When I’m talking to a broad audience of people who may or may not have experience with bees, I generally introduced them as “vegan wasps”. From an evolutionary perspective, this is true: i.e. bees are wasps that started collecting pollen instead of insect prey as the main protein source to provision their offspring. It also helps people understand that bees, in general, are not threatening. The vast majority of bees can’t even sting you, as male bees don’t have a stinger (it’s a modified ovipositor) and most solitary bee species have a male-biased ratio (males are haploid, so they’re cheaper to produce).
Ninety nine percent of the time, when someone calls me out to help with a “bee” problem, it’s really a wasp problem, and I don’t want bees to be vilified based on the behavior of their waspy cousins!
But even I am forced to admit that there are exceptions to my “bees are vegan wasps” rule. (There are all sorts of exceptional bees, from nocturnal bees to bees that nest in sandstone.) Check out these vulture bees from the tropics!
These bees eat carrion instead of pollen in the tropics: http://stri.si.edu/sites/publications/PDFs/Roubik_R82.pdf
More about how they treat their protein source: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25085725?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents