Honey bees are a relatively small bee compared to many bumble bees and carder bees. From a distance they look much less “furry” although they do have many fine hairs, especially on the thorax. The picture below shows only one type of bumble bee for comparison however there are many bumble species and over 90 other types of bee species. For Ireland, there is only one native honey bee, a sub-species called Apis mellifera mellifera or the Northern dark bee.

Honey bees tend to be seen on flowering plants including trees but may also be observed taking up water from shallow pools or spills. Their abdomen can range in colour from very dark brown (almost black) to light orange with various shades and colour banding in between such as in the comparison pictures below. We are interested in colonies of all colour morphs.

It is generally considered that the darker honey bee the is the native form, Apis mellifera mellifera. Lighter coloured honey bees tend to be thought of as either a different introduced sub-species such as Apis mellifera ligustica or a hybrid form between the two types. Wasps, Vespula vulgaris, can also be confused for honey bees however they have conspicuous yellow and black banding as seen in the picture above.