What Is A Bee?

Is a bee an insect or bug? Are bees animals and are they mammals?

4th March 2020

Is a bee an insect? ....and similar questions.

Above: a bumble bee on hemp agrimony.Is a bee an insect? ....and similar questions. Above: a bumble bee on hemp agrimony.

What is a bee?  Are bees insects and are they bugs or a type of fly or even wasp?  Are bees animals and if so, are they mammals?  Are bees invertebrates?

These are all valid questions.  The short answers are as follows:

Q. Is a bee an animal?
A. Yes, bees are part of the Animal Kingdom along with other invertebrates and vertebrates.

Q. Are bees mammals?
A. No. Despite having hair, bees are cold-blooded invertebrates.  Mammals are always warm-blooded vertebrates.

Q. Is a bee an insect?
A. Yes.

Q. Is a bee a bug, fly or wasp?
A. No, although both bees and bugs are insects, bugs, true flies, wasps and bees share a number of different physical characteristics, although wasps are very closely related to bees.

Q. Are bees invertebrates? 
A. Yes, bees have no internal backbone and so are invertebrates (members of the animal kingdom that have no backbone).

Read on for a more detailed explanation:

Is a bee an animal?  If so, are bees also mammals?

Ashy mining bee foraging on dandelion.Ashy mining bee foraging on dandelion.


Yes, bees are animals in that bees, like all invertebrates, are part of the Animal Kingdom. 

To explain further, all living things are classified into groups based on shared characteristics, which are then subdivided multiple times into even smaller groups based on even more features that they share in common.  

In this way, living organisms from bacteria and fungi to plants and trees, insects, fish, birds, large and small animals are put into yet smaller clusters with individual species that are increasingly similar in the physical features they share. 

The first (or top) layer of groups are called ‘kingdoms’ and all living things are further classified from these.   As well as kingdoms for plants, bacteria and fungi, we have the Animal Kingdom, which includes vertebrates and invertebrates.

Are bees mammals?

Although bees have hairs on their bodies as mammals do, and are part of the animal kingdom, bees are not mammals. 

Mammals are warm-blooded vertebrates with mammary glands for feeding milk to their young.  Bees are cold-blooded invertebrates and provision their larvae with food  - usually a combination of nectar and pollen.

Is A Bee An Insect?

Yes a bee is an insect.
An insect is an invertebrate (animal without an internal  backbone), and insects have:

  • a body in 3 parts: head, thorax and abdomen.  
  • a pair of antennae, 
  • 3 pairs of jointed legs and 
  • compound eyes. 

A bee has all of these features, and is an insect.  You can contrast this with say, a spider, which is not an insect but an arachnid, having 8 legs (4 pairs), no antennae, and 2 body parts (a head and thorax which are merged into one body part,  and the abdomen).

Is a bee a bug?

Bees belong to the same insect order as wasps, hornets, sawflies and ants - i.e. Hymenoptera.Bees belong to the same insect order as wasps, hornets, sawflies and ants - i.e. Hymenoptera.

Although a bee is an insect, it is not a bug.  Bugs are types of insects, that have piercing mouth parts for sucking juices either from other insects, animals or plants.  Bugs belong to the insect order Hemiptera, whereas bees belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. Bees share this insect classification with wasps, ants, hornets and sawflies.

It's worth noting that whilst all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs.

Is a bee a type of fly?

A Conopid fly which is a parasite of bees.A Conopid fly which is a parasite of bees.

No, although bees and flies are insects, flies belong to the insect order Diptera

Flies have 1 pair of wings (bees have 2). Their mouth parts are for piercing or sucking.  As explained above, bees belong in the insect order Hymenoptera.

Above is a photograph of a conopid fly which is a parasite of bees.  In flies, the eyes are typically at the front of the head and are forward-facing.  It has one pair of wings and short antennae.  

Some flies look a little like bees, as is the case of the bee fly.  Learn more about the bee fly.

This insect may look like a bee, but it's actually a type of fly.This insect may look like a bee, but it's actually a type of fly.


In summary....

Bees, true bugs and true flies are all insects, but separate at the classification level of 'Insect Order' - see below:

Bees

Kingdom:
Animalia (Animal)

Phylum:
Arthropoda (Arthropod)

Class: 
Insecta (Insect)

Order:  
Hymenoptera

True Bugs

Kingdom:
Animalia (Animal)

Phylum:
Arthropoda
(Arthropod)

Class:
Insecta (Insect)

Order: 
Hemiptera

True Flies

Kingdom:
Animalia (Animal)

Phylum:
Arthropoda
(Arthropod)

Class:
Insecta (Insect)

Order:
Diptera


Is a bee a type of wasp?

Bees and wasps are closely related, and even belong to the same insect order (Hymenoptera) and sub-order - (Apocrita), however, they are classified differently at the next level of classification, which is Superfamily:

Bee

Kingdom:  
Animalia (Animal)

Phylum: 
Arthropoda (Arthropod)

Class: 
Insecta (Insect)

Order:  
Hymenoptera

Suborder: 
Apocrita

Superfamily: 
Apoidea

Wasp

Kingdom: 
Animalia (Animal)

Phylum:
Arthropoda (Arthropod)

Class:
Insecta (Insect)

Order: 
Hymenoptera

Suborder:
Apocrita

Superfamily:
Vespoidea

Please note that the term 'meat bee' in some regions of the world actually refers to a wasp, notably yellow jackets.  However, a very small number of tropical bee species do in fact eat meat!

Is A Bee An Invertebrate?

Yes, bees are invertebrates.  An invertebrate is an animal without an internal backbone (spinal column).  Bees have no backbone, only an exoskeleton, which is a thin, shell-like outer skeleton.




You might like these

  • Do Bees Have Teeth?

    In a sense bees do indeed have teeth on their mandibles (jaws), although they are not 'teeth' like those found in the mouths of humans or other mammals.

  • Honey Bees Have Hairy Eyes

    Honey bees have hairy eyes. Read about how eye hair prevents flower pollen becoming stuck directly to the bee's eyes whilst foraging.

  • Do bees have ears? Can bees hear? How do bees pick up sounds?

    No, bees do not have ears, however, they are able to pick up sounds, so in a sense they can ‘hear’ but not through the use of the ears.



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