This is a collection of bees I’ve photographed in my yard, mostly, as well as on shoots around our area. Florida has over 300 native species of bees, and there are over 500 in Georgia. This page will not list all of them! Instead, you’ll see the bees that might commonly visit our yards, and maybe a couple that are less common. I’ll keep adding as I photograph new species, or witness interesting behaviors.
Even if you don’t see a photo of the specific bee you saw in your yard, maybe you’ll see the type. Sometimes, the best we can do is identify a genus of bees, or a tribe. Some bees need several detailed photos, or a microscope, to differentiate between related species. This page organizes bees into their families. So you might be able to identify that you have a leafcutter, or a sweat bee.
We’ve collected some information to help you attract bees to your home garden. Click to learn more about building a habitat through bee friendly plants, space for nesting, and even a little water for them to drink. We’ll be adding content later in 2021 and through 2022 as part of our My Garden of a Thousand Bees project, so stay tuned!
Carpenter Bees, bumblebees, longhorn bees, cuckoo bees, and honeybees
Carpenter bees excavate their nests in dead wood, which, in our yards, can mean fences or any other (usually unfinished) wood structures in your yard. Understandably, some people regard them as pests. If you can tolerate a few perfectly round holes in a fence post, they are pollinators, and their nests are used by other pollinators as well.
We talked to Dr. Rachel Mallinger, assistant professor of Entomology at the University of Florida, about Florida native bees, and she had a couple of things to say about carpenter bees. They do bore into wood, which concerns homeowners. Dr. Mallinger points out that carpenter bees nest in soft, usually decaying wood. The main structure of a house is constructed of hard wood, where trim, railings, and fences are made from soft woods. If the main structure isn’t decaying, carpenters may nest in the soft wood structures.
Leaving decaying wood in brush piles, or otherwise incorporated into the landscape, offers an alternative nesting location for carpenter bees. Learn more in our post on helping nesting bees.
Dr. Mallinger also spoke about male carpenter bee’s tendency to fly at humans. It’s aggressive, and unsettling when they get in your face, but male carpenter bees have no stinger.
One last note about carpenter bees. They look, at first, like large bumblebees. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is the abdomen. As I tell the kids, bumblebees have fuzzy “butts,” where carpenter bees have smooth abdomens. But, as we’ll see below, there is one other bee species in the area that mimics carpenter bees and their “smooth butts.”
Eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica)
There are two species we’re likely to see in our area. The males of both species are similar, though the southern carpenter bee has a purplish abdomen while the eastern is a pure black.
Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans)
Here we see the female southern carpenter bee, which is all black with a purplish tinge. Female eastern carpenter bees, on the other hand, look much like their males.
Bumblebees are both common and conspicuous among our native bees. Not only are they widespread, but are large enough to notice even on higher up tree flowers.
They are social bees. In the fall, queens and males leave the nest and mate. The queen is the only bumblebee to survive through the winter, carrying next year’s colony within her as she lies dormant in leaf litter. In the spring, she emerges and creates a new colony. The leaves we let lie in the winter harbor numerous insects, as dormant adults, larvae, and pupae.
Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens)
Here is the bumblebee species you’re most likely to see in your north Florida yard. It’s a ground nesting species, where the American bumblebee nests above ground.
Note the fuzzy abdomen and pollen sacs on the hindmost legs.
American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus)
American bumblebees were once the most common bumblebee species in the US. But they have declined over the last several decades, and are now federally listed as Vulnerable. Unlike other bumblebees, they nest above ground. In our segment on them last year, they had taken over a purple martin gourd.
They are larger than eastern bumblebees, and have a striped yellow patch on their abdomens.
The American Bumblebee in the WFSU Ecology Blog
- In August 2019, we visited a beekeeper who had taken in an American bumblebee nest.
- In July 2020, We found an American bumblebee at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park.
Two-spotted long-horned bee (Melissodes bimaculatus)
This bee was a constant presence in our yard in May and June of 2020, peaking at four or five individuals. It fed off a large variety of flowers of different shapes and sizes, hanging from salvia, pentas, or fanpetal flowers, or sitting on larger tickseed and coneflower flowers. This generalist diet might account, in part, for their wide range as a species, covering half of the United States.
Svastra genus, subgenus Epimelissodes
I recently saw this longhorn bee at the Leon County Extension. My best guess is sandhills longhorn, though it looks similar to the common longhorn as well. Its orange fur more closely matches sandhill than common, and so this is my ID for now. I’ll update if I learn differently.
EDIT 4/12/22- This is a bee in the Svastra genus, subgenus Epimelissodes.
I observed the bee above in Klapp-Phipps park, and Dr. John Ascher identified it as a member of the Triepeolus genus.
Like cuckoo wasps (which are common in my yard), cuckoo bees are known as brood parasites. This means they lay their eggs with the eggs of other bees, whom their larvae consume.
Lunate-longhorn cuckoo bee (Triepeolus lunatus)
This cuckoo bee lays its eggs with those of the two-spotted longhorn bee, which is common in my yard from mid-May through early July. I only spotted this one once in my yard, in June of 2022, just as I was starting to see multiple longhorns.
Lively cuckoo bee, aka Fervid nomad bee (Nomada fervida)
I first photographed this bee in our yard, in August 2020. I saw it again almost exactly a year later. Cuckoo bees lay their eggs with specific bee species, genera, or families; this bee hosts on the Agapostemon genus. In our yard, this is represented by Agapostemon splendens– the brown-winged striped sweat bee. Those have an annual population explosion every August in our yard, hence we see fervid nomad bees then as well.
Blueberry Digger Bee (Habropoda laboriosa)
The blueberry digger is an early flying bee, coinciding with the spring bloom season for blueberry species in the southeast. It uses buzz pollination (sonication), vibrations which shake loose pollen. I first saw this one crawling into a ground nest, and later on blueberry flowers. When I finally saw it with a camera in my hand, it was on this Florida betony flower. So it’s not strictly a specialist.
Fun fact- when Proof Brewery hosted WFSU and its partners for 2019’s EcoCitizen Day, it brewed a blueberry beer called Sonicated.
Western honeybee (Apis Mellifera)
I’ve saved these for last because they’re not native, though they are an important agricultural animal. Below is the most common honeybee we might see, the female worker bee. During the weeks that they’re alive, they move through a series of jobs, from tending larvae to, finally, seeking nectar to bring back to the hive, from which they make honey.
Below are the queen, the mother of all of the bees in the hive, and a drone. Drones are male bees, and are distinguished by their larger eyes, which give them the vision they need to spot a queen in flight. Their only job is to find a queen and mate.
Honeybees build hexagonal cells in their hives. Some of those cells contain honey, and others larvae. Worker bees tend to the larvae until they’re almost ready to pupate (metamorphose into adults), and then the cells are capped. You can see larvae in the uncapped cells below.
Honeybees on the Ecology Blog
- In 2014, we kayaked the Dead Lakes and visited apiaries in the Wewahitchka area. The numerous tupelo swamps between the Chipola and Apalachicola Rivers make this the tupelo honey capital of the world.
- In 2019, Dr. Lee Bushong and his partner, FAMU Entomology PhD. student Worrel Diedrick took us into their hives. All of the photos of honeybees are from that shoot. They were also raising an American bumblebee colony.
Leafcutter, mason, and resin bees
This is a family of solitary nesting bees with similar habits. They make use of existing tunnel structures, such as those left by wood boring beetles or insects that tunnel in the ground. Leaf cutters will, as their name suggests, cut leaves to line these tunnels and build their nests. Mason bees collect sediment to seal their tunnels, much like mason wasps. Resin bees use resin to seal their nests.
Carpenter-mimic leafcutter bee (Megachile xylocopoides)
With its smooth abdomen and yellow hair, the male carpenter-mimic leafcutter looks much like a smaller carpenter bee. Note the narrower wing shape and flatter abdomen, and the shape of the head compared to the carpenter. The female mimics the female southern carpenter bee, with an all black body and less hair than the male.
Carpenter-mimic leafcutter bees on the WFSU Ecology Blog
- We first saw this bee on the Backyard Blog. It was a regular presence in our yard in May and June of 2020. Like a carpenter bee, it was aggressive towards other pollinators in our flower patch, especially wasps.
- In July of 2020, I saw the female when shooting pollinator footage at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park.
This is another species of leafcutter I spotted while shooting video in Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee. I couldn’t narrow the ID to anything more specific than genus, which isn’t uncommon for bees.
Flat-Tailed and Petulant Leafcutter Bees
Here are two very similar looking leafcutters. The images above and below come from two different dates at Klapp-Phipps Park, and I had at first thought they were both flat-tailed leafcutter bees. After loading the images into iNaturalist, it appears they might be two different species. Bee researcher Dr. John Ascher of the National University of Singapore is very active on iNaturalist, and suggested petulant leafcutter for the bee above.
Another user confirmed flat-tailed leafcutter (Megachile mendica) for the images below, which were taken from video and are not as high resolution as the one above. Looking at images of both bees in Google image searches, and on their Discover Life pages, the differences seem to be highly technical. Maybe more technical than I’m ready to dive into and learn about for the amount of time I have to write this post; but, like I keep saying, I’ll keep returning to these pages with new photos and any other information I learn.
Perplexing rotund-resin bee (Anthidiellum perplexum)
I have only one image of this bee, from the same busy patch of sensitive plants at Klapp-Phipps, and within a few minutes of seeing the leafcutter bees above.
Cuckoo Leafcutter Bees (Genus Coelioxys)
There is a different family of cuckoo bees (Nomanidae) in the Apidae family, listed above. This cuckoo bee is in the Megachilidae family, so it is genetically a leafcutter even if its reproductive habits are different. Like other bees and wasps labelled “cuckoo,” this is a kleptoparasite. Coelioxys lays its eggs with those of other bees, the larvae hatching and devouring the host species (typically other leafcutters).
Because these bees don’t keep nests of their own, they lack the ability to carry pollen on their legs or abdomens.
This is a large and diverse family of bees. Sweat bees are some of the smaller bees we see on our flowers, from the gnat sized Dialictus bees to the somewhat larger and more colorful Augochlorini. They are said to be attracted to human sweat.
Lasioglossum, subgenus Dialictus
Dialictus is a subgenus of the Lasioglossum genus, and it has hundreds of very similar looking bees. They are difficult to differentiate, even with a microscope. I see quite a few in my yard, and some are slightly larger than others. I figure, based on size, that I have at least two species. Or maybe it’s one species with larger males or females?
Poey’s Furrow Bee (Halictus Poeyi)
Poey’s furrow bees are just a little larger than the largest Dialictus in our yard, and they often use the same flowers. The furrow bees have a more pronounced yellow and black striping on the abdomens, and big, thick heads. I’ve seen as many as two or three at a time in our yard, with two sometimes sharing a larger flower.
There are two or three species we’re likely to see in our area, and these are very much similar looking. Augochlorine bees are solitary nesters.
The photo above was submitted to iNaturalist and confirmed to be a pure green sweat bee (Augochlora pura). Another possibility in our area is the metallic-epauletted sweat bee (Augochloropsis metallica).
Below are a few photos of Augochlorine sweat bees. I’m noticing that very few get species-level confirmations on iNaturalist. One of the bees below has a deep blue color, but that’s a normal color variation for these bees. They also resemble the female brown-winged striped-sweat bee (which we’ll see next), but those have a few features that make them easier to identify.
Brown-winged striped sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens)
The male brown-winged striped sweat bee is unmistakable. In August of 2019 and 2020, I saw larger and larger numbers of the males on flower patches in our yard. I saw females, which have a similar green coloring to the Augochlorine bees, as early as June in 2020. And perhaps I’d always seen them this early. This was the first year that I had close photos of both, and noticed their subtle differences.
One subtle difference is the wings. Female brown-winged striped sweat bees have murkier wings than Augochlorine bees. If you scroll up to the photo of the pure green sweat bee, its wings look more like they’re made of glass panes. Another difference is that the female brown-winged striped sweat bee has more pronounced stripes on its abdomen:
Sweat bees are ground nesters, though they may also nest in rotting wood. In July of 2019, I removed an old wooden bench from the yard, and a green sweat bee flew out. I followed it as it appeared to search the ground for a new nesting area. If you have space for a brush pile in your yard, for a place to put a nice sized fallen branch to let sit and rot, this is one of a few different insects that would make use of that habitat.
I saw this bee one time in my yard, tackling some shriveled flowers on the pavement. Dr. Ascher suggested the subgenus Archiandrena in iNaturalist.
In April of 2021, I saw a couple of mining bees returning to or digging new nests under individual leaves scattered on open soil.
Fairy and Goblin Bees
In the mining bee family, there is a subfamily of small mining bees, within which there is a subtribe called Perditina– fairy and goblin bees. The bees in the image above, which I had thought were small Lasioglossum sweat bees, are fairy bees in the Perdita genus.
Plasterer- aka polyester- bees
Cellophane Bees (Colletes genus)
Plasterer bees are solitary ground nesters that line their nests with a secretion that resembles cellophane. The substance is a natural polyester, and so plasterer bees are also called polyester bees.
Cellophane bees are a genus of bees (Colletes) in the plasterer bee family (Colletidae). The image above hasn’t yet gotten a species level identification in iNaturalist. One likely option is sandhills cellophane bee, as I spotted this one in a sandhill habitat, and the species is one of a couple of Colletes species observed in the Florida panhandle.
Edit 10-28-21: It looks like this is a long-faced cellophane bee (Colletes longifacies), based on an identification by bee researcher Dr. John Ascher. This central/ north Florida endemic, he says, is “Historically overlooked due to late flight season.” As Dr. Ascher notes, Colletes longifacies is a”rarely recorded, localized, and specialized species.” It has previously been recorded on clusterleaf blazingstar, a fall blooming wildflower.
Many of the photos above come from the Backyard Blog. WFSU Ecology producer Rob Diaz de Villegas has been chronicling the plants and animals in his yard since 2018, paying close attention to insects.