There are close to 20,000 different species of bees in the world. They are divided into several different categories based on the way they colonize.
These bees are mostly solitary. The only difference is that same generation females will use the same nest. Each female will make her own cells for her eggs, larvae and pupae within the nest.
Several kinds of bees are semi-social. These bees live in small colonies consisting of anywhere from two to seven bees of the same generation. One of the bees is the queen and also the principal egg layer, and the other bees are the worker bees.
Primitively Eusocial Bees
Around 1000 species of bees exist in small colonies. These colonies consist of a queen bee and a few daughter workers. It is very hard to distinguish the difference between workers and the queen bee in these colonies. These temporary colonies typically die out in the fall, and the fertilized queens are the only bees to survive the winter. Bumblebees are a familiar example of primitively eusocial bees.
Eusocial bees are also referred to as truly social bees. These bees live in large colonies. The colonies consist of females from two generations, the mothers, or queens, and the daughters, or worker bees. The only part that males play in the colony is for fertilization, and don’t participate in the organization of the colony. In these colonies, the larvae are fed progressively, meaning the cells are left open so that the worker bees can tend to them.
Highly Eusocial Bees
A few hundred species of bees are highly social. These bees form permanent colonies. In the colonies, the worker caste and queen caste are significantly different in structure. Each caste is created specially for its individualized activities, and is unable to survive without the other caste. These colonies are highly specialized and complex, and individual bees may perform specialized functions within the colony. Response to the environment inside and outside the hive regulates the tasks of defense, collection of food and storage of food, and reproduction. These bees use chemical messages, touch, and sound in order to communicate. Honeybees fall into this category and also use a symbolic dance language to communicate with other bees. The nests of highly eusocial bees are elaborate and may even use wax secreted by the bees in construction.
Bee venom is stored in a sac attached to the stinger called the ovipositor. Because the ovipositor is part of the female reproductive system, only female bees sting. The queen bee also uses her ovipositor to lay eggs. Worker bees are sterile females and do not lay eggs, using their ovipositors only to sting.
Bees are able to see all color except for red. Using this along with their sense of smell, they are able to find flowers to collect pollen. Pollen is used as a source of food and is also dropped in transport, often resulting in cross-pollination.
Some species will die after they sting because their stingers are attached to their abdomen and have hooks on them. When the bee attempts to fly away after stinging, part of the abdomen is ripped away.