Social bees

Like the social wasps, social bees live together in colonies, with a distinct reproductive female (the queen) and many sterile females (workers). They are also able to defend their nests. Some, like many bumblebees, are not very defensive and will only sting if the nest is actually excavated or severely provoked. The stingless bees are unable to sting people, but some species can attack by biting and spraying chemicals, causing various degrees of damage. The honeybees, on the other hand, are capable of attacking in swarms if their nests are disturbed, although different geographical races exhibit different levels of aggression. For instance, the infamous killer bees (a hybrid of aggressive African bees and Brazilian bees which have spread into the USA) readily attack and will pursue for miles (it is not that their venom is worse than other honeybees, but they attack and sting in far greater numbers, with sometimes fatal results). However, the gentler forms of the domesticated European honeybee Apis mellifera and the dwarf species such as Apis florea are quite docile. Another extremely aggressive species is Apis dorsata, the giant honeybee of Southeast Asia. However, they are not likely to come into contact with people in urban areas, since they nest high in trees.

Unlike the wasps, bees are completely herbivorous. Adult bees need only nectar to survive, while the larvae are fed on a mix of nectar and pollen collected by the female. In addition, social species produce honey, which is essentially a mixture of nectar mixed with enzymes from the bees, thickened through allowing the water content in the nectar to evaporate. Although the honeybees are best known for this, stingless bees also make honey.

Like all other bees, social species have a "pollen basket" or "pollen brush" (long hairs intended to trap and collect pollen) on their bodies, on which they accumulate pollen from every flower they visit. The location of this on a social bee is almost always on the hind legs.

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