Orchid Bee in North Carolina?
April 21, 2010
I love your site! I can finally ask someone about the critters I’ve been photographing in my yard. This little green bee was crawling on a lighter on my table one day. It was beautiful and I just had to find out what kind it was. At first I thought it was a Green Metallic Bee, but it didn’t look exactly like one. Then I thought maybe it was an Orchid Bee, but I didn’t think they came as far north as Charlotte, NC. Could you please tell me what kind of bee this is? I’d love to see more of them in my garden. Maybe if I plant their favorite flowers they’ll stick around!
Thanks so much. This site is in my top 10 favorite sites ever!
This is a Metallic Sweat Bee, probably in the genus Augochlorini, though the family Halictidae is quite confusing for us. We matched your bee to a photo on BugGuide. BugGuide also indicates that it is difficult to differentiate between the three genera Ausochlora, Augochlorella and Augochloropsis.Thank you so much for your passionate and complimentary letter. BugGuide indicates that “Adults found on flowers” and they eat “Pollen and nectar and aphid’s honeydew.” Alas BugGuide does not indicate which flowers will attract the Metallic Sweat Bees. Here in Los Angeles, we see them on cardoon or wild artichoke, Cynara cardunculus. These large thistles have a reputation as invasive exotic plants that compromise our native habitat, but like so many problematic species, they have some endearing qualities, including that they are edible. Here is an excerpt of a piece we wrote on the cardoon in the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance newsletter in January 2010: “Perhaps a better and tastier way to control the population of the Cardoon is to eat it. The buds are much smaller than traditional artichokes, though they can be prepared in a similar manner before they open. The more feasible part of the plant to eat though is the midrib of the leaf that tastes much like the traditional artichoke. The website www.gardening-guy.com has several recipes for the preparation of Cardoon, including a dish called bagna cauda that translates loosely to “hot bath” and involves spearing and cooking cubes of beef and other vegetables in hot oil in a manner similar to fondue. I plan to pick some of the leaves growing on “dirt” Burnell this spring and steaming them to eat with aioli, that is unless one of you readers beats me to the harvest.” Other plants that will attract Metallic Sweat Bees include Echinacea and any of the composite flowers like Rudbeckia, cosmos, sunflowers and daisies.
Thank you so much for clearing that up for me and for the awesome information on the types of plants that would attract the Metallic Sweat Bee. I’m delighted that the Echinacea, Sunflowers, Daisies and Cosmos I planted in my garden this year will bring more of them around! I haven’t seen any wild artichoke anywhere but as it is an invasive species, that is probably a good thing. I’ve been careful to only plant natives in my garden, so hopefully the Echinacea and others will be enough to keep the little guys busy.
Thank you again for responding – and so promptly too! You guys are the BEST!
Correction courtesy of John Ascher
April 22, 2012