Temporal range: Early Cretaceous – Present, 100–0 Ma
Tetragonula carbonaria (14521993792).jpg
The sugarbag bee, Tetragonula carbonaria
Scientific classification edit

Apiformes (from Latin 'apis')

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea and are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families.[1][2] They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.

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.

Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (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.

Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, through all phases of art and literature, from ancient times to the present day, though primarily focused in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common.


Melittosphex burmensis, a fossil bee preserved in amber from the Early Cretaceous of Myanmar

The ancestors of bees were wasps in the family Crabronidae, which were predators of other insects. The switch from insect prey to pollen may have resulted from the consumption of prey insects which were flower visitors and were partially covered with pollen when they were fed to the wasp larvae. This same evolutionary scenario may have occurred within the vespoid wasps, where the pollen wasps evolved from predatory ancestors. Until recently, the oldest non-compression bee fossil had been found in New Jersey amber, Cretotrigona prisca of Cretaceous age, a corbiculate bee.[3] A bee fossil from the early Cretaceous (~100 mya), Melittosphex burmensis, is considered "an extinct lineage of pollen-collecting Apoidea sister to the modern bees".[4] Derived features of its morphology (apomorphies) place it clearly within the bees, but it retains two unmodified ancestral traits (plesiomorphies) of the legs (two mid-tibial spurs, and a slender hind basitarsus), showing its transitional status.[4] By the Eocene (~45 mya) there was already considerable diversity among eusocial bee lineages.[5][a]

The highly eusocial corbiculate Apidae appeared roughly 87 Mya, and the Allodapini (within the Apidae) around 53 Mya.[8] The Colletidae appear as fossils only from the late Oligocene (~25 Mya) to early Miocene.[9] The Melittidae are known from Palaeomacropis eocenicus in the Early Eocene.[10] The Megachilidae are known from trace fossils (characteristic leaf cuttings) from the Middle Eocene.[11] The Andrenidae are known from the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, around 34 Mya, of the Florissant shale.[12] The Halictidae first appear in the Early Eocene[13] with species[14][15] found in amber. The Stenotritidae are known from fossil brood cells of Pleistocene age.[16]


Long-tongued bees and long-tubed flowers coevolved, like this Amegilla cingulata (Apidae) on Acanthus ilicifolius.

The earliest animal-pollinated flowers were shallow, cup-shaped blooms pollinated by insects such as beetles, so the syndrome of insect pollination was well established before the first appearance of bees. The novelty is that bees are specialized as pollination agents, with behavioral and physical modifications that specifically enhance pollination, and are the most efficient pollinating insects. In a process of coevolution, flowers developed floral rewards[17] such as nectar and longer tubes, and bees developed longer tongues to extract the nectar.[18] Bees also developed structures known as scopal hairs and pollen baskets to collect and carry pollen. The location and type differ among and between groups of bees. Most bees have scopal hairs located on their hind legs or on the underside of their abdomens, some bees in the family Apidae possess pollen baskets on their hind legs while very few species lack these entirely and instead collect pollen in their crops.[2] This drove the adaptive radiation of the angiosperms, and, in turn, the bees themselves.[6] Bees have not only coevolved with flowers but it is believed that some bees have coevolved with mites. Some bees provide tufts of hairs called acarinaria that appear to provide lodgings for mites; in return, it is believed that the mites eat fungi that attack pollen, so the relationship in this case may be mutualistc.[19][20]



This phylogenetic tree is based on Debevic et al, 2012, which used molecular phylogeny to demonstrate that the bees (Anthophila) arose from deep within the Crabronidae, which is therefore paraphyletic. The placement of the Heterogynaidae is uncertain.[21] The small subfamily Mellininae was not included in their analysis.


Ampulicidae (Cockroach wasps) Emerald Cockroach Wasp.JPG

Heterogynaidae (possible placement #1)

Sphecidae (sensu stricto) Sceliphron spirifex TZ edit1.jpg

Crabroninae (part of "Crabronidae") Ectemnius.lapidarius.-.lindsey.jpg

(rest of "Crabronidae")

Bembicini Bembix sp2.jpg

Nyssonini, Astatinae Astata boops a1.jpg

Heterogynaidae (possible placement #2)

Pemphredoninae, Philanthinae P. gibbosus57306787w.jpg

Anthophila (bees) Abeille butineuse et son pollen.JPG


This cladogram of the bee families is based on Hedtke et al., 2013, which places the former families Dasypodaidae and Meganomiidae as subfamilies inside the Melittidae.[22] English names, where available, are given in parentheses.

Anthophila (bees)

Melittidae (inc. Dasypodainae, Meganomiinae) at least 50 Mya Macropis sp 01.jpg

long-tongued bees

Apidae (social, inc. honeybees) ≈87 Mya Apis mellifera flying2.jpg

Megachilidae (mason, leafcutter bees) ≈50 Mya Leafcutter bee (Megachile sp.) collecting leaves (7519316920).jpg

short-tongued bees

Andrenidae (mining bees) ≈34 Mya Thomas Bresson - Hyménoptère sur une fleur de pissenlit (by).jpg

Halictidae (sweat bees) ≈50 Mya

Colletidae (plasterer bees) ≈25 Mya Colletes cunicularius m1.JPG

Stenotritidae (large Australian bees) ≈2 Mya Stenotritus pubescens, f, side, australia 2014-07-05-12.18.33 ZS PMax.jpg

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Bienen
አማርኛ: ንብ
Ænglisc: Bēo
العربية: نحل
aragonés: Anthophila
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܕܒܫܬܐ
armãneashti: Alghinâ
asturianu: Abeya
Atikamekw: Amo ka wapisitc
авар: На
Aymar aru: Wayrunq'u
azərbaycanca: Arı
تۆرکجه: آری
বাংলা: মৌমাছি
Bahasa Banjar: Wanyi
Bân-lâm-gú: Phang
Basa Banyumasan: Tawon
башҡортса: Бал ҡорттары
беларуская: Пчолы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Apiformes
български: Пчели
བོད་ཡིག: སྦྲང་མ།
bosanski: Pčela
brezhoneg: Gwenan
буряад: Зүгы
català: Antòfil
chiShona: Nyuchi
Cymraeg: Gwenynen
Deutsch: Bienen
Diné bizaad: Tsísʼná
Ελληνικά: Μέλισσα
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Ev
español: Anthophila
Esperanto: Abelo
euskara: Erle
فارسی: زنبور
Fiji Hindi: Madhmakkhi
français: Abeille
furlan: Âf
Gaeilge: Beach
Gàidhlig: Seillean
galego: Abella
ГӀалгӀай: Нокхармозий
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Phûng-é
хальмг: Зөг
한국어: 벌 (곤충)
հայերեն: Մեղուներ
hrvatski: Pčele
Ido: Abelo
Ilokano: Uyokan
Bahasa Indonesia: Lebah
íslenska: Býflugur
italiano: Anthophila
עברית: דבורים
Basa Jawa: Tawon
ქართული: ფუტკრები
कॉशुर / کٲشُر: تُلٕر
қазақша: Жабайы ара
Kiswahili: Nyuki
Kreyòl ayisyen: Abèy
kurdî: Mêşhingiv
Кыргызча: Аары
Latina: Anthophila
latviešu: Bites
lietuvių: Bitės
Lingua Franca Nova: Abea
Livvinkarjala: Mehiläine
македонски: Пчели
മലയാളം: അന്തോഫില
Malti: Naħla
مازِرونی: ماز
Bahasa Melayu: Lebah
монгол: Балт зөгий
Nederlands: Bijen
नेपाली: मौरी
日本語: ハナバチ
нохчийн: Накхармозий
norsk: Bier
norsk nynorsk: Bie
occitan: Abelha
олык марий: Мӱкш
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Asalari
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਭੌਰਾ
پنجابی: مکھی
Plattdüütsch: Immen
português: Abelha
Qaraqalpaqsha: Ha'rre
română: Albină
русский: Пчёлы
संस्कृतम्: मधुमक्षिका
Scots: Bee
shqip: Bleta
Simple English: Bee
سنڌي: مکا
slovenščina: Čebele
Soomaaliga: Shini
کوردی: ھەنگ
српски / srpski: Пчеле
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Pčela
Tagalog: Bubuyog
ไทย: ผึ้ง
тоҷикӣ: Занбӯр
Tsetsêhestâhese: Háhnoma
Türkçe: Arı
українська: Бджоли
اردو: مکھی
vepsän kel’: Mezjäižed
Tiếng Việt: Ong
Winaray: Buyog
吴语: 蜂族
ייִדיש: בין
粵語: 花蜂
中文: 蜂族