Wild bee

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Pair of horned mason bees in pre- or postcopula

Than wild bees is referred to all kinds of bees of the superfamily Apoidea with the exception of honey bees and not wild or feral primary forming strains of the honeybee. The term has no systematic relevance in biology, it only takes into account the fact that the colloquial term bee almost exclusively refers to the best-known type of bee, the western honeybee . The term wild bee is used in publications for the general public, such as tips on nature conservation , to make it clear that the entire group of bees is meant and, for example, the construction of nesting aids has nothing to do with beekeeping in the sense of beekeeping . In zoology the name flower wasps was already used to denote this group of bees. This expressed the similarity of some groups of bees, e.g. B. mask bees or blood bees , with the related digger wasps . For larger, furry species, such as fur bees or bumblebees , this name is not suitable. In the meantime, this term is hardly used anymore.

Way of life


There are around 30,000 different wild bee species on earth. In Germany, depending on the experts, the year of publication and the species concept used, it is 548, a good 550, or even 574. In Baden-Württemberg there are around twice as many species as in Schleswig-Holstein .

The species differ optically in terms of size, color or pattern, but are often difficult to determine down to the species. They show lengths between 1.3 millimeters and three centimeters.

On the other hand, the preferred food plants and nesting site requirements are very different. Many solitary wild bees are dependent on a single plant species or genus, so they are food specialists (oligolectic species). These species are therefore also dependent on the flowering time of their food plants. Other species, on the other hand, can use pollen from different plants and are therefore more generalists (polylectic species). These species can then be active for longer periods of the year. State- forming bees such as bumblebees and some narrow bees ( Lasioglossum ) are polylectic, just like honeybees. The pollen supply is always used as food for the larvae. The adult animals take up nectar as a fuel.

The pollen is transported to the nest in different ways. It is usually important that the bees have branched hair. Many species transport the pollen with their hind legs (leg collectors), for example the genera Lasioglossum , Halictus and Macropis . In addition to collecting hair on their legs, sand bees ( Andrena ) also have a hair-framed “basket” on the back of their thorax. The bumblebees , like the honey bees, carry the moistened pollen on the outside of their hind legs, which are smooth but surrounded by hair ("panties"). The species of Megachilidae have thick hairs on the ventral side of the abdomen (“belly brush”), with which they transport the pollen. The masked bees and wooden bees swallow the pollen and transport it in the crop, from which they regurgitate it in the nest (with the nectar that has also been collected).

A special feature ölsammelnde bees as the Macropis europaea which at loosestrife collect vegetable oil.

Different types of soil promote the occurrence of special wild bees, as they use different materials to build their nests; 75% nest in the ground.

Subdivision of species according to the sociality of the way of life

The wild bee species can be divided into three large groups according to their way of life:

Bees with a collective way of life

Above-ground bumblebee nest (upper wax cover of the nest ball has been removed)

Bees with a collective way of life are the best known group. It is made up of bumblebees and the partially (only a few species) domesticated honeybees . In contrast to solitary bees, these bees tend to brood; they look after and feed their offspring when they hatch and interact with them. Several females share a common nest and form larger bee colonies. In these newly formed states there is a strict hierarchy under a queen and the bees are divided into boxes .

A honey bee colony exists continuously for several years, in contrast to the other social bees, the bumblebees. This behavior can only be found here in a certain period of time, in the growing season . Then the state dissolves and all animals die with the exception of the young queens who have already mated. These fly out and look for sheltered hiding places to overwinter and then found a new colony again next spring.

In particular, furrow bees (genera Halictus and Lasioglossum ) have different stages of social life: some species form nest aggregations (i.e. several females nest close together) and in other species several females share a common nest. In still other species there are real workers, i. H. some females care for their mother's brood in the shared nest instead of raising their own offspring (such as the bumblebees and honeybees mentioned above). An example of this are the honeycombs of the four-banded furrow bee ( Halictus quadricinctus ). This social behavior is called eusocial .

Solitary bees

Red-furry sand bee ( Andrena fulva )
Female of a trouser bee Dasypoda altercator (= D. hirtipes ) with noticeably hairy hind legs

The solitary bees, so-called hermit bees, are the largest of these three groups with a share of 95% of the species; they are solitary, and both females as males, mostly as a doll or young, enclosed in the cocoon Imagines wintered come in the spring of next year from the breeding tunnel out to take care of offspring. Since the individuals of these species only live for a few weeks, the female immediately starts building nests and collecting nectar and pollen after mating. The food that is collected only serves a small part to cover one's own needs. Rather, the bee stores the food in a brood cell, in which it lays an egg when sufficient nectar and pollen have accumulated. Then she closes the clutch with a partition made of clay and. a. to create more brood tubes. This behavior is known as brood care . The later hatching larva can then feed on the accumulated provisions and develop into a fully grown bee.

Cuckoo bees

The third and last group are the cuckoo bees : unlike their relatives from the previous groups, they do not build their own nests, but have specialized in using other people's nests to raise their own brood - like the cuckoo , hence the name. They take advantage of the situation when the nest-builder (usually a solitary bee) is looking for pollen and lay their eggs in the foreign brood cell, which is already partially filled with supplies. The foreign eggs or larvae also sometimes become feed stocks. If the parasitic bees get out of hand in a host population, this will collapse in the next year under unfavorable conditions, as the number of parasites now exceeds that of the hosts. Logically, all the parasites will then also disappear. Individual surviving or immigrated solitary bees gradually build up a new host population, and the parasite species will soon be found again. Interestingly, cuckoo bees often prefer the same plants as food sources as their host bees. Around 25% of the native wild bee species are cuckoo bees. Examples of cuckoo bees are types of blood bees ( Sphecodes spec. ), Cone bees ( Coelioxys ) and spotted bees ( Crocisa spec. ).

Wild bee of the year

As an action of the Working Group on wild bees Cadastre , the State Institute of Beekeeping Baden-Wuerttemberg and the beekeeping associations of Baden and Wuerttemberg since 2013 calling Trustees " wild bee of the year " "Every year a particularly interesting Wildbienenart to make to their example the exciting world of wild bees known ":

For 2019, the red mason bee was voted " Insect of the Year ".

Hazard and protection

see also bee deaths

More than 50% of the German wild bee species are on the Red List of Endangered Species , 26 are classified as "extremely rare". 7% of the German wild bee species are now lost and most likely already extinct. The wild bees are protected according to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance, but it is also pointed out that the effect of the statutory nature conservation is "controversial". There are a number of initiatives to promote the stocks. B. from the German Wildlife Foundation, however, the real causes, above all loss of habitat and the various pollutants, lead to ever further decline in populations.

Honey bees can carry viruses such as B. the wing deformation virus transmitted to wild bees and bumblebees.

The fact that wild bees are endangered is particularly important because of their importance as pollinators. Pollination by wild bees and bumblebees already begins in March, usually some time before pollination by honeybees. It also takes place in cold weather and overcast skies. These insects are desirable beneficial insects in the garden as well as in commercial fruit growing (one specimen pollinates up to 5000 flowers per day!). (This also applies to the destruction of insect pests by digging wasps and solitary wasps - not to be confused with the real wasps, which form colonies ).

The population of wild bees can be supported above all by protecting and providing nesting sites or the plants for flowering:

Support for settlement in fields, fields and gardens

Due to the scarcity of species and the tendency towards machine-friendly "tidiness" in industrial agriculture and forestry, i. H. Through the rapid removal of dead wood , dry straws , brushwood piles and piles of stone piles, even in so-called "blind spots" and on the edge of the field, the natural habitats of the farm animals are usually eliminated or severely restricted. Ruderal areas in particular are often of particular importance and should therefore be preserved.

In order to ensure their long-term settlement and reproduction, suitable dwellings and nesting opportunities can be created as partial replacements. Around three quarters of the native bee species nest in the ground, for which you can create sand and clay areas that are as protected from rain as possible, or build small mounds of loamy sand that are stabilized with wood or stones in places exposed to the sun. Collections of nests z. B. on unpaved paths or at the edges of hedges must be protected, as wild bees that nest in the ground can often take years before a new cluster of nests develops. Some species nest in steep walls. You can z. B. support by the installation of dry stone walls .

Most wild bees need a lot of warmth. Sun exposure is essential, a small rain protection device and a sheltered place are an advantage. Some species use pithy pieces of wood as a nesting place ( elder ), remove the pith and use the cavity as a nursery. In addition, there are species that need grayed wood , but they do not nest in fresh wood. Abandoned tubes of beetle larvae, formerly inhabited gall wasp bladders or snail shells are also used as living quarters for individual species. Bamboo sticks with a diameter of 3 to 8 mm can also be offered as nesting sites. But the knot must still be preserved at one end. Bundle the bamboo sticks with wire, remove any saw splinters.

Wild bee camouflaging the clutch
Wild bee (Osmia bicolor) camouflaging the clutch in a snail shell with blades of grass.

For bumblebees you should set up nesting boxes that you can make yourself and some of which you can also buy.

See also insect hotel .

Foraging plants for wild bees

Since many species of wild bees need certain plants in order to collect their larval provisions, it can be very helpful to protect or distribute the corresponding stocks of food plants. Of course, you have to know the needs of the target species. However, it can also be helpful to plant seeds ("flower mixtures") in a targeted manner or to maintain and care for existing flower-rich stands (trees, bushes, wildflowers). If seeds are spread, care must be taken to ensure that local origins ( local seeds and local woody plants ) from certified mixtures are used. It should be noted that in the wild (outside the settlement area) from 2020, according to Section 40 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, only regional origins may be used. Many of the flower mixes offered by discounters or in hardware stores are worthless because the flowering plant species look beautiful but cannot be used by the bees. It is mostly about breeding seeds, not wild plants. In addition, some of these mixtures also contain neophytes or even invasive or potentially invasive "pest plants" species.

Danger to humans

Wild bees do not attack anyone on their own. While honey bees and some bumblebee species near the nest specifically attack and try to drive away a troublemaker, the other local bees only get a sting when the females feel individually threatened, for example when the animals are pressed between the fingers, step on them with bare feet or get them between clothing and skin. Some wild bees, such as the species of the genera Andrena (sand bees) and Hylaeus (mask bees), cannot pierce the human skin with their sting, so they do not sting. Only females have a sting, as this is phylogenetically derived from an ovipositor .


  • Helmut and Margrit Hintermeier: bees, bumblebees, wasps in the garden and in the landscape . Obst- und Gartenbauverlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-87596-099-8
  • Wolf R. Günzel, Margret Schneevoigt (illustrations): The insect hotel. Experience nature conservation . Building instructions - animal portraits - gardening tips. 11th edition. pala-verlag, Darmstadt 2019, ISBN 978-3-89566-385-7
  • Andreas Müller, Albert Krebs, Felix Amiet: Bees: Central European species, way of life, observation . Naturbuch-Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-89440-241-5
  • Erwin Scheuchl and Hans Richard Schwenninger: Critical directory and current checklist of wild bees in Germany (Hymenoptera, Anthophila) as well as comments on the endangerment. Announcements of the Entomological Association Stuttgart, Jhg. 50, 2015, issue 1, 228 pp. [1]
  • Karl Weiß: Bees and bee colonies . CH Beck, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-406-41867-8
  • Paul Westrich : Wild bees The other bees . Publishing house Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-89937-136-9
  • Paul Westrich : Germany's wild bees . Eugen Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart 2018, ISBN 978-3-8186-0123-2


Web links


  1. ^ Paul Westrich, Holger H. Dathe (1998): Die Bienarten Deutschlands (Hymenoptera, Apidae) corrections and additions. Entomological Journal 108 (4): pp. 154-156.
  2. Species listing on Wildbienen.de, private homepage of Hans-Jürgen Martin
  3. Christian Schmidt-Egger at Bembix online
  4. a b c Badische Zeitung , October 5, 2013, Birgit Vey: badische-zeitung.de, Almost half of all wild bees are threatened (October 7, 2013)
  5. wildbienen-kataster.de: Wild bee of the year 2015
  6. a b c P. Westrich: The wild bees of Germany . E. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2018, ISBN 978-3-8186-0123-2 , pp. 7, 409 .
  7. More and more wild bee species are threatened with death. In: FAZ, May 24, 2017. Accessed June 19, 2017.
  8. Wild bee protection: laws. Retrieved March 22, 2019 .
  9. Claudia Fromme: This is how you offer bees a nice spot . In: sueddeutsche.de . 2019, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed on March 29, 2019]).
  10. ^ Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung, Hamburg Germany: Wild bees - highly threatened and indispensable. Retrieved March 22, 2019 .
  11. A. Segerer & E. Rosenkranz: The great insect death, what it means and what we have to do now . Munich 2018, ISBN 3-96238-049-3 .
  12. Robyn Manley, Ben Temperton, Toby Doyle, Daisy Gates, Sophie Hedges, Michael Boots, Lena Wilfert, Hillary Young: Knock ‐ on community impacts of a novel vector: spillover of emerging DWV ‐ B from ‐infested honeybees to wild bumblebees. In: Ecology Letters. 2019, doi : 10.1111 / ele.13323 (German post ).
  13. Samantha A. Alger, P. Alexander Burnham, Humberto F. Boncristiani, Alison K. Brody, Olav Rueppell: RNA virus spillover from managed honeybees (Apis mellifera) to wild bumblebees (Bombus spp.). In: PLOS ONE. 14, 2019, p. E0217822, doi : 10.1371 / journal.pone.0217822 (German article ).
  14. Wild bee pollinates better. In: Badische Zeitung, February 22, 2010. Accessed on June 19, 2017.
  15. ^ P. Westrich: Wild bees. The other bees . 2011, p. 124-129 .
  16. ^ P. Westrich: Wild bees. The other bees . 2011, p. 77-97 .
  17. ^ P. Westrich: Wild bees. The other bees . 2011, p. 98-99 .
  18. ^ P. Westrich: The wild bees of Germany . Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2018, ISBN 978-3-8186-0123-2 , pp. 88 .