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Bumble bees


Bumble bees are large, stocky, hairy insects, generally from 6 to 25 mm long. Their bodies are often black and yellow, sometimes with orange, red or white markings.

The hind legs of female bumble bees are modified to help them collect and carry pollen. Their abdomens are tipped with a stinger.

They form organized societies divided into three castes. The queen is the largest insect in the colony and measures from 13 to 32 mm long. Workers – all females – vary from 7 to 18 mm, and males are from 10 to 17 mm long.

Honey bees

Apis mellifera

Honey bees have hairy bodies with thick waists. Their mouthparts are the licking-chewing type. They have two pairs of wings on the thorax held together with hooks. There are three castes in the species: the queen, workers and drones.

The queen is the largest bee in the colony, 16 to 20 mm long. Her pointed abdomen extends far beyond her wings and is tipped with an egg-laying organ.

Workers are all females, and are about 12 mm long. They have specialized structures on their legs for gathering and carrying pollen. Their abdomens have glands for producing wax, and are tipped with a stinger.

Drones are the males of the colony. They have massive bodies, 15 to 16 mm long. Their abdomens have rounded tips. They have large eyes and no stinger.

Solitary bees and social bees


Apoidae include all bees, both social and solitary. Bumble bees are also part of this Hymenopteran superfamily. These insects have two pairs of membranous wings. In flight, their wings are held together by a row of hooks on the hindwings. At rest, their wings are separated and folded over the abdomen.

Apoidae have slender waists. This characteristic gives them great flexibility in moving their abdomens, allowing a female honeybee to lay an egg at the bottom of a cell, for instance.

Most bees are black or brownish in colour, but some are bright bluish-green or metallic green, while others are banded or marked with yellow or orange and black. Many bees have smooth bodies, while others are quite hairy.

Black swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes asterius

This butterfly’s wingspan is between 9 and 10 cm. Its black wings have two rows of yellow spots along the edges. The lower wings have an orange spot with a black centre on the bottom edge, and the tip of the wing is long and thin.

Females can be distinguished from males by their larger abdomens and a wide band of blue scales on their back wings. The two rows of yellow spots are less pronounced in females.



In most species of Papilionidae (swallowtail butterflies), the back wings have a long tip at the end that looks like a swallow’s tail. Most swallowtail caterpillars have an osmeterium, an organ with two small horns that produces a foul odour. Some have large eyespots that can frighten predators.


Limenitis archippus

This butterfly’s wingspan ranges from 6.5 to 7.5 cm. Their orange colour contrasts with their black ribs. There is one row of white spots along the wide black edge of their wings.

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