Identify Bees

Ever wondered “What bee is that?” This Bee ID Guide promises to help you identify bees and deepen your appreciation for the various species that grace our gardens, parks and wild places. Let’s dive in and explore these creatures that make our world a more vibrant place.

Early Bumblebee
Early Bumblebee” by orangeaurochs is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Bombus Pratorum

The Early Bumblebee

A small (one of the smallest) bumblebee that can be found all across the UK and is one of the first bees to come out of hibernation.

Bombus Lucorum

White-Tailed Bee

The white-tailed bee, also known as the buff-tailed bumblebee is a common species found throughout Europe and parts of Asia.

White-tailed bumblebee” by Falk Zscheile is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Bombus Hortorum

Garden Bumblebee

The garden bumblebee is a medium-sized bumblebee commonly found in gardens and parks across Europe. Its distinctive black and yellow colouration makes it easily recognisable.

Bombus Hypnorum

Tree Bumblebee

The tree bumblebee (Bombus Hypnorum) is a relatively new species to the UK, first recorded in 2001. It’s known for nesting in tree cavities and is a valuable pollinator.

Bombus Jonellus

Heath Bumblebee

The heath bumblebee is a small bumblebee species found in heathland and moorland habitats across Europe. Its colouration varies between populations.

Bombus Lapidarius

Red-Tailed Bumblebee

The red-tailed bumblebee is a common and widespread bumblebee species found throughout Europe. Its distinctive red tail makes it easily recognizable.

Bombus Rupestris

Red-Tailed Cuckoo bee

The Red-Tailed Cuckoo Bee is a social parasite of the buff-tailed bumblebee. It lays its eggs in the nest of the host species and relies on the workers to raise its young.

Bombus Ruderarius

Red-shanked carder bee

The Red-shanked carder bee is a declining bumblebee species found in grasslands and heathlands. Its distinctive red legs make it easy to identify.

Bombus Pascuorum

Common Carder bee

The Common carder bee (Bombus Pascuorum) is a widespread bumblebee species found in a variety of habitats across Europe. It has a fuzzy ginger-brown appearance.

Bombus Muscorum

Moss carder bee

The moss carder bee is a small bumblebee species found in upland areas of Europe. It has a distinctive yellow collar and is an important pollinator of heather.

Bombus Humilis

Brown-Banded Carder bee

The brown-banded carder bee is a declining bumblebee species found in grasslands and heathlands. It has distinctive banding on the thorax that makes it easy to identify.

Bombus Sylvarum

Shrill carder bee

The shrill carder bee is a rare bumblebee species found in grasslands and meadows. Its high-pitched buzz is distinctive, and it’s considered endangered in the UK.

Shrill Carder Bee” by Michael Knapp is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Apis Mellifera

Honey bee (European)

The Apis Mellifera, also known as the Western honeybee, is a highly valued species for its role in pollination and honey production. It’s the most widely managed bee species in the world.

Melecta Albifrons

Mourning bee

Melecta Albifrons is a cuckoo bee species that parasitizes the nests of mining bees (Andrena). It is found in Europe and is easily recognizable by its black-and-white colouration.

Mourning Bee” by alanshearman001 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Anthophora Plumipes

Hairy-Footed Flower Bee

The Hairy-Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora Plumipes) is a solitary bee species found in gardens and urban areas. It has distinctive long hairs on its legs and is an important pollinator.


Leaf-Cutter bee

The Leaf-Cutter Bee is a solitary bee species that uses pieces of leaves to construct its nests. It’s an important pollinator for many flowering plants.

Leaf-cutter Bee” by Ranger Robb is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.
Small Scissor Bee” by Paul Prior is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Chelostoma Campanularum

Small Scissor bee

The Small Scissor Bee (Chelostoma Campanularum) is a solitary bee species found in gardens and woodlands. It uses its scissor-like jaws to cut plant leaves for nest building.

Andrena Fulva

Tawny Mining Bee

The Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) is a solitary bee species found in gardens and parks. It nests in underground burrows and is an important early spring pollinator.

Andrena Cineraria

Ashy Mining bee

The Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena Cineraria) is a solitary bee species found in grasslands and woodlands. Its distinctive ashy grey colouration makes it easily recognizable.

Andrena Haemorrhoa

Orange-Tailed Mining bee

The Orange-Tailed Mining Bee is a solitary bee species found in a variety of habitats, including gardens and woodlands. Its bright orange tail makes it easy to identify.

Red Mason Bee
Red Mason Bee by Orangeaourochs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Osmia Bicornis

Red Mason Bee

The Red Mason Bee (Osmia Bicornis) is a solitary bee species found in gardens and orchards. It’s an efficient pollinator and often nests in hollow plant stems or holes in masonry.

Eucera Longicornis

Long-Horned bee

The Long-Horned Bee is a solitary bee species found in grasslands and woodlands. Its long antennae and hairy body makes it easily recognizable.

Long Horned Bee by Katja Schulz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bombus Fervidus

Golden Northern Bumble Bee

Two bumblebee species are referred to as the golden northern bumblebee or yellow bumblebee, namely the Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus Fervidus) and the Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus Distinguendus). Both species are native to North America.

Amegilla Cingulata

Blue-Banded Bee

The Blue-Banded Bee is a solitary bee species found in Australia. Its distinctive blue and black striped abdomen makes it easily recognizable. It’s an efficient pollinator of tomato plants.

Blue-Banded Bee” by Vengolis is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Potter Flower Bee
Photo by Charles J. Sharp is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Anthophora retusa

Potter Flower Bee

The Potter Flower Bee is one of the rarest bees in Britain.

What Bee Is That?

Have you ever paused during a garden stroll, captivated by the sound of a buzzing bee, and wondered, “What bee is that?” Well, you’re not alone. With a staggering 250+ bee species buzzing across our planet, even entomologists sometimes scratch their heads in puzzlement. Our Bee ID Guide is your passport to this buzzing world, a journey that transcends borders and connects us all through the shared wonder of these tiny winged marvels.

Identifying Bees

But why should we care about identifying bees? Because every bee, whether it’s the familiar honeybee or the elusive blue-banded bee, plays a pivotal role in our ecosystem. By understanding and recognizing them, we not only enrich our own experiences but also contribute to global efforts in bee conservation.

The Art and Importance of Identifying Bees

In the vast tapestry of nature, bees are the unsung heroes, the diligent workers that keep our world in balance. But why is it so crucial to distinguish between the myriad species of these buzzing wonders?

The Significance of Bee Identification

  1. Ecosystem Health: Each bee species has a unique role in pollination, ensuring the reproduction of specific plants. Recognizing different bees helps us understand the health and diversity of our local ecosystems.
  2. Conservation Efforts: By identifying bees, we can monitor species that might be at risk and take timely conservation actions.
  3. Agricultural Impact: Different bees pollinate different crops. Knowing which bees are present can aid in effective crop management and increased yields.
  4. Personal Enrichment: There’s a certain joy in understanding the world around us. Identifying bees deepens our connection to nature and heightens our appreciation for its intricacies.

Bee Identification Tips: Honeybee vs. Bumblebee

At first glance, honeybees and bumblebees might seem similar. But with a keen eye, you can spot the differences:

  1. Size and Shape: Bumblebees are generally larger and have a fuzzier appearance, while honeybees are more slender.
  2. Colour Patterns: Honeybees typically have a more consistent striped pattern of black and golden yellow. Bumblebees can have varied patterns, including bands of white, orange, or even red.
  3. Habitat: Honeybees live in large colonies, often in man-made hives. Bumblebees, on the other hand, might nest underground or in tufts of grass, and their colonies are smaller.
  4. Behaviour: Honeybees tend to be more methodical in their flight patterns, while bumblebees can appear more erratic and curious.

Additional Tips for Bee Identification

  1. Wing Shape: Some bee species have distinct wing shapes or patterns that can be a clue to their identity.
  2. Buzz Sound: Believe it or not, different bees can have slightly different buzzes! With practice, you can learn to recognize them.
  3. Time of Activity: Some bees are more active during specific times of the day or in certain seasons.

In conclusion, the act of identifying bees is more than just a hobby; it’s a step towards understanding, appreciating, and conserving our natural world. So, the next time you’re out in your garden or taking a nature walk, take a moment to observe these incredible creatures. And remember, every bee you identify is a nod to the intricate dance of nature and our role in preserving it.

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