Bees are flying insects closely related to ants and wasps and they are always associated with honey and hives. However, there are only a very few species of bee that actually produce honey. These bees are called honey bees and along with the bumblebees they are the most well-known of bees. Honeybees and bumblebees are social insects because they live in colonies.
There are close to 20,000 species of bee in the world and the vast majority of them are not in fact social bees, but solitary bees. Solitary bees such as ‘mining bees’, ‘carpenter bees’ and ‘leaf cutter bees’ build nests too but each female constructs an individual cell for herself and provides for the young on her own.
Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and they have developed a long and complex organ called a 'proboscis' which they use to obtain nectar from flowers. Some bees also gather pollen from flowers to use as a protein food. In their search for nectar and pollen, bees pollinate plants allowing plants to develop fruit and vegetables which are very useful to mankind. It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of this accomplished by bees.
In England we have one honey bee, 17 species of bumblebees (6 of which are fairly common) and over 200 species of solitary bees.