certainly due to the almost ubiquitous honey bee in most depictions. Many of us know “Maya the Bee” and, anyways the image of the honey bee with its black and yellow stripe is the most widespread. The best example is Google. If you enter the search term “bee”, it is hardly surprising what is suggested first:
Honey Bee Species (Apini):
External characteristics: Yellow-black body markings, hairy body, short antennae.
But let's take a look at the other bee species
and how they differ:1-3
External characteristics: Broad, angular, buffalo-like head, hairy body, females with dense, long and curved tufts of hair, so-called hip curl, body color often yellow-brown or black.
External characteristics: Dense, furry fur on the body, snout-like face with white or yellow markings, often strong physique, light yellow-brown to dark brown or black coloring.
External characteristics: Thick, furry coat, strong body size, striking color variations (e.g. black-yellow, black-red).
External characteristics: Short, club-shaped antennae, compact physique, sparsely hairy, coarsely punctured, mostly metallic in color.
External characteristics: Small to medium-sized bee, dense, furry coat, predominantly black in color, with white, felt-like spots on the abdomen and legs that are partially or completely red in color.
External characteristics: Long antennae, slender build with a squat abdomen, often characterized by light-colored hair or felt bands within the segments.
External characteristics: Large bee with jet black body and prominent markings, slim body shape, hairy body.
External characteristics: Slim body shape, mostly black or dark colored body with yellow or orange markings, little hair.
External characteristics: Large body size, mostly dark body color, powerful jaw tools, conspicuous by the blue/violet metallic shimmering wings in the sunlight.
External features: slender black body, two-lipped tongue, often densely hairy trunk, strikingly wide light bands of hair on the abdomen.
External characteristics: slim body shape, conspicuous white or yellow facial markings, black/dark shimmering body color with white spots.
External characteristics: Slender, elongated body shape, often black or brown, but also metallic in color, conspicuous furrows or grooves on the abdomen.
External features: abdomen almost bare, with conspicuous yellow markings, but lateral tufts of orange hair, upper body often black with light brownish hairs.
External characteristics: stocky build, often dark body color, with an almost bald rump interspersed with light tufts of hair, females with conspicuous red, black, or white abdominal hair.
External characteristics: Large, strong physique, abdomen stretched upwards, broad head, either a more hairy abdomen without visible hair bands or a slightly hairy abdomen with conspicuous light hair bands, the females can be recognized by the conspicuous red abdominal hair.
External characteristics: Strong physique, thickened hind legs, long, dense coat of hair in red, yellow, black or white, often conspicuous tufts of hair.
External characteristics: Large, strong physique, often black or dark in color, inconspicuous, narrow, light-colored hair bands with red fringes at the end, thickening of the antennae in the males.
Fashion Show of Bees4
Wildbees, which also include Bumblebees, are True Fashion Icons in the Insect Kingdom.
They display an amazing variety of colors, patterns, and body shapes. From bright yellow to deep black to iridescent green – the palette is as varied as a rainbow in a beehive.
But it’s not just the variety of colors that characterizes wild bees. Their size and physique are also very different. Some are tiny and dainty, others are rather strong and robust. Some have noticeable facial hair that makes them look like little punks, while others have sleek and elegant body lines. There are even wild bees that look like tiny flying jewels, with iridescent wings and glittery shells.
This Checklist provides an Overview of the Points to be considered:
Wild bees come in different sizes and shapes. Some are slim, others medium-sized or compact.
Wild bees have different facial markings. Some have facial markings, some don’t.
The body hair of wild bees can be white, brown or black. Some bees have no body hair. Body hair is mainly found on the thorax (upper body).
The abdomen of wild bees can be completely, partially or not at all hairy. It can have different colors and shine metallic.
The collection brush is located on the hind leg of wild bees and is used to collect and transport pollen and nectar.
BEEKNOW – The Bumblebee Glossary5-6
As with us Humans, Wild bees also have certain anatomical Terms that can be assigned to them, e.g. Head, Wings, and Legs. But just as many of us couldn’t pinpoint exactly where the pea bone (the smallest Carpal Bone) is, naming some of the bee’s body parts is complicated. If you want to know every part of her body to learn what the difference is, it can get incredibly detailed very quickly.
To make it easier for you to get started, we want to add a little to the 1×1.
You may come across the following terms when identifying Wild bees:
The Propodeum is the back part of the Thorax (Chest Segment) of a bee. It connects the Thorax with the Abdomen and forms a kind of Joint.
The Mandibles are the bee’s powerful jaw tools. They are used for chewing and crushing food, and also for building and modeling honeycombs.
Brachial cell, Coszal cell, Medial cell, Radial cell, Cubital cell:
These terms refer to the different cells in a bee’s wings. They indicate the location of the cells relative to the base of the wing and serve as reference points for wing analysis.
A bee’s wings have a web of veins running through them. These veins stabilize the wings and allow the bees to fly. The most important veins are the Costa (Anterior vein), the Media (Middle vein), the Radial vein, the Cubital vein and the Anal vein.
The cylpeus is part of the bee’s front face between the antennal bases. It is often recognizable as a narrow stripe between the eyes.
The maxillae are the bee’s middle jaw tools, used for gathering and transporting food. They play an important role in the uptake of nectar and pollen.
Ocellus are three simple eyes located on the top of a bee’s head. They are responsible for the perception of light intensity and direction.
The mesosoma is the middle part of a bee’s body, which consists of the thorax. The metasoma is the back part of the body, which consists of the abdomen.
The tarsi are the limbs on a bee’s legs, located at the bottom of the legs. They carry the claws and adhesive pads that help the bees to climb and hold on.
A specialized structure on bees’ hind legs composed of dense, bristle-like hairs to collect and transport pollen when visiting flowers.
Now you know! Bees are not yellow and black striped clones but have their style and character. From the magnificent mourning bee in a black dress with white dots to the blue-black carpenter bee whose wing veins shimmer metallic blue.
And if you now feel like immersing yourself in the fascinating world of wild bees and applying your newly acquired knowledge at first sight of a bee, we have the perfect solution for you: BienABest, the Bee Identification App!
Because nobody can remember everything at once and only practice makes perfect. Just download, grab your camera, and let’s go! Whether in the garden, in the park, or on a wild bee safari, BienABest is your faithful companion who will help you find the right bee species and learn more about these wonderful insects.