What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Metallic Green Bee or Sweat Bee
Location: Toronto Canada
June 16, 2016 9:39 am
I have had a nest in my garden for about 6 years (it is a no dig zone). Thought I would share a photo with you. Great site! Have an awesome summer.
Signature: Scott Morrow

Metallic Green Sweat Bee and Nest

Metallic Green Sweat Bee and Nest

Dear Scott,
We love your image of a Metallic Sweat Bee hovering near her nest so much we are going to feature it this month.  According to BugGuide, Sweat Bees in the family Halictidae are:  “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).”  We also want to commend you on your “no dig zone” which will protect the young that are developing in the nest.  We wish more of our readers were as sensitive to the environment as you are.

Wow…i am honoured!!
There is a ‘but’ though…I have been seeing small red and black bees landing on the nest site. To the best of my research they may be trying to attack the nest of the green bees (cleptoparasites I think they were called). I don’t like to alter how real life happens but I love my green bees…any suggestions?

Hi Scott
We are sorry to hear about your disappointment.  We are hoping you are able to provide an image of the “mall red and black bees.”  They sound like they might be members of the genus
Sphecodes, based on this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Cleptoparasites, usually of other Halictinae.”

My apologies if it came across as being disappointed. I am very happy in fact.
I will try to get a picture but they are quite small and fast to fly away.
Thanks again.

Hi Scott,
Sometimes electronic communication leads to misunderstandings.  We interpreted your love for your green bees to mean you were disappointed that they were being Cleptoparasitized by the black and red relatives.  On a positive note, we doubt that all of the Green Sweat Bee young will be lost.  We eagerly await a potential image of the Cleptoparasite.

Update:  June 24, 2016
Hi Daniel
This is the best I managed to get. The Green Bee guard is blurred but can be seen in the centre of the photo.
Even though I love my Green Bees I will not harm or harass the red ones as this is what nature does.
Be well and have a great buggy summer.

Cleptoparasite Bee

Cleptoparasitic Cuckoo Bee

Hi Scott,
Thanks so much for the update.  We are confident that the red bee is a Sweat Bee in the genus
Sphecodes which is well represented on BugGuide, though we would not entirely rule out that it might be a Cuckoo Bee, Holcopasites calliopsidis, based on the images posted to Beautiful North American Bees.  That would take far more skill than our editorial staff possesses, though according to BugGuide it is a diminutive “5-6 mm”.  We will contact Eric Eaton to get his opinion.  While we feel for your affection for the Metallic Green Sweat Bees, we do not believe the presence of the red cleptoparasitic  Bees will decimate the population of the green bees.  Nature has a way of balancing out populations, and when food is plentiful, populations flourish.  Your “no dig zone” is diversifying in its inhabitants.  To add further information on cleptoparasitism, we turn to BugGuide where it defines:  “cleptoparasite (also kleptoparasite) noun – an organism that lives off of another by stealing its food, rather than feeding on it directly. (In some cases this may result in the death of a host, for example, if the larvae of the host are thereby denied food.”

Correction Courtesy of Eric Eaton
The cleptoparasite is a Nomada sp. cuckoo bee.  The host bee is Agapostemon virescens, by the way.  Never seen a turret on their nest entrance that was so tall!  Nomada is a genus in the family Apidae (formerly Anthophoridae).

Ed. Note:  When we first responded to the Cleptoparasite response, we suspected we might be dealing with a Cuckoo Bee and we prepared a response with BugGuide quotes including “Wasp-like, often red or red and black and often with yellow integumental markings” and “cleptoparasites of various bees, primarily Andrena but also Agapostemon and Eucera (Synhalonia) (these are usually larger than the Andrena cleptoparasites). (J.S. Ascher, 23.iv.2008)  males mimic the specific odors of the host females and patrol the host nest site.”  We were going to console Scott with the information that his Green Sweat Bees were most likely being scoped out by male Cuckoo Bees who had not net mated with a female, the real cleptoparasite.  Next time we will trust our first impression.


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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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