There are thousands of types of bees in England, two of which build and live in nests. The honey bee (apis mellifera), bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius) build large nests whereas the solitary bees, although often living in close proximity, do not build a communal nest.
A typical honey bee colony is made up of one queen, thousands of workers, and a few hundred drones. A colony of honey bees can number up to 80,000, all the residents having defined duties. The queen lays the eggs. The workers, which live only a short time, perform different tasks. In the first phase of their life they keep the nest clean, and subsequently feed and help rear the young grubs. They are also kept busy building the regular hexagonal cells of the comb from wax produced by their wax glands; they also concentrate nectar and fill the cells with pollen. When they have completed these tasks they act for a short time as guards. The last phase of their life is spent collecting pollen and nectar. The hive only contains males (drones) in spring and early summer, their sole function being to fertilise the new queens. The queen measures 16-20mm. The workers 12-15mm and the males 14-18mm. The honey bees body is golden brown and black in colour with pale orange/yellow rings on the abdomen.
Swarming bees may cause a serious health risk when present in large numbers. Where honey bees do become a problem our advice is consult a beekeeper first to see if they can offer an alternative to destroying the nest.
The bumble bee nest survives for just one season, after which the bees will find shelter for the winter. A new nest is started in the spring. In spring the queen awakes from hibernation and goes in search of a nest site, once a suitable location has been found she will line the existing cavity with dry grass or moss. She then starts to collect pollen and nectar to produce “beebread” which she stores to feed to her young. The queen will then produce her first brood of around 15-20 in number, these being workers (female). Once reared they will then take on the duties of collecting food, rearing the young and enlarging the nest. The queen will continue to lay eggs throughout the summer. The actual adult size of each bee is dependent on the amount of food available during the larval stage (This being the reason why bumble bees seem to get bigger as the summer progresses.) In late summer, reproductive males and females are reared, once mating has occurred the males die along with the workers of the colony. only the new fertilised queens survive, hibernating through winter in dry sheltered location.
The location of the nest site can cause problems.
There are several hundred species of different solitary bees, these all play an important role as pollinators. Most of them look very similar in appearance and are not easy to identify. Solitary bees live alone. But sometimes thousands of solitary bees gather in a small area and build their nests together. There are no workers among solitary bees.