For many, a bee is just the honey bee, which is just one species of more than 20,000 recorded bee species.
Bees are closely related to wasps and ants and are important pollinators. They evolved from wasps which are predatory insects and can nowadays be found wherever insect-pollinating flowers manage to live.
Insect-pollinated flowers, before the appearance of bees, were pollinated by other insects such as beetles, flies and butterflies. The appearance of bees probably led to a greater diversity of flowering plants.
Bees became specialised nectar and pollen feeders which put them at an advantage over other insects. Nectar is the source of energy which allows these insects to fly tirelessly in search of flowers and nectars provides the proteins for the growing larvae.
More than sixty species of bee have been recorded in the Maltese islands and more are likely to be found as this group of insects has not been thoroughly.
Some bees live in colonies while others are solitary. Bee communities may semisocial. These consist of colonies of sisters living together in which there is division of labour.
More advanced communities are called eusocial. These are more complex organisations consisting of a queen bee, female workers and male drones.
Solitary bees do not live in colonies although in some species the individual nests are built close to each other giving the impression of a colony. The largest of the solitary bees is the large carpenter bee which is known in Maltese as bomblu iswed.
The bumble bee, known in Maltese as bomblu, is a social bee of great benefit to humans because of its pollinating activities.
A close look at indigenous flowers including species which flower during the summer months such as the pennyroyal (plejju), fennel (busbies), caper (kappar) and squirting cucumber (faqqus il-ħmir) can lead to the discovery of the interesting world of bees.
This article was published in The Times on 13.06.2012