Friday, February 1, 2008


There are about 20,000 species of insects belonging to the Apoidea and the order Hymenoptera, including such important pollinators of plants as the bumblebees, the yellow-faced, or plasterer, bees, the economically important honeybees of the genus Apis, the only domesticated insects beside the silkworm.

Only about 500 species of bees are social, these include the bumblebees, the tropical stingless bees, and the honeybees. They form colonies of from several hundred to 80,000 individuals, organized in rigid caste system, and secrete wax from which they build their nests.

Most other species of bees either are solitary, secreting no wax and nesting in the ground, hollow plant stems, in the nest or others. The solitary bees, named for the young, include the plasterer, borrower, mining, mason, and leaf-cutter bees.

Bees and Wasps

Bees belong to the same order as wasp. Like wasp, bees have mouth parts adapted for both chewing and sucking, but the tongue is longer than the wasp's and better suited for gathering nectar from a greater variety of flowers. As adults, bees and almost all wasps feed only on nectar or honey, young wasps only insect and spiders, whereas young bees are fed only nectar and pollen. Nectar is a sugary substance produced at the base of petas in many flowers and made into honey by bees.

Some wasp like bees swallow pollen and nectar, which they regurgitate into the cells in which they lay their eggs. Most bees however, are distinguished from wasps by modifications that enable them to collect pollen. Bees have branched and feathery (plumose) body hairs. Female have brushes on their legs, and they use these brushes to remove pollen that sticks to the body hairs. The pollen is then stored under the abdomen or on the broadened hind legs. The parasitic cuckoo bees, however, can be distinguished from wasps only by the presence of the branched hairs characteristic of bees.

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