Not only are bees one of the most widely recognized creatures around, but they also play an integral role in our ecosystem’s biodiversity and sustainability.
Bees even help to pollinate nearly 70% of flowering plants on Earth, including most fruit and vegetable crops!
While many of us know that honeybees are the most common bee species in Illinois, did you know that there are 15 different types of bees in Illinois?
This article will discuss each species, its prevalence in Illinois, and the best ways to find them!
1. Bumble Bee
The bumble bee is one of the most well-known types of bees in Illinois. They are fuzzy, black, yellow, or orange, making a distinctive sound.
Bumblebees are found in gardens because they need flowers to survive.
If you want to be sure you see these fantastic creatures, check out our guide on the types of bees in Illinois.
There are many types of bees in Illinois, and we’ve created this guide to help you figure out which ones live near you.
Most people have seen the more common types of bees, like honeybees and bumblebees, but many other types live all over Illinois as well!
One type is called a sweat bee. These bees are often confused with bumblebees but are smaller, darker, and skinnier than a bumblebee.
When you see one, you’ll probably notice it on flowers because that’s what they do – get pollen from flowers! Bumblebees may also be confused with carpenter bees or yellow jackets.
2. Honey Bee
The honey bee is the most common bee found in the United States. Honeybees live as social insects, meaning they exist primarily in large colonies with a single queen.
Bees are often confused with wasps; however, there are many differences between honeybees and wasps.
The most notable difference is that honeybees have hairless bodies, while wasps have very long, thin hairs all over their body.
Additionally, honeybees will never sting unless they are provoked or feel threatened. In contrast, wasps will attack without warning if disturbed.
Another way to distinguish a honeybee from a wasp is by looking at the abdomen. These different types of bees in Illinois have two sets of wings, while wasps only have one set.
Finally, even though both types can produce stings that pack quite the punch, only honeybees can produce honey!
A colony of honeybees must be healthy to create a sweet substance. Unlike honeybees, wasps do not live together in hives but rather nest individually. If you see a nest, leave it alone!
3. Carpenter Bee
The carpenter bee (Xylocopa Virginia) is a giant, heavy-bodied bee with a black or dark brown head, thorax, and abdomen.
They are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees as they do not have white stripes on their stomach. They usually build nests in dead-standing trees, stumps, fence posts, or other dead timber.
The female carpenter bee burrows into the wood using her mandibles to chew tunnels for egg-laying chambers.
The male carpenter bee does not help excavate the nest but does mate with females during the excavation process.
Carpenter bees use pollen and nectar from flowers to feed themselves and their offspring.
These types of bees in Illinois can be found throughout most of North America, except Florida. It’s important to note that this species isn’t exclusive to Illinois.
The name carpenter bee comes from its practice of nesting in carpentry work and damaging it through drilling holes, like termites.
Carpenter bees are active from May through September and typically only last about three weeks because once the larva hatch, they’re ready for winter hibernation by early October at best.
Female cuckoo bees can be recognized by their greenish abdomen, while males have more intense colors.
They both possess black hair on their thorax. Male cuckoos also have orange coloration on the tip of their stomachs.
4. Cuckoo Bee
The cuckoo bee (genus Triepeolus) is a small solitary bee with a metallic dark blue-green sheen. The female cuckoo bee enters another bee’s nest, then lays its eggs there.
When the cuckoo bee larva hatches, it consumes the host’s food supply, sometimes destroying t larvae.
Females often hover near flowers and plants looking for pollen or nectar sources rich in protein or sugar.
Cuckoo bees are found commonly on lilacs, azaleas, mints, goldenrods, and dandelions. Males can be seen flying among clover patches.
They feed themselves on the honeydew created by aphids living on the leaves and stems of these plants.
Aphids secrete a sugary substance through holes in their exoskeletons called honeydew that attracts insects like ants, wasps, and beetles, which form symbiotic relationships with these insects because of this sugary substance.
Aphids feed off plant juices, making it difficult for predators like ladybugs to consume them since aphid bodies are covered with poisonous substances to keep predators from eating them.
5. Leafcutter Bee
The leafcutter bee is a solitary bee that does not live in colonies with other types of bees in Illinois. They are usually seen around gardens, orchards, or woodlands.
The leafcutter bee will cut small pieces from leaves and flowers with its mandibles and use them as built ding material for its nests.
The female collects these pieces while she is collecting nectar from flowers. Leafcutter bees can be found throughout all areas of the state; however, they prefer dry habitats with low vegetation.
Leafcutter Bees are large, hairy, yellow-brown bees that can have yellow bands on their abdomen.
Leafcutter Bees are between 5-10mm long. Leafcutters collect pollen from Composite flowers, vegetables, trees, and legumes.
The leafcutter bee is sometimes confused with honeybees because of its size and coloring, but honeybees fly much more quickly than leafcutters.
Honeybees also carry their pollen load on the underside of their abdomens, whereas leafcutter bees have it above their waists, closer to the thorax.
Another easy way to tell the difference between a leafcutter and a honeybee is if you see two cells being carried back to the nest, one will have a clump of dirt, distinguishing it as an underground dwelling species.
6. Mason Bee
Mason Bees are a type of bee that we don’t see often, but they are plentiful in Illinois. They are also called Leafcutter Bees.
Mason bees will cut pieces out of leaves, use them to line their nests, and then lay eggs inside the leaf lining.
This is why they’re called Leafcutter Bees – they cut pieces out of leaves to make their nests. You’ll find these types of bees in Illinois around gardens or wooded areas.
They are usually found on long tube-shaped flowers such as Dutchman’s Pipe or Black Locust trees.
The female mason bee lays her eggs right before she dies. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on pollen provided by adults that came back from gathering nectar. The young larvae spin cocoons where they pupate (transforming from larva to adult).
These types of bees in Illinois live only a few weeks, so they must develop quickly, while other types of bees can be present all summer and go dormant during winter.
Seeing what looks like piles of sawdust near your home could mean you have some nesting place for Mason Bees nearby.
If you notice someone has tried to protect plants in your garden with screens, this may mean there’s some Nesting Insect nearby.
7. Mining Bee
Mining Bees are also known as ground bees. They make their nests underground, close to the surface of the ground.
These different types of bees in Illinois are often mistaken for bumblebees because they have a similar size, coloration, and patterning.
The body is black with yellow stripes on the back. The head is black with a white fringe around it.
They are most active from mid-March through October, which means during this time, you can find them at flowers or collecting nesting materials such as leaves and small pieces of wood for their nest burrows.
Their preferred food sources include dandelions, clover, mints, violets, goldenrod flowers, and bee balm flowers. They will also visit aphids and other insects living on plants for nectar.
Because mining bees live near the surface of the ground, they are easy to spot by looking under rocks, boards, or flowerpots.
You may even see a group of these busy little workers clustered together carrying something to their new home.
Once you’ve found one mining bee, look for others nearby because sometimes these solitary creatures work together to collect supplies for their new home.
8. Orchard Bee
Orchard Bees are the only type of bee that doesn’t live in a hive. They spend their days buzzing from one apple blossom to another, pollinating.
To attract these pollinators, plant an orchard with blossom-bearing trees like apple, cherry, pear, peach, and plum.
The best time for planting is during the dormant season when there is no danger of frost damage. During spring, look for bee activity around shrubs like raspberries, blackberries, rose bushes, and goldenrod.
Orchard bees are attracted to small plants with white or yellow blossoms because they produce nectar throughout summer.
These types of bees in Illinois can also be found on dandelion flowers during summer days. In fall, orchard bees collect pollen from flowering trees such as oak and poplar.
You can often see them collecting pollen from flowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace in fields near the woods.
If you have fruit trees in your yard, you will probably have plenty of orchard bees. One way to protect orchard bees and pollinators from harmful pesticides is to create a pesticide-free zone around your home.
Planting flowering plants close by will help provide food for humans and insects.
9. Pollen Bee
Pollen bees are one type of bee that is common in Illinois. These types of bees in Illinois feed on pollen and nectar from flowers, but they also collect it to make honey.
If you notice a bee hovering near flowers, it’s likely a pollen bee.
The pollen tends to stick to the bottom of their abdomen, so if you see a bee with yellow or orange coloring on the bottom side, it’s likely a pollen bee.
Pollen bees are essential in pollinating plants because they can reach deep inside the flower for nectar. Pollen bee nests are built above ground from wood fibers mixed with mud or resin from conifer trees.
Male pollen bees will create new nests during the spring and summer months before females lay eggs.
Once larvae hatch from the eggs, they consume the female food adults provide until they are mature enough to pupate and become adults.
10. Long-Horned Bees
The type of bee you are referring to is the Long-Horned Bee. These types of bees in Illinois have long, skinny bodies with long proboscis (tongue). They have short antennae, but they do have some hair on their abdomen.
The color ranges from light brown to dark brown. Long-Horned Bees can be found throughout Illinois, but they are most prevalent near bodies of water like streams or lakes. They fly between flowers and bushes and feed on flower nectar at a feeding station.
They build nests under rocks or wood piles close to the water source. It is common for these types of bees in Illinois to nest in large groups; it’s not uncommon for colonies to have up to 800 members!
Long-Horned Bees mate during mid-summer months and only produce one egg each time they breed.
A new generation of bees will hatch in late summer and overwinter as larvae before emerging as adults the following spring.
Long-Horned Bees are excellent pollinators that help contribute to the production of our crops.
They take care of things by moving pollen among plants, which helps plant reproduction because pollen contains sperm cells necessary for fertilization.
Pollination by insects is essential because many crops cannot pollinate themselves like corn does when it pollinates using wind power.
11. Squash Bee
The squash bee is one of the minor types of bees in Illinois. It is about half as long as a honeybee, with orange-brown hair on its body.
This type of bee specializes in plants from the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and gourds.
They are common in gardens with these types of flowers. They are susceptible to pesticides that gardeners use, so it is essential not to use those chemicals when growing these flowers if you want this type of bee in your garden!
One type of flower that attracts the squash bee is the zinnia.
These flowers produce lots of nectar and pollen, providing plenty for the squash bee to enjoy. Beeswax can also be added to help attract more types of bees.
If you are interested in supporting these or other types of bees in Illinois, sign up for Bee Protective Services offered by the Landscape Management Service Providers Association (LMSPA).
12. Sweat Bee
Sweat bees are a type of bee found throughout most areas of Illinois. They’re often attracted to sweat, which is why they’re also known as hairy-footed or sweaty bees.
Their sting is so tiny that it’s unlikely you’ll even feel it, but sweat bees do have one thing in common with other types of bees: they produce honey.
The sweet liquid is often used in producing mead (a fermented drink made from honey), and the wax can be used for candle making. If you want to attract these little insects, ensure you’ve got some sweat going on!
You may not see sweat bees in huge numbers, but they tend to come out when temperatures reach above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
And if you’re lucky enough to encounter this type of insect, watch your footing – because their name comes from their affinity for sweating feet!
13. Digger Bees
Digger bees are ground-nesting, solitary female bees that make burrows just below the surface. They are one of the most common types of bees in Illinois.
Diggers prefer sandy soil and often dig into old gopher or squirrel mounds.
Some examples include the Eastern Yellow Jacket Bee (Vespula maculata) and the Sand Wasp (Chalicodoma rufa).
Digger Bees make nests called caves which can be found just below ground level. The nest is usually a long tunnel with many chambers that serve as nurseries for the eggs, larvae, food storage areas, etc.
These tunnels can sometimes be mistaken for ant or termite activity because they appear similar. They also have yellow and black stripes but are much smaller.
Like their namesake, these insects get their name from collecting sweat droplets from people’s skin by flying around them.
The pollen on their hind legs collects from flowers and other plants nearby so it can be transferred to other humans when they land on a person again.
The carpenter bee is the third type of bee-related to the digger bee.
14. Polyester Bees
Polyester Bees are about the size of a honey bee but have an entirely black body. Unlike other native bees,
Polyester Bees do not collect nectar or pollen for their use. Instead, they are scavengers that feed on dead insects, decaying fruit, or sap flows from wounds in trees.
They will also venture into your home if you leave open windows or doors. If you want to keep Polyester Bees out, try putting insect screens over open windows and doors.
You can also deter the types of bees in Illinois by placing cat litter boxes near the entrance of your house so they can’t get inside. As you can see, there is more than one type of bee in Illinois!
15. Masked Bees
Masked Bees are one type of bee found in Illinois. They are not social, but they do live in groups. The Masked Bee is a solitary bee that makes individual nests.
Masked Bees feed on pollen and nectar-like other types of bees. The males often patrol their territory while the females collect food.
When threatened by predators or humans, Masked Bees will release an alarm pheromone.
Unlike other types of bees in Illinois, the Masked Bee does not have a stinger and can’t sting people or animals.
However, this doesn’t mean you should try to pick up these little guys! Some insects, such as flies or ants, may be attracted to the Masked Bee’s body fluids if it dies.
If you see a masked bee, feel free to observe it from afar before moving on with your day. In most cases, the insect won’t cause any harm to you.
With all these types of bees buzzing around the state, it’s no wonder that Illinois is known for its honey production.
But wait, there’s more! When you start looking at the plants that the different types of bees pollinate, it becomes evident just how important they are.
Beekeepers are often the first ones to identify an invasive species. This is because they have been looking for it for a long time, so when the bees start showing up, they notice.
Usually, beekeepers will ask for help from local extension offices if there is any doubt about what type of bee it might be.
With all these types of bees in Illinois, beekeeping is rewarding and educational. So get out there and observe! You never know what you’ll find next!