There are over 20,000 different species, or types, of bees, which are classified by characteristics such as how they build their hives, how they socialize, how they behave and what they look like. All of the types of bees belong to one of nine families, which can be found all around the world. They can also be divided into two main groups, which are social bees, who live in colonies, and solitary bees, who live alone.
Social bees live in colonies that can contain up to 80,000 bees with one or more queens. Of the social bees, the most familiar are honey bees, stingless bees and bumble bees. A majority of bees are solitary, but often these types of bees build their nests closely together. These bees contain no worker bees, and each female acts separately as a queen, building her own nest and laying eggs in it. Examples of solitary bees include carpenter, cuckoo, mason, leaf-cutting and miner bees.
Honey bees are the only types of bees that make honey and wax in enough quantities so that humans can harvest them. The honey and wax are used to build large hives that are comprised of many cells, and are used to raise and feed young bees. Like most bees, they use a venomous sting to protect their homes and defend themselves, and will die if they need to use the sting. An exception to this is the stingless bee, which uses its jaws to bite despite having a tiny sting. These bees live in tropical areas and are not found in the United States.
Bumblebees are larger types of bees and usually are mostly black, yellow and covered with fine hair. These bees do not die if they use their stinger and can sting repeatedly when defending themselves. The queen bumblebee is the only member of the colony that lives through the winter and starts a new colony in the springtime.
One of the major types of bees that are solitary is the carpenter bee, which builds its nest in dead wood, branches or bamboo. Female carpenter bees will burrow a tunnel that they seal off after laying an egg along with pollen and nectar. Another solitary bee is the cuckoo bee, which cannot provide food for its own young because it cannot collect pollen on its hind legs. Some cuckoo bees are known to lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees, which will hatch before the other bee and "steal" the food that was left for it.