Belongs to: bees and wasps

Compare with: common wasp

Honey bee Apis mellifera


Best time to see: Apr to mid Oct

Key facts

Not strictly a wild species, but often seen collecting nectar and pollen - used to feed their young - from wild flowers

The species originates from Europe but is kept by beekeepers worldwide for pollination and honey production

In trouble currently, possibly because of diseases and parasites, or possibly because of modern insecticides

Recognition

Orangey brown in colour, with dark hoops on the abdomen (cf. wasps, which have yellow and black hoops)

Appears hairless and streamlined (cf. bumblebees, which are rounded and furry)

Female workers do all the foraging; queens (rarely seen outside the hive) and males are similar but larger

Lifecycle

Their nest is honeycomb made of wax, in 'curtains' hanging vertically, usually in a beehive but maybe a tree hole or even a chimney

The queen bee lays throughout spring and summer to build up a workforce that can collect enough honey to last the winter

Swarming is their method of increase: the queen leaves to start a new colony and the bees left behind raise a new queen

  • Main photo
  • queen
  • swarm

Photo © Tony Gunton

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Photo ©