Bees are any of 20,000 species of insects belonging to the superfamily Apoidea and the order Hymenoptera, including such important pollinators of plants as the bumblebees; the yellow-faced, or plasterer, bees; the mining, or burrower, bees; and the economically important honeybees of the genus Apis, the only domesticated insects besides the silkworm. Honeybees are known for the honey and wax they produce and their ability to communicate with one another through dancelike postures (the so-called dance language).
Only 500 species of bees are social. These include the bumblebees, the tropical stingless bees, and the honeybees. They form colonies of from several hundred to 80,000 individuals, organized in rigid caste systems, and secrete wax from which they build their nests.
Most other species of bees either are solitary�secreting no wax and nesting in the ground, hollow plant stems, or similar niches�or, like the cuckoo bees, are parasitic in the nests of others. The solitary bees, named for the material or method they use to construct nests for their young, include the plasterer, burrower, mining, mason, and leaf-cutter bees.
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