Bees in Germany – 9 species of wild and honey bees briefly presented

For the layman there is simply the bee. A distinction may be made between honeybees and wild animals. The other subtleties of the bee world, on the other hand, elude many observers. The world of these fascinating animals is just as diverse as that of all other animals and plants. Nine species of wild bees already exist and have served or still serve breeders as the basis for ever easier to care for, more robust and more productive types of bees.

Wild bee versus honey bee

As of February 2017, the Wild Bees Cadastral Working Group listed 585 species of wild bees in Germany alone with its “Wild bee taxonomy” commission. These include clearly named species such as the mustard blue-shimmering sandbee, or the dwarf resin bee and the felt power bee. They differ in bee species, which are usually grouped according to their external characteristics, or their living and eating habits. Among these numerous species of wild bees there are, for example, a good 100 species of sand bees, 20 species of silk bees, but also 90 and 75 species of wasp bees and bumblebees, respectively. While the bumblebees belong to the bees from a biological point of view, the wasp bees are bees,

The best known of these wild bee species are the honey bees. However, there are only about 10 species of it worldwide, while in Germany there is only one wild species of honeybees. It is the so-called western honey bee, as the only wild honey supplier in our latitudes, the origin of classic beekeeping by humans.

The western honeybee

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Family: Apinae
  • Name: Western honey bee

Distribution area

Europe, Africa, Vorderasien

Life form

State-forming, up to tens of thousands of animals per colony

Social structure

The western honeybee colony consists of three types of bees. The queen is the only fully developed female and is therefore solely capable of ensuring the continued existence of the colony by laying eggs. The worker, a female bee with ovaries that are inhibited in development due to the pheromone release of the queen, makes up the majority of the population. You take over all riding around the survival of the bee colony from the procurement of food to the rearing of the brood and the construction of the honeycombs. With around five hundred to two thousand animals, the drones are only weakly represented. The only task of these few male representatives in the bee colony is mating with the queen and thus contributing to reproduction.

Appearance

  • Body length approx. 13mm
  • Weight approx. 82 milligrams
  • Brown colored body throughout with light hair rings on the abdomen, which create the striped impression
  • Queen and workers with prick apparatus
  • Pollen transport via leg pockets

Specialty

The western honey bee was spread almost worldwide during colonization and is now considered the most important livestock in the world.

The eastern honeybee

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Familie: Apidae
  • Name: Eastern honey bee
  • Common name: Asian honey bee

Distribution area

Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Japan

Life form

forming a state, several thousand to ten thousand animals per colony

Social structure

The organization of the bee state also corresponds to the structure of a colony of western honey bees with a queen, workers and drones.

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Appearance

  • Body length 12-15mm
  • Weight around 80 milligrams
  • More pronounced hair rings on the brown-colored abdomen than on the western honeybee
  • Pollen transport via leg pockets

Specialty

A defense strategy against hornets and wasps was observed as the only type of bee in the eastern honeybees, in which the attacker is enclosed in a solid ball of living animals by a large number of workers. Inside the sphere, the temperature rises briefly to over 45 ° C and the trapped intruder perishes.

Varroa Milbe

The eastern honey bee is considered to be the original host of the Varroa mite, feared by beekeepers. In contrast to their western counterparts, the eastern honey bee has managed to successfully develop strategies against the annoying parasite. For example, female workers rid each other of parasites and infested larvae are removed from the honeycomb and killed. Only infected threat larvae are cached and die along with the pest.

Gloss bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Family: Dufourea
  • Name: z.B. Dufourea Alpina, Dufourea Halictula

Distribution area

Europe, Asia, America – most common in North America

Life form

Solitary or in small aggregations

Social structure

living alone. The mating usually takes place in the context of foraging in the area of ​​the forage plants. The eggs are laid solitary in floor niches.

Appearance

  • Body length between 4 and 10 mm, depending on the species
  • Slender body shape, appearance jet black to shiny green-blue, sparse, shaggy hair
  • Pollen transport via leg pockets on the lower legs of the hind legs and on the sides of the middle segment

Specialty

Glossy bees feed mainly on flowers, the spreading takes place beyond the tree line. The shiny bees only fly in midsummer in just one generation per year.

Leaf cutter and mortar bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Familie: Megachile
  • Name: z.B. Maritima, Rotundata, Versicolor

Distribution area

Worldwide, in Germany alone with 23 species

Life form

Loners, brood in linear structures

Social structure

Living alone, contact between female and male only for mating

Appearance

  • Body length between 8 and 15 mm, depending on the species
  • Flat abdomen, pollen transport via the abdominal brush
  • Optical appearance with brown body color and light hair rings very similar to the honey bee, but with significantly stronger hair.

Specialty

Leaf cutter and mortar bees breed in wood and wall crevices, as well as in comparable depressions. After the brood has been deposited, the breeding site is tightly sealed. For this purpose, plant parts such as leaf segments or, more rarely, petals are used by the leaf cutter bees. The mortar bees, on the other hand, use loamy soil components to close the breeding ground.
The leaf cutter and mortar bees only fly in summer between June and August. Under favorable circumstances, a second generation is raised in the same year, followed by a second flight phase in September and October.

Bumblebee

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Familie: Bombus
  • Name: Ackerhummel (bombus pascuorum)

Distribution area

all of Europe, even detected in Iceland since 2010

Life form

State-forming, but with far fewer bees than honey bees, for example. Brood under moss cushions or in tree and earth caves, as well as in accessible areas of buildings, less often in mouse caves and other animal structures

Social structure

Structure of the bee state known from honey bees with queen, workers and drones

Appearance

  • Body length 9 to 15 mm
  • Stocky and compact physique, typical banding on the abdomen due to brown body coloration with light hair rings, upper side of the upper body mostly bright orange to reddish, very pronounced hair
  • Pollen transport via leg pockets on the upper limbs of the hind legs
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Specialty

The bumblebee is considered to be particularly peace-loving and is therefore often attracted by bees or special bumblebee boxes. It is considered a culture follower and uses both naturally occurring and man-made flowering plants as a food source. It is considered to be particularly insensitive and has an extremely pronounced flight phase from May (initially only queens) to the end of October.

Mask bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Family: Hylaeus
  • Name: zB Ringer, Confused, Variegated

Distribution area

Worldwide, mainly Europe. In the German-speaking area alone 45 Hylaeus species are known, 37 of them in Germany.

Life form

Solitary animals, brood in existing cavities in clay walls or dead wood, such as the feeding tunnels of beetles and worms, sometimes in self-made cavities in plant stems

Social structure

Living alone, contact between males and females only for mating

Appearance

  • Body length between 3.5 and 10 mm, depending on the species
  • Slender physique with a long abdomen, mostly dark to black coloring of the entire body
  • Characteristic white to yellow face mask, which in the males is very pronounced, in the females, on the other hand, is sometimes reduced to a few points on the side of the head
  • No external characteristics for pollen transport

Specialty

Mask bees usually build their nests in linear, round niches and hollows. But they are also able to adapt their breeding sites to asymmetrical and irregular cavities. The nest is closed using a lid made from glandular secretions. Until the final nest closure, the fibers of the lid are so flexible that the bee can get through it into the nest at any time. Since there are no external characteristics for pollen transport, the pollen is swallowed and transported to the nest in the crop. The flight phase is between May and September, with a second generation growing up in the same year only in individual cases.

Power bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Family: Biastes
  • Name: Brevicornis, Emarginatus, Truncatus

Distribution area

Europe, Asia, North Africa, in German-speaking countries only represented by the three species mentioned

Life form

parasitic as so-called cuckoo bees, preferably slurp bees, spiral horn bees and gloss bees as hosts

Social structure

Living alone, contact between females and males for mating, then brood care by the original nest maker

Appearance

  • Body length between 5 and 8 mm, depending on the species
  • Compact physique
  • Little and short hair
  • Color from orange to red, sometimes with light to white spots on the abdomen
  • No devices for pollen transport as the brood is supplied by host animals

Specialty

Both females and males of the power bees can often be observed sleeping, as the animals bite into the walls of the leaves or flowers of their food sources while they sleep and thus protect themselves from falling. The situation of the power bees can be classified as precarious to critical, as they are particularly dependent on the occurrence of the three host species. Experts attribute the currently best chances of survival to the species Biastus Trunactus, as it uses the best adaptive abilities and the most widespread host animals.

Mason bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Familie: Megachilidae
  • Name: e.g. red mason bee, horned mason bee, snail shell bee

Distribution area

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Worldwide, preferably in a mild climate, such as Mediterranean regions, but also numerous species in Central Europe and especially Germany

Life form

Solitary bee without an association of states

Social structure

living alone. Each female builds her own nest for her own brood, contact with the drones is only for reproduction.

Appearance

  • Body length and weight comparable to the western honey bee with a body length of approx. 13 mm and a weight of around 80 milligrams, individual species, such as the horned mason bee, are significantly smaller and lighter
  • monochrome body without characteristic banding, color range from dark red to yellow
  • strong, bristly body hair
  • Pollen collection and transport via very hairy abdominal brush on the front underside of the trunk
  • Depending on the species, some individual identifying features, for example two small horns on the head of the horned mason bee, which, however, are usually not noticeable in the hair

Specialty

The name mason bee can be transferred to one of the preferred breeding places in wall crevices and holes, as well as to the type of nest closure. Clay, but also chewed leaf material in connection with saliva can serve as sealing material. The rough nest closures are reminiscent of brickwork. Individual species have specialized in certain breeding sites, such as the snail-shell bee, which breed in the empty snail houses. Other species-specific nesting sites are holes in dead wood, as well as breeding channels that have been bitten into the pulp of plant stems.

Many mason bee species are very close to civilization. They accept artificial nesting aids particularly well and are therefore easy to settle in the garden or on the balcony. Of the 50 or so European mason bee species, none are currently considered endangered.

Wood bees

Biological characteristics

  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Family: Xylocopa
  • Name: z.B. Iris, Valga, Violacea

Distribution area

preferred in the tropics and subtropics, but different species worldwide with the exception of regions near the poles

Life form

solitary bee

Social structure

no association of states, own construction of a breeding cave for each female, contact with male wooden bees only for mating

Appearance

  • Body length depending on the species from 15-18 to 22-28 millimeters
  • Body weight varies greatly depending on body size
  • monochrome, mostly dark tint of the entire body, in European species mostly dark to completely black
  • moderate, dark hair all over
  • Pollen collection and transport via the hind legs, as well as in swallowed form in the crop
  • strongly pronounced, strong proboscis, associated with it, sometimes as nectar robbers

Specialty

The European wood bee species fly in one generation per year from the end of March to October. The food is obtained partly via the well-known access to the flower via the calyx, but partly also as a Neckar robber. To do this, the wooden bees pierce the calyx with their powerful proboscis from the side and thus gain direct access to the nectar supply of the flower.

Wooden bees create their own breeding channels and usually do not use existing burrows. Preferred breeding sites are in dead wood and other plants. The brood combs are arranged linearly one behind the other, while the individual chambers are separated from each other with pieces of wood or other pieces of plant.

Wooden bees are often found in Germany, but because of their large dimensions and their deep black color, they are often not recognized and perceived as bees.

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