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  Bees and Wasps - An Overview

The Order Hymenoptera contains 91 families and 198,000 species. Most members of the order have two pairs of membranous wings, joined in flight by tiny hooks. In all species except the sawflies, the first abdominal segment is fused to the thorax, while the second and sometimes the third segments are narrow and form a waist. Gender is determined by haplodiploidy, a process in which fertilized eggs produce females and males arise from unfertilized eggs.

  Honeybees and their Relatives

The most familiar members of this family are the stout, very hairy bumblebees and the smaller, more slender honeybees. Most females have a special pollen basket (corbiculum) on the outside of the hind tibiae. Coloration is highly varied.

  Life Cycle

These bees are social and live in colonies consisting of an egg-laying queen, males (drones), and sterile worker females who find food and look after the young. Bumblebees form small colonies under or on the ground. The nests in which they lay their eggs are made of grass with wax brood cells. Honeybee colonies compromise a queen, up to 2,000 males, and thousands of workers. The nest is an array of double-sided wax combs divided into hexagonal cells for rearing young and storing pollen and honey. Workers use a dance language to convey the distance, quality, and direction of food.


Worldwide, except in sub-Saharan Africa. Bumblebees are very common in northern temperate regions. In well-vegetated, flower-rich habitats.


In addition to providing honey, wax, and other products, these bees pollinate most of the world's plants.

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