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Bees & Wasps


Bees are fuzzy insects that usually live together in colonies or hives. They are commonly seen during the summer, wherever there are flowers, gardens, fields, and forests.

Bees have barbed stingers which are left in the victim. After using its stinger, a bee soon dies. Bees only use their stingers in self-defence.

An important pollinator

Bees are the world's most important plant pollinators. Several species of bees have been imported to Alberta to pollinate crops and to produce honey. These and the native wild bees (like the bumblebee) play an extremely important role in nature. Without them, many fruits and seeds would not be produced.

Bee colonies

Some native bees live alone. Others, like the bumblebee, build a nest containing 20 to 40 sterile female workers.

In Alberta, a bumblebee colony lasts for about 80 days. As the old queen and workers die, a new batch of queens and males is produced. They mate and the queens fly away to find a place to overwinter. They will start new colonies in the spring. The males die soon after mating.

New colonies of honeybees are brought into Alberta each year. They require special effort by beekeepers to survive the winter. However, bees native to Alberta spend the winter in a dormant state, usually in the ground.


Wasps are often confused with bees. They are not usually fuzzy and many are predators. Some are solitary, while others live in colonies.

Wasps have unbarbed stingers that can be used again and again. While bees only use their stingers in self defence, wasps can use them repeatedly to obtain food.

Wasps have a life cycle similar to the bumblebee. Some build nests of paper in trees, others live in the ground.


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Updated: Aug 14, 2009