Native Bees

More than 4,000 species of native bees occur in the US, classified into 6 major families (cheat sheet from University of Arizona). Representatives of
most of the US families are found in Arizona and New Mexico. [Source] Depending on the source, there are up to 1,500 species found in these two states. About half are specialists that only get pollen from certain flowers. About 2/3 dig nests in soil and no native bees form hives like honeybees. Male bees have no stingers, but they do buzz furiously when held! For the purpose of this page, sizes are approximately in these categories:

  • Tiny 2-6 mm
  • Small 6-10 mm
  • Medium 11-15 mm = honeybees
  • Large 15+ mm

This video is a quick overview of native bees, presented by Joseph Wilson, one of the co-authors of The Bees in Your Backyard book.

Note: Page under construction. Uncredited pictures are my own and available for use with appropriate credit © Elliott Gordon

Halictidae – Sweat Bees

Tiny to medium bees, often black with white stripes on abdomen or bright green. Typically ground-nesters, with nests formed in clay soil, sandy banks of streams, etc. Most species are polylectic (collecting pollen from a variety of unrelated plants). Halictidaes are distinguished by the arcuate (curved) basal wing vein as shown here. [Source]

Halictinae – Typical Sweat Bees
Dialictus (metallic sweat bee) by James Kindt
Nomiinae and Rophitinae – Nomia and Shortface Bees

Andrenidae – Miner Bees

Andreninae – Large Miner Bees
Panurginae – Small Miner Bees

These tiny to small bees are often specialists, visiting only one genus or family of plants to collect pollen for their nests. Perdita (fairy bees) and Macrotera (goblin bees) are only found in North America and over 600 species inhabit deserts from California to Texas. All species are solitary, ground-nesting, and tend to fly in summer or fall. Females collect pollen with scopa (leg hairs), but their small size makes them less effective as pollinators. Most species have 2 submarginal cells and short marginal cells with rounded tips.

Apidae – Long tongue Bees

Eucerini – Longhorn Bees

Longhorn bees are represented by 11 genera in our area. Melissodes is the most common, followed by Svastra, Eucera (including Peponapis), and Xenoglossa (squash bees). Male bees have long antenna and female bees have conspicuous, dense scopal hairs on their hind legs. These medium-size bees are all ground nesting, where parasitic Epeolini bees will invade.

Megachilidae – Leafcutter and Mason Bees

Megachile – Leafcutter Bees
Abdomen of female Megachile: pollen-carrying hairs attached to sternites below
Megachile policaris © John Van Veldhuizen on
Osmia – Mason Bees
Anthidiini – Woolcarder, Pebble, and Resin Bees
Ashmeadiella, Heriades, and Lithurgopsis

Cuckoo Bees (various families)


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