Bee Families and Societies

by Katy - Bee Missionary July 19, 2019

Bee Families and Societies

For those of us who are not bee experts, it can be confusing trying to understand the hierarchy of bees.

This is just a brief blog post to give you an overview.

For anything deeper, you’ll need to do some research.

Bees are insects. They belong to the Hymenoptera family of insects.

So far, about 20,000 species of bees have been discovered globally, with more being found regularly.

Where do bees NOT live? The polar regions (north or south), very high altitudes, certain islands in the oceans.

There are eleven Bee Families, distinguished by many things, including different body parts like wing veins, mouth structure and tongue length.


Cellophane Bees are quite hairless, look more like wasps, and are primitive.

Mining Bees are solitary or communal, and nest in soil, making chambered cells.

Leafcutter Bees and Masonry Bees pollinate agricultural crops.

Sweat Bees are quite hairless and dark-colored and nest in the ground, they are solitary but live in societies where they help each other.

Digger Bees and Carpenter Bees fly fast and are great pollinators. They are dark green and blue and may nest in the ground alone or in clusters and can burrow into solid wood. Carpenters nest in plant stems.

Honey Bees are the best-known bees. Their close relatives are Stingless Bees, Bumble Bees and Orchid Bees. Honey Bees and Stingless Bees have complex societies and make honey, which humans exploit.

Bees need flowering plants and flowering plants need bees, which creates a perfect symbiotic relationship. Plants need pollinating bees to help them reproduce, and bees need plant pollen for protein and nectar as an energy source.

The following insightful Honey Bee video is just over 2 minutes long.




Solitary Bees: each female makes her own nest.

Anthophorinae: primitive, solitary bees that nest in the ground, often in large colonies, like Miner Bees, Digger Bees and Cuckoo Bees, the female makes a chamber for each of her young.

Cleptoparasitic Bees: like gangsters, these parasitic bees are a sub-group of cuckoo bees. Like thieves in the night, they invade and use the nests of other bees, hiding their eggs in the prepped chambers before the host bee can lay her own eggs. Then they seal the chambers and eat the food prepared by the host bee for her baby, and last but not least, they kill the egg or larvae of the host.

Social Bees or Apinae: social bees like honey bees and bumble bees belong in this group. They live in hives, which are large structured colonies. Some are only semi-social and live in groups of 2-7 worker bees with a queen. These are female-dominant societies where male drones only mate with queens.

If we’ve made any errors with the information above, or you have more to share about any of these groups, we’d love you to buzz on over to our Facebook page and tell us all about it!

© 2019-2023 Bee Mission. All Rights Reserved.

Katy - Bee Missionary
Katy - Bee Missionary


Also in Bee Informed - Bee News

Fake Liquid Gold?
Fake Liquid Gold?

by Bee Site March 14, 2023

View full article →

Women Beekeepers You Should Know
Women Beekeepers You Should Know

by Bee Site March 08, 2023

View full article →

City Living?  Three Ways You Can Help the Pollinators!
City Living? Three Ways You Can Help the Pollinators!

by Bee Site February 23, 2023

View full article →

By submitting this form, you agree to our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy.