Collecting and identifying bees can be a fun and educational activity for all ages. It can also be an effective way to monitor ecological change and effects on bee diversity. Honey bees found in the United States (Apis mellifera) only represent one species out of over 3,500 US bee species.
Bees, which are in the superfamily Apoidea, come in an amazing diversity of size, shape, color, and surface textures. Collecting bees brings a greater appreciation and understanding for this important facet of nature to both the collector and audience the collection is shared with.
Resources available to help you develop a bee collection.
Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Beltsville, MD has several instructional videos on collecting bees. See his YouTube channel at: youtube.com/swdroege
- The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection is a down-loadable, .pdf. It is a compilation by many individuals in bee monitoring. Editing and several entries provided by Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Beltsville, MD.
To identify bees to genus or species, special ‘Keys’ are used. Keys can be thought of as a flow chart of characters found on a bee that eventually lead you to the species name. Probably the most up to date key to identify bees in the USA, particularly east of Mississippi river, is an interactive key at:
Help with identifying bees through photography in a public user website:
Videos on collecting insects
Characters used in Identifying Bees
- Special thanks to Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, for permission to include The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection on eXtension.org.
- Special thanks to the many individuals in bee monitoring who helped develop “The Very Handy Manual”.
- Bee photos by Michael Wilson, University of Tennessee