Raising Domesticated Bees

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; the decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees. Honey from the hives may be harvested for consumption or sold as a fundraising opportunity.

Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimeters (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.

There are actually several hundred bee species that are native to Texas — species that were here long before the honeybee and that are essential to the state’s diverse native plant communities. Native bee pollination is critical to the maintenance of Texas diverse ecosystems. Many of the berries, nuts, and seeds consumed by birds, mammals, and other insects are the result of bee pollination of native woody and herbaceous plants.