Bees are insects belonging to the order Hymenoptera. This order also includes, among others, hornets, ants and wasps, which are often confused with bees. Bees are either domestic or wild.

Domestic or wild?

Domestic bees, also called honeybees, are part of the apidae family. Apidae are social bees that also include bumblebees. Social bees live in colonies. Honeybees are social bees that man has been able to "tame" and breed to produce honey.
There are two types of wild bees: solitary bees, which live alone, and social bees that live in small colonies. Vast majority of the bee species are wild, and generally of the solitary kind (about two thirds). In this case, each female bee makes its own nest, deposits a single egg and feeds a single larva. Wild social bees form small colonies. There are about thirty species in Belgium (bumblebees).
Bees feed on nectar collected from flowers, from where they also collect pollen for their larvae. Some species may forage many varieties of plants, while others are more specialists, they can forage only a single species.

Bees around the world

Worldwide, more than 20,000 species of bees pollinate 80% of the flowering plants. It is estimated that only 30 species are used by humans for the production of honey.

Bees used for beekeeping are domestic honey bees, Apis mellifera. Other species of bees, this time wild ones, also produce honey directly harvested in the natural environment by "honey hunters". This is especially true of Asia, where forest honey is harvested.

Bees in Belgium

Belgium has 370 known species of bees, of which only one is raised by beekeepers. The other 369 species are wild and live in nature usually as solitary bees.

For more information

• UG, Laboratory of Zoophysiology
• Koninklijke Vlaamse Imkersbond vzw (Royal Flemish Beekeepers Association)
• Aculea, Wilde bijen en wespen, Natuurpunt
• Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC)
• FSAGX, Functional and Evolutionary Entomology Unit
• Umons, Atlas Hymenoptera, Laboratory of Zoology
• ULB biological evolution and ecology
• Apis Bruoc Sella, Brussels-based association for environmental education and awareness of urban nature.
• Centre apicole de recherché et d’information (CARI) (Beekeeping Centre for Research and Information)
• L'Union des Fédérations d'Apiculture de Wallonie et Bruxelles (The Union of Beekeeping Federations of Wallonia and Brussels)