Summarized guide by apicologists on bees you will run into this summer

Summarized guide by apicologists on bees you will run into this summer

Gabriella Gallardo

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Summary: Brief guide to bees you’ll run into in the park, backyard, garden areas, etc. Which to stay clear away from and which to not worry about.


This month is the time where many insects come out from their hibernation. And it is always the black and yellow insect we fear most. If you’re ready to stop being a buzzkill, this guide should help you understand them:  




Large, fuzzy insects with short, stubby wings that are covered in oil make them waterproof. They are larger than honeybees, but they don’t produce as much honey. Many bumblebees are listed as endangered, vulnerable or near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource’s Red List of Threatened Species.  Bumblebees rarely sting when first encountered, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be provoked into stinging.




2.Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but the abdomen (rear end) is black and shiny and does not have the extensive yellow hairs found on bumblebees.  Male carpenter bees are completely harmless and have some white on their heads. Only female carpenter bees, which have pure black heads, may sting you.  However, carpenter bees only sting when provoked.






3.Plasterer Bees

Copyright © 2006 Ron Hemberger

They colonize areas where the ground cover is naturally thin. If there are swarms of small hairy bees constructing or emerging from the soil of your garden, resist the urge to treat them with insecticides. Plasterer bees are the most docile and extremely reluctant to sting compared to other bees.





4.Mason Bees

Mason bees do not make honey. They eat pollen and nectar throughout their lives as they forage. 

Mason bees are excellent pollinators and are 120 times more effective than honey bees or bumblebees. They are the type of bee most commonly used for beekeeping. Female mason bees have stingers, but they will only sting if they get trapped or squeezed — the sting is more akin to a mosquito bite than the typical bee sting. Male mason bees don’t have stingers and because all of the females are fertile, they’re not aggressive. 


5.Leafcutter bees

These bees do not build colonies or store honey, but they are very efficient pollinators of alfalfa, carrots, other vegetables and some fruits. The female leafcutter bees do all of the work when it comes to rearing the young. They are not aggressive bees and do not sting unless handled. Even then their sting is mild and far less painful than a honeybee sting or wasp bite.




6.Mining bees

Photo credits: Steven Falk

They are often mistaken for bumblebees because mining bees are also black and yellow summertime bees. They are friendly, non-aggressive and typically do not sting or bite. Despite their small stature, mining bees are very important to flower pollination. Miner bees are solitary, ground-nesting bees that like to establish their home in well-drained soils, like clay, banks, hills and road cut-outs. They have also been found burrowing between stones of old buildings and between logs in cabins or barns.



7.Honey Bees

Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Most commonly known for honey in grocery stores. 

They are most commonly aggressive even if they aren’t provoked but their attitude depends on the queen. 

The members of the hive are divided into three types:

Queen: One queen runs the whole hive, lays the eggs and produces chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.

Workers: These are all female, and their roles are to forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, and clean and circulate air by beating their wings. Workers are the only bees most people ever see flying around outside the hive.

Drones: These are the male bees, and their purpose is to mate with the new queen. Several hundred live in each hive during the spring and summer. But come winter, when the hive goes into survival mode, the drones are kicked out!


There are in total 20,000 known bee species in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States.

Before calling an exterminator consider beekeeping as a hobby using different hives such as langsworth hive, warre and top bar hives.


Mike Bock, adjunct horticulture professor, said bees are important parts of the local ecosystem.

“Bees are critical to our world, and they’re under increased pressure from disease, parasites and environmental issues,” Bock said. “Good pollination not only leads to better cropping, and that’s feeding not just people, but especially many animals, birds and insects rely on wildflowers. Beekeeping is a hobby that can give stress relief. Sign up for our introduction to beekeeping class here at the College of DuPage.”


Learn more about HORT 2306, Introduction to Beekeeping