Honeybees aren’t the only bees in North Carolina; there are more than 700 species of native bees in the Tar Heel State.
That’s why it’s important to know what type of bee you’re dealing with when you see one, whether it’s an isolated sighting or you have an entire bee colony living under your floorboards!
Here are 15 of the most common types of bees in North Carolina so you can recognize them and make sure your encounters with these pollinators are positive!
Bumblebees, native to the Western Hemisphere, are some of the most common types of bees in North Carolina.
They are known for their ability to pollinate crops. Bumblebees’ buzzing sound differs from other types of bees; it has a lower frequency and a higher volume.
Bumblebees visit flowers on a warm day, and they often feed at night as well. Females can sting, but males can’t because they don’t have an abdominal stinger.
While bumblebees are rare than honeybees, their population is still increasing due to their ability to survive cold temperatures and their importance as crop pollinators.
2. European (Western) Honey Bees
European (Western) Honey Bees are the most well-known type of bee in North Carolina. They are social insects, meaning they live together in a colony, with their queen and worker bees doing all the work to produce honey and other products.
European (Western) Honey Bees pollinate many different crops, including almonds, apples, onions, blueberries, and cranberries.
The honey they produce is light brown to golden color with a sweet flavor that is usually reasonably runny due to the high level of water content.
3. Large Carpenter Bees
Giant Carpenter Bees are one of the most prevalent types of bees in North Carolina. The carpenter bee is also known as a wood or long-horned bee and is found throughout the United States. These giant, hairy bees drill holes into wood to lay their eggs.
Unlike other types of bees, they cannot sting humans and instead use their large mandibles to chew through wood and create nesting tunnels for themselves.
They can be identified by their black abdomens with yellow stripes and yellow thoraxes with brown stripes.
These bees make loud buzzing noises while they fly around looking for food sources such as pollen, nectar, water, and tree sap from coniferous trees.
4. Small Carpenter Bees
One type of bee that lives in North Carolina is the small carpenter bee. These types of bees in North Carolina are active from May to October and are typically found on the ground or in tree trunks. They are not aggressive, but they might buzz at you if you get too close.
They will use their mandibles to chew on wood and drink water droplets from leaves. They also eat pollen, nectar, and honeydew (a sugar-rich substance produced by aphids).
These bees can be distinguished by their black head and orange abdomen with white stripes running down them.
Carpenter bees have a wide variety of other uses besides being pollinators. For instance, some people train them to help construct homes to prevent these homes from being infested with termites.
5. Long-Horned Bees
Long-Horned Bees (also called solitary bees) are named for their long antennae and use them to feel their way around.
Unlike bumblebees and honeybees, they don’t produce honey or pollen but lay their eggs inside the stems of flowers.
These types of bees in North Carolina behavior are actually what cause many plants to bloom. Without pollination from Long-Horned Bees, they would fail to reproduce and eventually die out.
But because they don’t produce honey or pollen, these bees are at a greater risk than other species. They’re often killed as pests by farmers trying to protect their crops.
And while they’re not aggressive like hornets, if threatened, they will sting, making them unpleasant to deal with.
The good news is that there’s a lot we can do to help save these bees. Encourage natural landscaping with native plants; avoid using pesticides, and never swat one if you see it flying near you.
6. Sweat Bees
Sweat bees are bee-like insects that feed on animal sweat and oils. They are usually less than 1 cm long and can be found near human habitation.
Sweat bees are often mistaken for yellow jackets because they have a similar appearance, but you can tell them apart by how they fly.
In contrast to yellow jackets, sweat bees fly more slowly and do not hover over food. They also do not attack other insects or animals, nor humans.
There are 15 types of bees in North Carolina, including bumblebees, honeybees, carpenter bees, and sweat bees.
7. Squash Bees
Squash Bees are a type of bee that grow to be around 1⁄2 inch long and have a yellow-orange band on their abdomen. They live near squash and cucumbers, which is how they got their name.
These types of bees in North Carolina are solitary, meaning that they don’t live in colonies like other types of bees do.
Squash Bees pollinate plants by carrying pollen from one plant to another. They also produce honey as food for themselves and to store for winter months. Squash Bees can be found living throughout the entire state of North Carolina.
You will only find them at higher elevations during the late spring and summer months when they go up north to look for plants with flowers.
Since there isn’t much rain or cool temperatures during those times, there are fewer flowers for them to eat and drink nectar from, forcing them into the mountains where flowers grow year-round.
8. Digger Bees
Digger Bees are one of the most common types of bees in North Carolina. They are often called mason bees because they make their homes underground by digging into a sandy bank, creating a tunnel about 12 inches deep and about 3 inches wide.
Then, they line the tunnel with female flowers (mostly bee balm and clover) to attract males to mate with them.
The males then carry pollen from other plants back to their new home, where females will lay eggs on top of the flowers collected from their tunnel.
This is all done so the female can ensure that her offspring will have food available when it hatches, which does not happen if she lays her eggs elsewhere.
9. Polyester Bees
Polyester Bees, one of the 15 types of bees in North Carolina, are often found near water sources and are typically seen flying during the late summer months.
These bees are most commonly known for their striped abdomen and unusual nesting habits. They usually place their nests on anything from tree branches to tires near water.
Surprisingly, these bees do not produce honey or other products that people would find valuable, but they are still beneficial because they eat a lot of insects that can be harmful to humans and crops.
10. Masked Bees
The Masked Bee is a solitary, ground-nesting bee. They build their nests in the ground or under rocks and are active during the day, making them easier to see. They eat pollen and nectar from flowers and produce honeydew consumed by other animals.
They can be found across most regions of North Carolina except for the mountains. Males are often seen at flowers seeking out females, while females have been observed carrying nesting materials to their nest site.
Nests are made up of chewed-up bark pieces that they use as a building material.
Females live on average three weeks after emerging as adults before she dies and makes room for another female.
Males do not live long once they emerge as adults because they die soon after mating with the female bees.
11. Cuckoo Bees
Cuckoo bees are so named because they parasitize the nests of other bees. These types of bees in North Carolina solitary wasps lay their eggs in the nest cells or brood cells where other species have stored pollen to feed their young.
Once hatched, cuckoo bee grubs eat pollen and other food, eventually killing the host larva.
Cuckoo bees are also called parasitoid wasps. The most common type is the black-chinned cuckoo bee, but there are more than fifty types of cuckoos found around the world.
12. Mason Bees
Mason Bees are a type of bee that can be found all over the world. They’re named as such because they build their nests out of mud and plant resins, like sap. They do not have a stinger, so they can’t hurt you.
If you happen to find one on your hand, it might try to sting you, but it won’t be able to penetrate your skin. It’s very docile and will fly away when you move your hand away from its nest or hive.
The mason bee is exceptionally social; it prefers to nest close to other females. These types of bees in North Carolina live throughout the U.S., which includes the southeast region, including Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.
13. Leaf Cutter Bees
Leaf Cutter Bees are named for their ability to cut leaves with their mandibles and use the leaf bits to make a nest.
These types of bees in North Carolina are usually found underground, which is not necessarily the preferred nesting site for many other types of bees.
However, Leaf Cutters are excellent pollinators because they visit flowers on many different types of plants.
Additionally, these bees have been observed carrying pollen or nectar on their hind legs. Leaf Cutter Bees may also be called by their scientific name Megachile Williston or Megachile rotundata.
14. Miner Bees
Miner bees are the most common types of bees in North Carolina. They’re smaller, dark brown bees often mistaken for a bumblebee. Miner bees nest underground and feed on pollen and nectar from flowers.
They are one of the first types of bees in North Carolina to be seen each year as they come out in early spring to pollinate trees, gardens, and crops.
The exciting thing about these bees is their ability to carry nectar and pollen on their bodies simultaneously without getting confused about what’s been collected.
They tend to work later into the evening than other types of bees, so it’s easy to spot them working in fields or garden beds during dusk or dawn hours.
Miner bees can also produce honey but not nearly as much as honeybees.
15. Carder Bees
Carder Bees have a large head that is black and shiny. These types of bees in North Carolina are often mistaken for bumblebees, but bumblebees have furry thoraces and abdomens. The carder bee’s thorax is smooth, and its legs are long, giving it an elongated shape.
The carder bee can be found on milkweed, goldenrod, and aster flowers. They will sometimes visit other plants, such as soybean or plum trees, if the flower blooming season overlaps with their schedule.
Carder bees will use their mandibles to chew at the petals to get pollen out of them and carry it back to their nest or hive.
Did you know there are over 1,000 bee species? Even though honeybees are the most common type, other types, like mason bees and leafcutter bees, can be found in North Carolina.
Knowing about all these different types of bees in North Carolina is important because they give us a better understanding of how we can protect them from dying.
The next time you see a bee, take some time to admire its beauty and wonder how this tiny creature has such a significant impact on our planet!