Bees are flying insects, closely related to wasps and ants. Bees may be solitary or may live in various types of communities, the most advanced of which are eusocial colonies found among the honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. There are slightly fewer than 20,000 known species of bee, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. Bees are extremely capable of adapting to their environment, and consequently, are found on every continent except Antarctica. Bee Species

Of the 20,000 known species of bee, few prove problematic to residents in the UK.

Honey Bees

Months of Activity: January - December

Unlike most insects, honey bees remain active throughout the winter with honey produced from the nectar of flowers providing plenty of food during the colder months. Honey bees are social insects and create elaborate nests, or hives, containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months. When threatened, honey bees will swarm out and attack with their stingers to drive the enemy away, but generally as they forage around your garden, they are quite harmless and will only sting if they accidently become caught in clothing. Appearance

A honey bee worker is about 12mm long and is brown and amber in colour. A honey bee drone is about 12mm long and is brown and amber in colour. A honey bee queen can grow up to 20mm long and is brown and amber in colour. Lifecycle

In the UK, honey bees are able to survive winter as a colony, and the queen begins egg laying in mid to late winter to prepare for spring. She is the only fertile female, and deposits all the eggs from which the other bees are produced. Except a brief mating period when she may make several flights to mate with drones, or if she leaves in later life with a swarm to establish a new colony, the queen rarely leaves the hive after the larvae have become full grown bees. The queen deposits each egg in a cell prepared by the worker bees. The egg hatches into a small larva which is fed by nurse bees (worker bees who maintain the interior of the colony). After about a week, the larva is sealed up in its cell by the nurse bees and begins the pupal stage. After another week, it will emerge an adult bee. Pest Control

Effective control of the honey bee often involves the removal of the bee nest in the first instance, followed by an intensive program of integrated pest management. Over recent years, the honey bee has become a threatened species, and so pest control methods should only be carried out by a qualified pest control technician.

Solitary Bees

Months of Activity: March - May

There are over 200 species of solitary bees found in Britain and, like the social bees, they all feed on pollen and nectar. Important pollinators of many garden flowers and commercial crops, solitary bees collect pollen for provisioning the nest with food for their brood. Each female solitary bee is fertile, and typically inhabits a nest she constructs herself. There are no worker bees, and neither honey nor beeswax are produced by these insects. Appearance

Most solitary bees resemble small honey bees or, in some cases, small bumble bees, but the adults of most species are fairly short-lived and are seen for only a few weeks in spring or early summer. Lifecycle

Solitary bees create nests in hollow reeds or twigs, holes in wood, or, most commonly, in tunnels in the ground. The female typically creates a compartment (or "cell") with an egg and some provisions for the resulting larva, then seals it off. A nest may consist of numerous cells. The adult bee does not provide care for the brood once the egg is laid, and usually dies after making one or more nests. The males typically emerge first and are ready for mating when the females emerge. While solitary female bees each make individual nests, some species are gregarious, preferring to make nests near others of the same species, giving the appearance to the casual observer that they are social. Pest Control

Often mistaken for other varieties of bee, the solitary bee provides no real threat to homes and gardens in the UK. Harmless creatures, the solitary bee does not swarm and is either stingless or very unlikely to sting. If you do have an incidence of a solitary bee taking up residence in your property, the ideal solution is to contact your local pest control company who can quickly and easily remove the problem.