Honey Bee

  • Honey bees have a warm amber-brown color to their body.
  • They have a striped abdomen and fewer hairs on their abdomens compared to bumble bees.
  • If you look closely, you will see that honey bees have a more heart-shaped face compared to other bees.
  • Females carry pollen in tight balls on their hind legs.

Family: Apidae

The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) is not native to Wisconsin and typically requires human managed hives to survive in our state. Nonetheless because of the abundance of beekeepers’ hives in Wisconsin, you can find honey bees foraging nearly everywhere.

This is the only bee species in Wisconsin that produces honey, but these industrious bees are also valued for the important pollination services they provide for our fruit and vegetable crops.

Where they carry pollen

Bumble bees and honey bees carry pollen in tight pollen sacs (corbiculae) on their legs. If you’re wondering how to categorize the bee that you are observing, look at how it’s carrying pollen on its body. The honey bee in this photo has a white pollen basket on its leg, because the pollen it collected was from a species of flower that produces white pollen rather than yellow pollen.

Honey producers

In the United States, many growers rent honey bees hives from beekeepers each year to help pollinate their crops, with the resulting honey a less important outcome than the pollination service the bees provide for the farm. There are only a handful of bee species in the entire world that produce honey, and in Wisconsin, only one species – the European honey bee – produces honey.

Watch this 4 min Deep Look video presented by PBS Digital Studios to observe European honey bees foraging for pollen and nectar, pollinating crop flowers, and creating honey back at the hive.