Bees are essential to our ecosystem, pollinating plants that help feed us and keep flowers looking pretty.
Did you know there are over 20,000 different species of bees in the world? Massachusetts has 15 unique types of bees that call the Bay State home.
Although they’re all members of the same family, the order Hymenoptera, each bee has its unique traits, behavior, and name!
To get you in the spirit for springtime – and to introduce you to some new friends – here are 15 types of bees in Massachusetts!
Bumblebees are one of the most common types of bees in Massachusetts. Unlike honeybees, bumblebees will fly from flower to flower and do not produce honey or make wax.
They are often found around gardens and yards because they enjoy flowers like daisies and dandelions.
Bumblebees can be distinguished by their large bodies, fuzzy hair on the top part of their body, wide waistbands, and hairless face with no stingers.
They are known for creating a buzzing sound when they fly – hence their name! There are 17 species of bumblebees in Massachusetts.
The rusty patched bumblebee is one type that has become endangered due to pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change.
Luckily, many people have taken steps to help protect them by planting native plants in their gardens so that the bee has food sources available year-round and water available for them during winter months.
2. European (Western) Honey Bees
European honey bees are the most common types of bees in Massachusetts. European honey bees pollinate many kinds of fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
The European honey bee is also known for helping to fight pests such as aphids and mealybugs.
A queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day during her life span of three or four years. European honey bees live in colonies containing between 10-40 thousand members.
They have a shorter tongue than other types of bees, which limits their ability to collect pollen from certain flowers.
Honeybees work together as a team to defend themselves and their colony against predators like wasps and hornets.
3. Large Carpenter Bees
Giant carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees, but these guys don’t buzz. They’re large and black with yellow or white stripes on the abdomen.
Carpenter bees nest in dead or decaying wood; most people only find them when they come across a hole chewed into a piece of furniture made from untreated wood.
If you do get stung by one, you can take solace in the fact that their sting feels like more of a pinch than anything else.
In addition to carpenter bees, there is a variety called the leafcutter bee.
Unlike other types of bees in Massachusetts that produce honeycombs to store pollen and nectar, leafcutter bees cut pieces out of leaves to use as nesting material.
4. Small Carpenter Bees
Small Carpenter Bees are the types of bees in Massachusetts we find the most often. They get their name from their habit of burrowing into the wood and creating tunnels for themselves.
Carpenter bees are pollinators, meaning they pollinate flowers while they drink nectar.
They also create tunnels in wood which is how they got their name. The female carpenter bee will drill holes into wood to lay eggs inside the tunnel she made.
Once her eggs hatch, the larvae (or baby bees) will eat the wood and then spin a cocoon to pupate (or become an adult). This process goes on until it becomes an adult bee.
5. Long-Horned Bees
Long-horned bees are also called long-tongued bees because their proboscis, or tongue, is longer than other types.
These types of bees in Massachusetts have a specific diet of nectar and pollen from certain plants. Long-horned bees get their name from the antennae shaped like the horns on a cow’s head.
They have a variety of colors, such as black and yellow, with brown stripes. Like bumblebees, they also produce honey.
However, unlike bumblebees, which form colonies by making wax cells for new queens to lay eggs in and for worker bees to feed the larvae, long-horned bees do not create these wax cells.
Instead, these females will use dead wood from trees or twigs found around them to make cells for laying eggs. Long-horned bees are found all over the world except in Australia and Africa.
6. Sweat Bees
Sweat bees are distinctive types of bees in Massachusetts that, as their name suggests, can be found in humans during warm weather.
Sweat bees are typically 1/10th to 1/8th inch long and look like flying ants because they have no visible wings and fly close to the ground.
Unlike other types of bees, sweat bees don’t sting and are not aggressive toward humans.
However, they can swarm while on the person they’re attracted to, which is why some people mistakenly think sweat bees sting.
The good news is that most people won’t be bothered by these harmless little insects unless they’re allergic or sensitive to them.
7. Squash Bees
Squash bees are solitary, ground-nesting bees, often seen on squash or gourds, where they produce their nests. They have a 2-inch long abdomen, dark brown head, and thorax.
Squash bees are non-aggressive insects and will not sting unless they feel threatened; if you find one, leave it alone and allow it to do its work pollinating your plants! Female honeybees cannot produce their pollen.
That’s why the male honeybee visits flowers for nectar and collects pollen on his body as he flies from flower to flower, gathering nectar.
When he arrives at the female honeybee’s hive, he transfers some of this pollen into the corbicula (plural: corbiculae).
He also passes some over onto her head and stomach. She uses her back legs to move pollen into cells where she lays eggs.
8. Digger Bees
Digger bees are named for their unique behavior: they excavate a tunnel-like burrow into the ground, often near a wetland or stream.
The female then lures males to her tunnel, where she mates. Once fertilized, she lays an egg and seals up the burrow before finding another male.
This is just one of 15 types of bees in Massachusetts that you might not have known existed! Langstroth Hive Bees The Langstroth Hive bee has been introduced in Europe and has become widespread in North America because it is easy to manage. It’s used mainly by beekeepers as a honeybee subspecies.
9. Polyester Bees
Polyester bees are solitary wasps, and they have long, segmented bodies. They are often mistaken for bumblebees because they are so furry, but their shorter antennae and black coloring can identify them. Polyester bees use the abandoned burrows of other animals to lay eggs.
They do not live in hives like honeybees; their nests may have up to 500 cells holding one egg. The female lays an egg on the pollen it collects before sealing the cell off with a paper-like material mixed with wax from its abdomen.
The larvae emerge from the egg after about four weeks, and when it is fully grown, it chews its way out of the cell using strong mandibles to escape.
10. Masked Bees
Mason bees are one of the most popular types of bees in Massachusetts because they pollinate our orchards and gardens.
While other types may be more efficient at gathering nectar, mason bees are more efficient at pollinating flowers. They’re also easy to find – they’re often seen buzzing around porch lights at night.
Mason bees can be found throughout North America but are more common in the Eastern US. They range from dark brown to black with a glossy shine and a few orange hairs on their abdomen.
Their wings have a distinctive fringe that looks like an eyelash. They can be identified by their tendency to hover while looking for food, which is different than many other bee species that prefer to fly quickly over long distances
11. Cuckoo Bees
Cuckoo bees are unique because they don’t create their nests. They lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, like carpenter bees and leafcutter bees.
Once the cuckoo bee larva hatches, it takes over the host bee’s nest, eating all its food and often killing it.
The cuckoo bee will then spend the rest of its life making new cuckoo bees to replace itself. In turn, these cuckoo bees will repeat this process by laying their eggs in the nests of other species of bees.
So you might ask yourself why a cuckoo bee does this.
Cuckoos are not just birds that come into your garden; some species of cuckoos will lay an egg in another bird’s nest so that when the young hatch, they can take over that bird’s territory.
12. Mason Bees
Mason bees are the most common types of bees in Massachusetts and other parts of North America.
Mason bees may be a little less flashy than bumblebees, but they are no less important. Mason bees are essential as pollinators for plants and crops.
If you want to add some diversity to your garden, consider adding a few mason bee homes. They’re easy to make and can help boost your garden’s productivity!
All you need is a hole drilled in one end of a block of wood, some dirt, sawdust, or clay on the bottom (to provide insulation), and something for them to use as food.
A cupcake wrapper with sugar water works well. Finally, cover up their home with more sawdust or clay so that only their entrance is visible; this way, they’ll have time to come out before predators attack them.
13. Leaf Cutter Bees
Leaf-cutter bees are some of the fascinating members of the bee family. These types of bees in Massachusetts will cut leaves and carry them back to their nest to create a cozy home for themselves.
Leafcutter bees are pollinators, which means they help to produce fruits and vegetables that you might find at your local grocery store.
Leafcutter bees can be identified by their metallic green or blue coloration on the head, thorax, and abdomen.
They range from 0.3 inches (7 mm) to 0.6 inches (14 mm) long, with males slightly smaller than females on average.
14. Miner Bees
Miner bees are solitary bees. They make their nests by burrowing into the soil and lining it with waterproof material.
The female lays eggs one at a time on the food source, and when they hatch, they feed on pollen mixed with nectar that she gathers from flowers.
Miner bees are types of bees in Massachusetts found throughout North America and are common in parts of Canada.
It is most commonly found in sandy soils or near lakes or streams, with many flowering plants like goldenrod or asters.
One of its favorite foods is blueberry blossom nectar, which you can usually find around cultivated blueberry patches.
They have also been seen drinking sap from maple trees and will occasionally be seen pollinating apple trees as well.
15. Carder Bees
Carder bees are medium-sized, social bees that nest together in large numbers. They live throughout North America and are found in a variety of plants.
The word carder comes from the fact that they comb pollen off their abdomen to create a nest cell with the pollen ball attached.
The female carder bee will produce one egg for every pollen ball she makes, and when her offspring emerge from the cells, she will feed them until they can fend for themselves.
The carder bee is vital to agriculture because it pollinates many fruit trees and crops across the United States. It is also an excellent pollinator for blueberries, cranberries, and others.
If you’re a beekeeper or live near someone who is, it’s worth getting to know these 15 types of bees in Massachusetts that exist all around the Bay State.
In addition to honeybees and bumblebees, there are carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, miner bees, digger bees, and more.
They’re an integral part of our ecosystem and deserve our respect for their work helping pollinate plants that provide us with food.
So next time you see a bee buzzing past you or hear a bumblebee making its distinctive buzzy sound from the bushes nearby, say hello!