bee, name for flying insects of the superfamily Apoidea, in the same order as the ants and the wasps. Bees are characterized by their enlarged hind feet, typically equipped with pollen baskets of stiff hairs for gathering pollen. They usually have a dense coat of feathery hairs on the head and thorax. In many, the lip forms a long tube for sucking nectar. Bees feed on pollen and nectar; the latter is converted to honey in the bee's digestive tract. There are about 20,000 species of bees. They may be solitary, social, or parasitic in the nests of other bees. The solitary bees (which do not secrete wax) are called carpenter, plasterer, leaf-cutting, burrowing, or mason bees according to the material or method used to construct nests for their young.
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