Bees, a diverse group of insects belonging to the superfamily Apoidea, encompass more than 20,000 species in the suborder Apocrita, within the order Hymenoptera. They vary in size, with adults ranging from about 2 mm to 4 cm (approximately 0.08–1.6 inches). One of the key distinctions between bees and wasps lies in their caregiving behavior. Bees, excluding parasitic species, provide their offspring with pollen and sometimes honey, while wasps feed their young animal food or insects and spiders in their nests. Another differentiating feature is the presence of branched or feathered hairs on bees, which help pollen adhere to their bodies, while wasps have unbranched hairs.
Bees have a profound dependence on flowers for their sustenance, relying on pollen and nectar as their primary food sources. The intricate relationship between bees and flowers has led to simultaneous evolutionary adaptations. As bees visit flowers to gather pollen, they inadvertently transfer some of it from one flower to another, promoting cross-pollination among plants. This pollination process holds immense practical value, surpassing the significance of honey and wax production in terms of ecological impact.
In terms of social structure, male bees typically have short lifespans and do not engage in pollen collection or providing for the young. In contrast, female bees shoulder the responsibility of nest construction and provisioning, often possessing anatomical structures that facilitate pollen transportation. Bees display varying preferences in their flower choices, with some being polylectic, collecting pollen from a wide array of flowers, while others exhibit oligolectic behavior, focusing on specific kinds of flowers. The mouthparts and specialized pollen-carrying devices of bees are thought to have adapted to suit the diverse flowers they visit.
While most bees are solitary, each female establishes her own nest, typically a burrow in the ground, and cares for her offspring individually, without caste distinctions. Solitary bees may construct nests in various habitats, such as wood, twigs, or canes, with many spending a significant portion of their lives in different developmental stages within their cells. In contrast, social bees, like bumblebees and honeybees, have a more complex life cycle, progressively feeding their young. The superfamily Apoidea comprises eight families, including Colletidae, Andrenidae, Halictidae, Oxaeidae, Melittidae, Megachilidae, Anthophoridae, and Apidae, encompassing a wide range of bee species with unique characteristics.
One noteworthy bee variant is the Africanized honeybee, resulting from the interbreeding of African subspecies with European honeybees. This hybrid bee was accidentally released in Brazil in 1957, spreading rapidly and adapting to tropical climates. These Africanized honeybees have since migrated northward, covering substantial areas in the southwestern United States and Florida. Although not more venomous than their European counterparts, they are notably more aggressive in defending their colonies, reacting swiftly and persistently to perceived threats.