The native bee quiz returns

The Native Bee Quiz first appeared here in late 2013. A few people have asked me to re-run it, so here it is. The only difference from the original is the quiz software, which allows you to see your score at the end.

Although native bees are fascinating, I always learn something about honey bees when I compare and contrast the many types of bees and their lifestyles. Honey bees are quite unusual in the bee world, and seeing how they are different from other bees—and how they are the same—tells us a lot about how they have adapted to life in a colony and how they evolved into a superorganism.

So give it a try: take the Native Bee Quiz! Just answer all the questions and then click “Submit” at the end. Your score and a short explanation of each question will appear like magic.

Honey Bee Suite

Native Bees


How many species of bees live on Earth?


Most species of bees live where?


Most female bees can sting how many times?


Male bees can sting how many times?


In which of the following ways are bees and wasps different?


Compared to humans, bees see which type of light?


Bees and dinosaurs shared the planet for about how many years?


Most bees spend the majority of their lives ...


To attract a variety of bees to your garden . . .


Genetic information is carried in the chromosomes of all animals. In bees  . . .


All bees have 4 wings, 6 legs, 5 eyes, and one stinger.


What percentage of the world's bee species make honey?


Although we often hear about the complex society within a honey bee colony, about 90 percent of bee species are solitary, meaning each female cares for her nest alone.


Most female bees have a total of 12 segments in each antenna. How many segments does a male bee have in each antenna?


Although the idea of stingless honey bees sounds appealing, stingless honey bees _____.


All female bees carry pollen to feed their young.


Some female bees carry pollen by swallowing it and regurgitating it later.


Bees and wasps don't always agree on what's for dinner. Why?


Unlike honey bees, many bees forage on just one species of plant or on a small group of related plants. This makes them especially vulnerable to:


In most bee species, the males mate only once but the females mate many times.

Photo below the Native Bee Quiz. An Andrena bee rests in the leaf litter of the forest. From a distance, some of the native bees can be confused with honey bees.

An Andrena bee rests in the leaf litter of the forest. From a distance, some of the native bees can be confused with honey bees. © Rusty Burlew.


  • I think your answer to 90% of solitary bees rear alone is incorrect as “True”, and should be “False”, because of Eusocial solitary bees. Whilst many solitary bees rear alone, there is a lot of nest sharing and other social dynamics between solitary bees at times, thus the correct answer with the way you worded the question cannot be “True”, but only “False” (as long as even one solitary bee does nest sharing it has to be “True” as worded).

    • Chris,

      Your phrase “eusocial solitary bees” is an oxymoron because eusocial and solitary are exact opposites. There is no such thing as “eusocial solitary.” Eusocial means completely or perfectly social. The group includes the honey bees, bumble bees, a few isolated sweat bees, and stingless bees where there is a division of labor between castes. There are lesser degrees of sociality, including communal (who share a nest entrance) and semi-social (bees that cooperate within the nest to get things done).

      Bees that live in large aggregations are generally not considered social because, although the nests are close together, each one is handled separately, much like living in a housing development. Remember that even if 90% of bees are solitary, that leaves 10% (2000 species) that are not solitary. That is still a lot.

      So far, 91.7% of respondents got this question right. It might help to re-read the definition of eusocial. My answers stands as is.

  • Loved the quiz! Since learning your tip to distinguish bee from fly by antenna length, I’ve been noticing so many native bees in our garden. What variety! Such fun!

    • Sarah,

      It is fun, and I’m still sometimes surprised to discover what is a bee and what is a fly. You learn so much when you look!

  • 70%. Yeah! I would not have had that if I had not already learned so much from your site, Rusty. Thanks so much for making learning fun.

  • Do the drones of all bees die after mating? Wikipedia defined a drone as a male HONEY bee, but other internet defined it as a male social bee. Aren’t solitary male bees still drones? But in any case, do any male bees survive mating?

    I apologize for not finding a post where this would be on topic, and also apologize if you’ve already addressed this. My brain and/or your index doesn’t work for me.

    • Roberta,

      In all the seemingly infinite courses I have taken in melittology, I once heard male bumble bees referred to as drones. But only once. “Drone” is a uniquely honey bee word and I think it came about because honey bee males are one-trick ponies, pretty much. You rarely see them out and about unless they’re coming or going from a mating site. And, as you know, they don’t do anything useful around the house.

      Male bees typically mate many times with many females. Honey bee drones are the only male bees that I know of that die after mating. The variations among bees are huge, so I reserve the possibility that some male bees might die after mating, but none that I’ve ever heard about. This includes bumble bees.

      Many of the wild bees you see out foraging or sleeping or just hanging around are male. In fact (don’t quote me on this) I think I’ve read that about 60 percent of wild bees are male. In many species, males and females are hard to tell apart without some training.

      Another interesting tidbit is most solitary females only mate once, unlike honey bee queens.

      • Thanks.

        I never thought I’d say this since I started out only caring about honey bees, but maybe you should write more about the varied lives of non-honey bees. (In your copious spare time, of course.)

        • Ya know, Roberta, that was my original intention when I first started this blog. But it was hard (impossible?) to get people to read about all the really fascinating and weird bees in their own backyards. They just didn’t care.

          Of course, the “bee landscape” has changed quite a bit since then, and people are beginning to become aware that honey bees are just the tip of the iceberg. So maybe I should try again?

          I always say (and it’s absolutely true) that I learned most of what I know about honey bees from learning about other bees. I was able to learn what things were true of all bees (and why) in comparison to what is only true about honey bees. Honey bees are outliers in the bee world, but people say stuff all the time that shows they don’t understand what is “beeness” vs what is “honeybeeness.”

          Examples are “Honey bee drones don’t sting!” True, but no male bees sting.

          “Bees die after they sting!” That’s only true of honey bees and a couple of odd solitary species.

          “Honey bee drones have grandfathers and no fathers!” True, along with all the other Hymenoptera including bees, wasps, ants, sawflies, etc.”

          “Bees can forage miles from home!” Again, that is a honey bee thing and to some extent a social bee thing (bumble bees can go pretty far, maybe a mile). But most bees forage only within a couple of hundred yards from home. This is a primary reason they are endangered.

          “Bees overwinter as adults!” Honey bees do and perhaps a few hot climate social bees (including some southern bumbles.) But most bees overwinter as larvae or pupae or as unemerged adults.

          • When you write about some specific kind of non-honey-bee, I always read the post, because you’re a writer who makes things interesting, but I know I’m never going to identify this specific non-honey-bee or remember its unique traits. But if you wrote about some weird thing that some bees do, and here’s some bees who do this thing, and here’s some bees who don’t, and the other things they do instead, maybe that would stick with me.

            Also, I’ve decided that all male bees are drones like all male bovines are bulls (to say nothing of mooses and elephants and seals). Not just honey bees. The human focus on honey bees has given ‘drone’ a meaning that maligns all the hard-working other bee drones, but they’re still drones. It’s my language and I declare this unilaterally.

            Also, also, no matter what I, a random internet stranger, tell you you should write about, you should write about whatever pleases you. Or of course, whatever pleases someone else enough to wave bundles of cash atcha.

          • Roberta,

            According to Merriam-Webster, def. 2, “a drone is one that lives on the labors of others.” And further down, “to pass or spend time in dull or monotonous activity or in idleness.” But most male bees need to forage to eat (although they don’t collect anything). They also patrol their territory to fend off intruders and protect their females. Those two things are more effort than honey bee drones ever exert, so to me, those working men are not drones. (Plus they need to keep mating over and over, probably stressing their cardiovascular systems and wearing themselves to the bone—if they had bones.)

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