Bees and Wasps


    Bees, wasps and ants (plus sawflies) are all part of the insect order - Hymenoptera. This is a very diverse group with many species which represents a major challenge to those wanting to identify species. We have produced separate resource pages for ants and sawflies, but this still leaves a huge range of species!

    Whilst everyone is familiar with bumblebees, the 25 UK species represent just 10% of all the bee species. The remainder are 'solitary' bees that don't work together as a single colony to rear their young. There are some very good resources to bees and the 2015 Field Guide to Bees of Great Britain and Ireland is a major boost.

    There is even greater diversity of wasps. As with the bees there are a few social wasps that everyone is familiar with, but these represent just a small fraction of all UK wasps. Solitary wasps such as ichneumons are not at present covered by a popular field guide but there are a number of useful resources to help with identification. the online forum Hymis can be a very useful aid for posting images and getting identification help.


    The VC55 County Recorder for bees and wasps is currently Helen Ikin.

    As with all records, any submissions you make to NatureSpot will be automatically forwarded to both local and national recording schemes.

    ID Tips

    As with most invertebrate groups, identification isn't always straightforward. There are so many bee and wasp species that inevitably there are lots of similar ones so it is often necessary to use a key whilst examining the specimen. Use the Red/Amber/Green identification difficulty ratings as a guide and where provided follow the 'recording advice' text.

    Leicestershire and Rutland Resources

    There are no known printed or internet resources, though the County Council collections at Barrow can be visited by appointment to view pinned specimens.


    Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland - Steven Falk & Richard Lewington, 2015. A superb field guide with excellent illustrations and a comprehensive key, highly recommended.

    NHM - Bumble Bee ID - an easy on-line key based on colour, developed by the Natural History Museum.

    Key to social wasps - excellent key produced by the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

    Yeo P.F. & Corbett S.A. 1983 Solitary Wasps. Naturalist's Handbooks

    Richards O.W. 1980 Scolioidea, Vespoidea and Sphecoidea RES - out of print but available as a free download from the RES website

    Other Useful Websites and Publications

    BWARS - Bee, Wasp, Ant Recording Scheme - excellent site with good photos, information and keys to download.

    Bumblebees - An Introduction - an excellent and inexpensive resource from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust covering all UK species, providing both ID help and lots of information about each species.

    Bumblebee Conservation Trust - Identification - excellent guide with downloadable photo guide to all UK bumble bees.

    Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland - a small but handy guide with both photographs of each species and a useful comparative table of colours and patterns.

    EakringBirds guide to social wasps - excellent illustrated guide.

    Wasp identification photos, Flickr - excellent and high quality photos illustrating the key ID features referred to in the keys above.

    Natural History Museum Guide to common British ichneumon wasps - a very useful guide to 20+ species that can be identified from a good photo.

    If you know of other websites or books that you would recommend, do let us know: