European Honey Bee

The vast majority of European honey-bees that are seen are the sterile, female workers, which are usually between 10-15mm long. They are much narrower than bumblebees and are more similar in shape to the European wasp, although they do not have such a defined waist. They have a black head and a body which is golden brown and black. The tail end (abdomen) is characterised by yellow and brown stripes. All four wings are clear. They are covered in short hairs – particularly noticeable on the head and front-end (thorax), although they are much less ‘furry’ than bumblebees. A particularly characteristic trait is the pollen basket on their hind legs, which when full, stands out as a large yellow or orange protrusion.

Scientific name

Apis mellifera

Did you know..

Honey bees have a remarkable sense of smell that allows them to identify different varieties of flower and whether they offer pollen or nectar from meters away. Their exceptional olfactory abilities also allow recognition of their hive members and communication within the hive.

Similar species

A number of hoverflies and other fly species can look similar, including Eristalis tenax (a drone fly). Distinguishing features of the honey bee are the short hairs visible on the front end, four wings (although these are usually very difficult to see clearly) and the pollen baskets on the hind legs.

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