Types of Bees Found in The UK

Types of Bees Found in The UK

Bees are the real stars of the UK's insect world. Over 250 diverse and fascinating species flit amongst our gardens, meadows, and woodlands, each playing a crucial role in keeping our environment vibrant and fruitful. But beyond the familiar black and yellow bumblebees, a hidden world of colorful characters awaits discovery.

In this article, we'll delve into the lives of these incredible pollinators, uncovering their unique appearances, captivating behaviors, and the vital contributions they make to our planet. So, buckle up and get ready to explore this buzzing diversity in the UK's ecosystem.


Towering above other bees with their fuzzy bodies, bumblebees are social butterflies, buzzing about in colonies of up to 200. From March to October, they tirelessly flit between gardens, parks, and meadows, their black and yellow (occasionally ginger and white) attire announcing their arrival. Here are some common bumblebees:


  • Early Bumblebee: One of the first bumblebees to appear, this small species has a black body with a yellow band on its thorax and a white tail. (February-April)
  • Red-tailed Bumblebees: Sporting black bodies and red tails, these frequent visitors nest in old burrows and adore wildflowers like deadnettles and sallow. (active March-November) 
  • Tree Bumblebees: Newcomers to the UK, these ginger-thoraxed bees with black abdomens and white tails prefer tree cavities or even bird boxes, and favor legume flowers like clover. (active March-July)
  • Common Carder Bees: From March to November, these fuzzy brown bumblebees, often likened to buzzing balls of fur, can be found nestled amongst clumps of tall grass. They have a particular fondness for flowers with long, tubular shapes, like foxgloves, where they readily dive in to collect pollen.
  • Brown-banded Carder Bee: Distinguished by a characteristic brown band around its abdomen, this large bumblebee often nests in compost heaps and favors open grassland flowers like clovers. (April-September) 
  • Shrill Carder Bee: True to its name, this bumblebee buzzes with a distinct high-pitched sound. Active from March to October, it has a black body with yellow bands and prefers thistles and other composite flowers.

Mason Bees

While bumblebees enjoy buzzing company, mason bees embrace the thrill of solo life. From March to September, these solitary superheroes dedicate themselves to raising the next generation, constructing mud or resin nurseries on sunny walls and sheltered spots. Meet some of these prominent architects:

  • Red Mason Bees: The vibrant red bodies and metallic blue heads of these early risers are hard to miss. They favor poppy patches for food and sunny walls for mud nests. (March-May)
  • Osmia Bicornis: Sporting a black body with two white facial spots, this bee constructs its mud nursery in sheltered crevices and favors early-blooming flowers like blackcurrants and willow. (March-May)



Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter bees' appearances are varied, but typically black and yellow with brownish wings and legs. True to their name, they cut neat leaf circles or chew them up to build their underground nests. Look for them buzzing around roses and other flowering shrubs, gathering pollen. (April-August)



Mining Bees

Living up to their industrious name, mining bees dig elaborate underground tunnels from March to September where they raise their young. Solitary like mason bees, their metallic green or blue bodies often zip around bare patches of soil near their preferred flower sources like dandelions and buttercups. Among these subterranean dwellers, we can find:

  • Andrena Fulva: This small, orange-and-black bee favors bare ground in sunny spots and enjoys feasting on dandelions and buttercups. (March-May)
  • Andrena Scottica: This chocolate-hued bee buzzes around coastal areas, gardens, and sandy banks, collecting pollen for its underground nest. It is often mistaken for its look-alike cousin, the honeybee, but sporting darker fur and a larger size. (March-June)
  • Andrena Nitida: Don't be fooled by the grey patches! This reddish-brown abdomen bee is a master of disguise, inhabiting gardens, coastal areas, and sandy banks. Look for it flitting between its burrow and early spring blooms. (February-April)



While not native to the UK, honeybees (Apis mellifera) have become a beloved part of our countryside. Easily recognizable with their black and gold stripes, they live in hives with a queen and thousands of worker bees. Their tireless foraging for nectar and pollen ensures the production of the sweet honey we all know and love. While their honey production is certainly a sweet benefit, their critical role in pollination extends far beyond the honey jar.


Unlike many solitary bee species, honeybees are social insects, living in colonies of up to 60,000 individuals. This complex social structure allows them to be highly efficient pollinators, visiting a vast array of flowers and transferring pollen between them. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating over one-third of the food we consume, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Unfortunately, honeybee populations have been declining globally in recent years, due to a variety of factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease. This decline poses a significant threat to our food security and ecosystem health.

Here's what you can do to help:

Support local beekeepers: Purchasing honey from local beekeepers ensures you're supporting ethical and sustainable beekeeping practices.

Plant bee-friendly flowers: Choose flowers that bloom throughout the season, providing a continuous source of nectar and pollen for bees.

Avoid using pesticides: Opt for natural pest control methods to protect bees and other beneficial insects.

Spread awareness: Educate others about the importance of bees and encourage them to take action.

By taking these steps, we can all play a role in protecting these vital pollinators and ensuring a buzzing future for both bees and our planet.

Other Notable Species

Carpenter Bees: Carpenter bees are large, black bees with a shiny thorax. They are solitary bees that nest in wood. Carpenter bees are active from April to September, and they can be seen foraging on a wide variety of flowers.

Hairy-footed Flower Bees: Often mistaken for a bumblebee, this solitary bee has black and yellow bands and loves dandelions and other open flowers. (March-September)

Ivy Bees: Active late in the season, this small, black bee with orange legs is vital for pollinating ivy, a crucial food source for birds. (September-October)

Sweat Bees: Sweat bees offer a fascinating example of animal behavior. Their name stems from their unique attraction to human sweat, which they collect with specially adapted mouthparts. Their small size can make them difficult to spot, and while they rarely sting, it's best to avoid disturbing them while feeding. Researchers are still exploring the exact reasons behind this unusual behavior, adding to the intrigue of these little creatures.


These are just a glimpse into the vibrant bee world of the UK. While identifying them can be tricky, appreciating their presence is simple. By planting bee-friendly flowers like lavender and borage, avoiding harmful pesticides, and providing nesting sites like bee hotels, we can all become champions for these vital pollinators.

Remember, every bee, from the social bumblebee to the solitary miner, plays a critical role in the delicate dance of our ecosystem. Let's protect their buzz and ensure a vibrant future for both bees and our planet.


Woodland Trust. TYPES OF BEE IN THE UK: HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE. Retrieved from https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2023/07/types-of-bee-in-the-uk/

Bee Life. Different Types of Bees in The UK. Retrieved from https://www.beelife.org/

Friends of the Earth. Bee Identification Guide. Retrieved from https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/bee-identification-guide

Berkshire Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.  Different kinds of bees. Retrieved from https://www.bbowt.org.uk/different-kinds-bees

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