Discover 4 Different Colors Of Bees (Most Common to Rarest)

Violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) foraging a flower
© LABETAA Andre/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alanna Davis

Published: August 30, 2023

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You’ve seen black and yellow bees, but did you know that bees come in nearly every color of the rainbow? You read that right. With over 20,000 recognized species of bees on Earth, you’re bound to encounter some stragglers that you’ve never heard of.

Bees come in a variety of colors, but which one is the rarest? The relative rarity of bees, purely based on color, is not cut-and-dried. In fact, certain colors are rarer in specific regions of the world. For this list, we’ll be taking a big-picture look at bees’ rarity across the globe. Let’s dive in and explore some bees of many colors.

1. Blue Bees

Detailed closeup of a female blue mason bee , Osmia caerulescens, hanging on a twig. The bee is in the right part of the frame. She its entirely black with electric blue hairs, though they are sparse.

Although you may not have seen one, blue bees are native to many parts of the world.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

Yes, blue bees are indeed real and not someone’s cute Photoshop creation. They’re actually more common than you may think. We even have blue bees native to North America. One great example is Metallic Sweat Bees, a jewel-toned greenish-blue bee commonly found in Texas. If you’re wondering why people call them “sweat bees,” you’re in for a surprise. The Halictidae family of bees got their common name from their attraction to human sweat. So yes, they enjoy flying around people perspiring in the summer heat. Why are they attracted to sweat though? Well, it’s not the sweat itself, it’s the salt inside the sweat that the bees are after. A peculiar behavior for a peculiar-colored bee!

Although somewhat rare in the USA, blue bees exist all over the world. Asia is home to a variety of blue bees. For example, the Blue Carpenter Bee is so cute, that it almost looks fake. However, this fuzzy bee is 100% real, living throughout Southeast Asia, China and India. They’re a bit bigger than other species of bees, measuring at about .91 inches. Interestingly, only the female bees take on this bright blue coloration. Their male counterparts are more toned down and slightly browner.  

2. White Bees

Closeup on a cute big-eyed White-cheeked banded digger bee, Amegilla albigena sitting on top of a green leaf

White-Banded Digger bees build their underground nests in many different environments, spanning urban areas and forests.

©HWall/Shutterstock.com

In addition to the beautiful blue and green-toned bees we went over, bees also come in white. One, in particular, is the White-Banded Digger Bee, pictured above. The White Banded Digger Bee is unique, not only in color (or absence thereof) but also in lifestyle. Surprisingly, it does not live socially like so many of its counterparts. Instead of living in a hive with a colony, these bees live solitary lives and build underground nests. This mysterious bee is native to Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe. However, it is not uncommon to see them in North America as well.

In addition to the White-Banded Digger Bee, there are many different species of white bees. Some other examples are the White-Tailed Bumblebee, the California Diger-Cuckoo Bee, and the Waroon Cloak-and-Dagger Bee. A common misconception about these bees is that they’re albino. While it’s easy to understand where this rumor came from, there is currently no science to support this, although this topic is currently being explored. White bees are relatively docile and non-aggressive, only stinging when feeling severely threatened.

3. Red Bees

Red-Tailed Bees are abundant throughout Central Europe, but in other parts of the world, they’re a rare sight.

©IanRedding/Shutterstock.com

By now, you might be wondering what causes bees to come in these brilliant and bright colors. To put it simply, adaptation and evolution could be the driving forces. If a bee is born with a genetic mutation that causes its coloring to differ, it might have an increased chance of survival. Predators may mistake it for a poisonous insect, choosing to avoid it entirely. Consequently, the insect will likely live a longer life, giving it additional mating opportunities. If successful, the mutation will likely be inherited by future generations. Among all colors, red is one of the strongest warning signs of all.

The Red-Tailed Bee exhibits a beautiful gradient of orange and red shades, complemented by a black abdomen that offsets the vibrancy of their coloration. Commonly found throughout Central Europe, these bees nest underground in burrows and emerge in early spring. Although this bee might be considered rare in the United States as it’s not native here, it’s much more common than some of the other ones we’ve discussed today. Despite its rarity, its beauty is undeniable!

4. Purple Bees

Violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) foraging a flower

Violet Carpenter Bees are somewhat relaxed insects, only becoming aggressive when threatened.

©LABETAA Andre/Shutterstock.com

The beautiful Violet Carpenter Bee, also known as Xylocopa violacea, is likely the rarest color bee of them all. You might be thinking to yourself, “Wait, this bee looks more black than purple!” At first glance, this bee seems to be nothing out of the ordinary. However, if you have the chance to see this beautiful bee under direct sunlight, its brilliant violet wings are on full display.

These bees are native to Europe and inhabit certain parts of Asia, extending up to China. However, because of their dark bodies, many people often misidentify other dark-colored bees as the beautiful Violet Carpenter Bee, leading to the misconception that they are more common than they are. Nevertheless, their numbers are growing due to conservation efforts, and each year, more and more purple bees have been popping up in various cities across Europe.

5. Honorable Mention – What Is the Rarest Bee of All?

The answer to this question might surprise you. Although the brilliantly colored bees we discussed today may seem exotic and elusive, the rarest of them all is known as Franklin’s Bumble Bee. 

In terms of appearance, Franklin’s Bumble Bee is black and yellow, like many other bees. However, it is unique from others due to its extremely restricted natural habitat. This bee is only native to a small region of the United States, nestled between Southern Oregon and Northern California. At best, their habitat range is roughly 190 miles long from north to south and 70 miles wide from east to west. The last confirmed sighting of this little bee was in 2006.

Experts typically declare a species extinct only after no sightings for a minimum of 50 years. As of now, this bee is still considered critically endangered. Unfortunately, it’s been nearly two decades since anyone last saw one, so we’re approaching the halfway point relatively soon. Yet, for now, a glimmer of hope remains that they may reappear once more. 

Ranking (From Most To Least Common)Where They Can Be FoundQuick Reference
Blue BeesNorth America, Southeast Asia, China, IndiaRelatively common worldwide
White BeesNorth America, Northern Africa, Asia, EuropeSomewhat common in North America
Red BeesCentral EuropeMost common in Europe, rare in the United States
Purple BeesEurope, AsiaRelatively rare even in their native regions


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About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

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