Types of Bees in the UK

Bumblebees in an English Garden in May

In the United Kingdom, there are over 276 species of bees, which can be found all throughout the natural landscape. [1] 

Despite the fact that most of these bees are solitary, there are also several species of social bees in the United Kingdom.[2] As a species, honey bees receive the most attention, but solitary bees are actually responsible for much more pollination. 

Pollination by bees is essential for many crops in the United Kingdom, including fruits, vegetables, and berries. Protecting bees is very important, as the agricultural system of the United Kingdom would soon collapse without them.

There are many types of bees found in the United Kingdom, including bumblebees, mining bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, mason bees, leaf-cutter bees, plasterer bees, and more.

In the following table, each of these types of UK bees is described, including their appearance and behavior. 

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    Types of Bees in the UK

    Type of Bee Solitary or Social Appearance Behavior Notable Species
    Bumblebees Social Varied, but generally very fuzzy and fairly large, black and yellow, orange, or red. Live in colonies, nests mostly built in the ground or in existing cavities, not farmed for honey. Bombus vestalis, Bombus muscorum, Bombus humilis
    Mining Bees Solitary Varied between 1,500 species, but generally smaller bees with fuzzy bodies that are black with white or tan markings. Nests in the ground, each individual has its own nest, nests have varied appearance but generally look like holes in the ground surrounded by piles of dirt. Andrena fulva, Andrena scottica, Andrena cineria, Andrena nitida.
    Honey Bees Social Medium-sized bees which are yellow and brown, hairy bodies with rather shiny abdomens and translucent wings. Farmed for honey, typically live in human-made hives, large colonies up to 60,000 individuals. Swarming behavior in the spring and summer. Apis mellifera
    Carpenter Bees Solitary Varied, but generally all black or black with yellow or white markings. Can be easily confused with bumblebees. Burrow into hard wood or bamboo to build nests, can cause damage to houses. Xylocopa violacea
    Mason Bees Solitary Varied, but often black or metallic green or blue with tan or yellow hairs all over their bodies. Use mud to build their nests, sometimes nest in hollow stems or holes bored into wood by other insects. Osmia bicornis, Hoplitis adunca
    Leaf-Cutter Bees Solitary Varied, but typically black and yellow with brownish wings and legs. Use leaves and petals to build nests, either by chewing them up or simply cutting neat pieces and using them for building. Megachile centuncularis, Megachile willughbiella
    Plasterer Bees Solitary Varied, but typically black and yellow with brownish translucent wings, medium-sized. Create cellophane-like linings in their nests using materials that they secrete. Some species are nocturnal, which is rare for bees. Colletes hedera, Colletes daviesanus

    What Is the Biggest Bee in the UK?

    The violet carpenter bee is the largest bee in Europe, including the United Kingdom.[3] This bee can grow to be three centimeters in length. 

    The violet carpenter bee, Xylocopa violacea on a common gromwell flower

    Due to its newer introduction to the ecosystem from Southern Europe, the violet carpenter bee is unlikely to be seen in the United Kingdom. Violet carpenter bees have only been observed in the United Kingdom since 2007[4].

    Are Bees Protected by Law in the UK?

    There is no legislation in place to protect bees in the United Kingdom, even though 25% of the species are endangered. [5] 

    Bee species that are protected by law are prohibited from being harmed for any reason. These laws are usually enacted by countries to protect endangered species of bees from harm. 

    The United Kingdom, however, has not yet adopted any legislation to protect bees against human harm.

    What Time of the Year Do Bees Swarm in the UK?

    In the United Kingdom, bees can swarm at any time between the months of May and July.[6] Swarming usually occurs on warmer days when bees do not have to expend as much metabolic energy keeping warm.

    Although swarming honey bees may appear dangerous or frightening, they will not sting or harm humans if left alone. It is natural for honey bees to swarm, and they should be left alone to do so as much as possible. 

    Why Are Bees Declining in the UK?

    Loss of habitat and food sources for bees is one of the major causes of bee decline in the United Kingdom. [7] Bee habitat can be damaged and food sources can become scarcer as a result of certain unsustainable farming practices and urban development plans.

    The change in climate also has a profound effect on bee populations as it affects the time of year in which the seasons change, as well as how warm the seasons get during particular times of the year. 

    Flowers bloom according to temperature, and bees feed according to the time when flowers bloom. When flowers bloom earlier than bees expect, bees may be confused and unable to forage. 

    In the United Kingdom, pesticide use is also harming bee populations, resulting in a reduction in their numbers. Bees’ ability to reproduce and navigate can be impacted by pesticides, and some pesticides are even capable of killing them.

    Carpenter bee on a purple butterfly bush flower
    In the United Kingdom, there are more than 250 species of bee. Moreover, the species of the bee will determine the type of flowers and plants that it prefers to visit.

    To protect the bee population, farmers and everyday individuals should avoid using pesticides on their crops or properties. 

    It is also important to note that diseases, pests, and invasive species in the UK negatively affect bees. The presence of mites such as Varroa mites and tracheal mites affects honey bee populations by transmitting diseases and leaving the bees ill.  

    It is important to be aware of bee decline in the United Kingdom since all bees are very important pollinators of various agricultural crops and ornamental plants. A number of plants would not survive or be able to reproduce in the United Kingdom without bees.

    What Crops Do Bees Pollinate in the UK?

    Almost all of the foods we consume in the United Kingdom are pollinated by bees in some way.[8] Bees pollinate most fruits and vegetables, as well as berry bushes and nuts. 

    Bees pollinate many foods including raspberries, blueberries, apples, plums, pears, cherries, oranges, pineapple, almonds, carrots, fennel, cauliflower, and beets. 

    Despite the fact that some of these plants are rare or are not present in the United Kingdom, it is still important to be aware that bees play an important role in the pollination of these plants. 

    What Percentage of the Crop Do Bees Pollinate?

    Only 5-15% of the United Kingdom’s crops are pollinated by honey bees. Thus, the United Kingdom’s many species of wild bees are responsible for a large percentage of pollination.[9]

    In addition to bees, butterflies, moths, flies, and beetles pollinate many plants as well.

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