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Organisms are classified into taxonomic groups (taxa) based on shared characteristics. This hierarchical classification begins very broadly at the phylum level and the scope of the shared characteristics narrows as you trace the lineage down to the genus and species levels. Bees belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Hymenoptera, and superfamily Apoidea.


Within Apoidea, there are six families of bees that are found in New Brunswick: Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, and Mellitidae. The “-idae”  suffix is a good hint that the taxon being discussed is at the family level! Within a family, there can be extensive variation in morphology (i.e., body form) and behaviour (e.g., nesting patterns), therefore it’s difficult and not very helpful to try to describe a list of identifying characteristics for each bee family (look at the photos on pages 2-3 to get a sense of the variation within families!). When we talk about organisms using scientific language (as opposed to common names), we refer to their genus and species, classifications that provide us with the most information about body form and identifying features. The convention within scientific naming systems is to list the genus first (italicized, capitalized) and the species second (italicized, not capitalized)- e.g., Bombus impatiens- this is the scientific name for the Common Eastern Bumblebee, one of the most abundant species of genus Bombus in this region.


Another key point to highlight is the differences in nesting strategies. Bee genera nest either above ground in cavities, such as hollow stems or structures created by other wood-burrowing insects, or below ground by tunneling a few inches into soil with no vegetative cover. Cavity-nesting bees make up a small portion ( <15%) of all bee species, while approximately 70% of solitary bees are ground-nesters.

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