The bees are here divided into the following six families: Colletidae, Andrenidae, Halictidae, Melittidae, Megachilidae and Apidae. Although the Apidae includes all the basically social species, there are other species in other families which are also primitively social. Like the wasp species, female bees build and provision their nests in a variety of situations; these may be subterranean or aerial, or even in empty snail shells. The nest may consist of one or several cells. The cell walls are often of the surrounding material, e.g. soil or the in situ plant material, but may be lined with collected plant material, resin, mud or glandular secretions which harden to thin, cellophane-like membranes. The larval food consists of nectar and pollen, sometimes with plant oils, and the cells are mass provisioned. The pollen is normally carried on specialised hairs on the propodeum, ventral gaster or hind legs, but sometimes in the crop of the female. Nectar is always carried in the crop. Some species collect pollen from a limited number of related plant species - these are called oligolectic bees. Others collect pollen from many plant species and are called polylectic species. When each cell is fully provisioned, an egg is laid and the cell sealed. There may be one or more generations each year. Several species are cleptoparasitic on other species of solitary bees. Some halictides are primitively eusocial. The queen rears a first brood, some of which, as adults, remain in the nest as workers and help the queen to rear a second brood of future queens and males.
Solitary, small to large subterranean nesting bees. Generally the cuticle is black except for some males with yellow markings on the head and some species with red markings on the gaster. Nests may be isolated from each other or close together as an aggregation. The cells are lined with a wax-like substance. The pollen balls are smooth and more or less spherical. One egg is laid on each pollen ball. Most species have a single generation a year, although a few have two generations a year when seasonal dimorphism may be shown. Spring species over-winter as adults, whereas summer species over-winter as diapausing prepupae. The two sexes emerge more-or-less at the same time, the males a few days earlier than the females. Most species are polylectic, but some are oligolectic for pollen sources. Nationally 70 species in two genera (1 species restricted to the Channel Islands).
The advanced eusocial bees of the family Apidae consist of the bumblebees and the honeybee. This family also includes solitary nesting species and cleptoparasites in the subfamilies Anthophorinae and Xylocopinae. The bumblebees have an annual life-cycle very similar to that of social wasps. Queen bumblebees over-winter, and in the spring, the queen initiates a nest. The queen makes a space in the nesting material and then builds a honey pot from wax secreted beneath her gastral sterna. She fills the honey pot with regurgitated nectar. Some eggs are then laid on a mass of pollen which is surrounded by a wax cell. The queen incubates the cells. The larvae are progressively fed on a pollen-nectar mixture. The first adults are workers which build further cells and forage for food. In other species, called ‘pollen-storers’, the foraged pollen is stored in empty pupal cocoons or specially built wax cylinders. The wax from the cell is then removed and used to build further cells. Several species are social parasites; the cuckoo queen enters the colony of its host, kills the queen and uses the workers to rear new cuckoo queens and males. No cuckoo workers are reared. Queens of non-cuckoo bumble bee species, like the social wasps, also usurp colonies of the same, or different, species. Nationally, 70 species in 9 genera including 3 species confined to the Channel Islands.
Solitary, small to large, hairy or hairless, short-tongued bees. Subterranean or aerial nesting solitary bees. Some species are cleptoparisitic on other species in the same family.
Subterranean-nesting solitary or eusocial species with short, pointed tongues. For solitary species the female establishes a nest in the spring with the males and new females emerging in the summer. After mating the males die and the females over-winter as diapausing adults. Eusocial species rear two broods a year. The first of these is reared by the queen, after which some workers remain in the nest to help the queen rear a second brood of males and new queens.
Long-tongued solitary bees with a rectangular labrum. Pollen carrying hairs present on the ventral gastral sterna except for the cleptoparasitic species. Nationally: 39 species (1 species restricted to the Channel Islands) in 9 genera.
Solitary bees with short, pointed tongues. Nationally: 6 species in 3 genera.
©Bees Wasps & Ants Recording Society 2014.