Do you know that there are at least 20,000 different species of bees? It’s true. Bees buzz on every continent except for Antarctica. Many bees construct wax hives, but some bees live in holes in the ground. Some can even bore into a tree or wooden wall and set up home. Four well-known types of bees inhabit North America, and three of these bee varieties can be found right here in Iowa.
Insect experts, also known as entomologists, differentiate bumblebees from other hairy bee species by examining their hind legs. Like all bees, bumblebees have six legs. The way they collect and carry pollen is distinctly different from the method used by honeybees. Honeybees carry pollen between hairs that cover their hind legs. Bumblebees’ back legs feature a hairless ‘dimple’ called a corbicula with which they tote pollen from blossom to hive.
Bumble bees may be black and yellow, or they may boast orange and red markings. Some bumblebees are entirely black. All bumblebees are covered in soft hairs that give an appearance of furriness. Nonetheless, don’t ever try to pet a bumblebee. Unlike honey bees that die after stinging, true bumble bees can sting repeatedly.
These very social insects live together in colonies that may contain 80,000 individuals. When they fly in a group, they’re called a swarm. Most honeybees are female, but only a royal jelly-fed queen can lay eggs.
It is the mission of a hive to nurture and protect the queen. Specialized female ‘worker’ bees build and repair the wax hive. Worker bees are also the ones who leave the hive to collect pollen. ‘Drone’ bees generally remain inside the hive where their beating wings help to regulate temperature. Another job of drone bees is to fertilize eggs to create new baby bees.
The most common of Iowa bees, honeybees can be a welcome addition to your garden. The wee buzzers do good work when they pollinate crops and produce delicious honey. They can also sting humans and pets, so it’s best for all concerned that honeybees dwell away from houses. If you have a hive too close to your home, give us a call.
These bees get their name from their ability to chew into wood. Unlike termites, carpenter bees don’t eat the wood they bore into. Sometimes they reuse the chewed wood to construct cells for larvae inside their nest. Carpenters do not build typical hives and they don’t live in colonies or travel in large swarms. If you see half-inch holes in your deck railing, and they have sawdust underneath, you might have carpenter bees in residence.
Bigger than most other Iowa bees, the busy Des Moines carpenter bee boasts vibrant yellow and black stripes. Carpenters look very much like their cousins the bumblebees. To tell the difference, look at the tip of their abdomen. On a carpenter bee, this section is shiny and hairless, whereas bumblebees are hairy all over.
Only female carpenter bees have stingers. Mostly docile and non-aggressive, carpenters can and will deliver a painful sting when they feel threatened. If you notice carpenter bees entering and exiting holes in your deck, porch or wooden stairs, give us a call without delay.
A sure sign of spring is the return of the bees. While we certainly welcome the little buzzers back, there are places where they don’t belong. If you come across a hive in your garage or attic, or if there are bees too close to your home, contact us without delay. We’ll send a specialist to analyze and manage the situation in a way that’s best for all concerned.