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Busy Bees in Kentucky

by Christy Rybka

As winter comes to an end and spring is on its way, it is almost time for the bees to return! 

Worldwide, there are over 20,000 species of bees and about 4,000 species of bees in the United States. In Kentucky, there are 200 species of bees! Some of the most common bees in Kentucky include Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, Carpenter Bees, Sweat Bees, Digger Bees, Miner Bees, Long-Horned Bees, Cuckoo Bees, and many others. 

Bumble Bees 

Bumble Bees can be easily identified by their round, fuzzy bodies with black and yellow stripes. Bumble Bees are social, which means that they live and work in colonies. Each Bumble Bee has pockets on its legs, called “corbiculae,” which help it carry pollen from one place to another. 

Carpenter Bees 

The Carpenter Bee can be identified by its large, shiny, black body. The Carpenter Bee prefers to nest in wood, and can often be found making its home in trees, logs, or other wooden structures. Although Carpenter Bees are friendly and do not sting, they can cause damage to wooden barns, sheds, or fences where they make their homes. Unlike Bumble Bees, Carpenter Bees are solitary and live and work alone. 

Sweat Bees 

The Sweat Bee, which can be identified by its small body, is named after its attraction to perspiration. Sweat Bees are attracted because of the salt content, which is needed for the bees to stay alive. Although Sweat Bees can sting, their sting is very mild and less painful than the sting of other bees. 

Digger Bees

Digger Bees, which live in the ground, are known for digging holes in the soil where they make their nests. Digger Bees can be identified by their large, fuzzy bodies that are brown or black in color. Although Digger Bees are solitary, they prefer to build their nests close to other Digger Bees, creating their own underground neighborhoods. 

Miner Bees 

Miner Bees are identified by their small, black bodies with yellow fur on the thorax, and are named after the way they “mine” through very dry soil to build tunnels underground! Although they are solitary, Miner Bees also live in close community with other Miner Bees. Female Miner Bees tend to live in their tunnels underground, while male Miner Bees often sleep in flowers.

Long-Horned Bees

Long-Horned Bees are named after the long antennae of the male and are identified by their tan, gray, or black fuzzy bodies. These bees prefer to live in grasslands, wildflower fields, or thickets. In Kentucky, there are over 30 species of Long-Horned Bees! 

Cuckoo Bees 

Cuckoo Bees can be black, white, red, or blue in color, and are often confused with wasps due to similar appearances. These bees are parasitic because they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, who rear the Cuckoo Bees’ offspring.  

If you are interested in learning more about Kentucky bees and how to support our native pollinators this spring, visit one of our naturalists at the Nature Center to learn more. In the summer, you will be able to view the inner workings of a beehive.   

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