Do Green Orchid Bees Sting? Uncovering the Truth About These Insects

Green orchid bees are a fascinating species known for their striking metallic-green coloration and large size. Found primarily in the Americas, there are around 200 different known species of these bees, with new ones being discovered every year. These bees’ distinctive coloring can vary, with some displaying brilliant blue, purple, red, or gold shades.

While these bees may be captivating, it’s natural for people to wonder if they possess the ability to sting. In the green orchid bee family, only females have a stinger. However, they are generally quite timid and not prone to stinging unless provoked.

If you’ve found yourself up close and personal with a green orchid bee, it’s important to remain calm. Swatting at the bee may increase the likelihood of getting stung. Although a sting from a green orchid bee is regarded to be less painful than that of a honey bee, it’s still best to avoid any potential discomfort by giving them space.

Green Orchid Bees Overview

Distribution and Habitat

Green orchid bees, belonging to the tribe Euglossini, are mostly found in the tropical rainforests of Mexico, Central America, and South Florida. Some species have been spotted as far north as the United States, and they have a strong presence in countries like Panama and Costa Rica1.

Description and Appearance

These bees display a striking metallic green appearance, with their wing membranes being darkened yet transparent. The genera within the tribe include Eufriesia, Euglossa, Eulaema, Exaerete, and Aglae, coming in different colors such as blue, purple, red, gold, and brassy2.

Male and Female Bees

Differences between male and female green orchid bees include:

  • Males have longer antennae, while females have shorter ones
  • Males collect fragrances from flowers to attract females for mating, while females visit flowers for nectar and pollen
  • Female bees have a stinger, while male bees do not

Here is a comparison table showing some key differences between male and female green orchid bees:

Feature Male Bees Female Bees
Antennae Long Short
Main function Attract females Collect nectar/pollen
Stinger Absent Present

Some unique characteristics of green orchid bees include:

  • Green metallic coloration
  • Darkened, transparent wing membranes
  • Attractive fragrances collected by male bees
  • Strong presence in tropical rainforests

Behavior and Ecology

Pollination and Mutualism

Green orchid bees are important pollinators of orchids and other plants. They collect nectar and pollen using mop-like protrusions on their legs that efficiently transfer pollen between flowers. Orchids, in particular, have a unique relationship with these bees as they use their fragrance to attract the bees.

  • Important pollinators of orchids and other plants
  • Collect nectar and pollen using mop-like protrusions
  • Fragrance of orchids attracts green orchid bees

Nesting and Reproduction

Green orchid bees, like many neotropical orchid bees, are solitary, meaning they build solitary nests and do not live in colonies. These bees prefer to nest in tree cavities and other enclosed spaces.

  • Solitary nests
  • Prefer tree cavities or enclosed spaces for nesting

Males Attracting Mates

Male green orchid bees create a unique “bouquet” of volatile compounds to attract female mates. They collect aromatic substances from various sources, such as orchids or tree resin, and store these fragrant compounds in specialized pouches on their legs. When ready to mate, males release the compounds to attract prospective mates.

  • Males create a bouquet of volatile compounds to attract mates
  • Collect aromatic substances from various sources
  • Store fragrant compounds in specialized pouches on legs
Feature Green Orchid Bees
Pollinators Orchids, other plants
Nesting Preference Tree cavities, enclosed spaces
Mating Strategy Males create a unique bouquet of volatile compounds

This section has provided an overview of green orchid bees’ behavior and ecology, focusing on their role in pollination and mutualism, nesting and reproduction, and how males attract mates using fragrant compounds. The bees play a vital role in the pollination of orchids and other plants, as their unique features and behaviors contribute to their ecological interactions.

Do Green Orchid Bees Sting

Comparing Stingers in Bees and Wasps

Green orchid bees, like most bees, do have stingers, but only the females are capable of stinging. In contrast, wasps have stingers in both males and females. Here’s a comparison table for a better understanding:

Green Orchid Bees Wasps
Females Can sting Can sting
Males Cannot sting Can sting

Besides stingers, honey bees, bumble bees, and wasps have different levels of aggression and response to predators. While honey bees can only sting once and then die, bumble bees and wasps can sting multiple times. Orchid bees are often quite timid in stinging compared to their more aggressive counterparts, like wasps.

Aggressive Behavior

  • Green orchid bees are fast and agile, darting from flower to flower while hovering in between, and are not typically aggressive.
  • Aggressive bees, such as some wasps, can be angered by sweat, perfume, or discarded food.

It is important to remain calm when encountering any stinging insect, as overreacting might provoke an attack. In the case of green orchid bees, they are generally harmless and will not sting unless provoked or threatened. However, in rare instances, their sting could trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. It is best to maintain a respectful distance when observing them and appreciate their beauty from afar.

Species and Taxonomy

Euglossa Dilemma

The Euglossa dilemma is a green orchid bee that is quite eye-catching due to its large size and bright metallic-green coloration. Some of its features include:

  • Size: about 1.3 cm in length, similar to a honey bee
  • Appearance: metallic-green color, darkened transparent wing membranes

Eulaema

Eulaema is another orchid bee genus, known for their:

  • Color: black and yellow
  • Appearance: big and fuzzy

These bees are part of the Apidae family that consists of honey, bumble, carpenter, long-horned, and cuckoo bees.

Exaerete

The Exaerete orchid bees are:

  • Size: as long as your finger
  • Color: bright green

The shiny metallic green head and thorax are some of their distinct characteristics.

Comparison Table

Genus Size Color Appearance Bee Family
Euglossa 1.3 cm Metallic-green Similar to honey bee Apidae
Eulaema Large Black and yellow Big and fuzzy Apidae
Exaerete Finger-length Bright green Shiny metallic green head and thorax Apidae

It is important to note that these bee genera belong to the Apidae family, which is distinct from the Halictidae family, the second-largest group of bees.

Potential Threats and Conservation

Habitat Loss

Green orchid bees, also known as harmony bees, face habitat loss due to human activities and climate change. Destruction of their natural habitats, such as decomposition of vegetation, affects the survival of young bees and the overall ecosystem balance. According to the University of Florida, their distribution throughout peninsular Florida highlights the importance of preserving these regions for their survival.

Invasion of Non-Native Species

Invasive non-native species pose a risk to harmony bees by disrupting their food sources and the ecological balance. For example, the introduction of honey bees from other regions could compete with green orchid bees for the same resources like nectar and propolis, a chemical produced by plants that bees use for various purposes.

Pros:

  • Green orchid bees play a vital role in pollinating plants
  • They maintain the balance of the ecosystem

Cons:

  • Habitat loss threatens their survival
  • Invasion of non-native species impacts their food sources

Comparison Table

Green Orchid Bees Non-Native Bees
Habitat Peninsular Florida Worldwide
Role in Ecosystem Pollinators Pollinators
Conservation Need High Variable

In conclusion, addressing habitat loss and limiting the invasion of non-native species is essential to protect green orchid bee populations and the ecosystems they support. It’s crucial to take steps towards conservation and maintain a balance in their natural environments.

Green Orchid Bees in the United States

West Palm Beach and Tampa

Green orchid bees are known for their bright metallic-green coloration and large size, usually about 1.3 cm in length1. They inhabit various regions in the United States, including West Palm Beach and Tampa. These bees are essential to local ecosystems for their pollination services.

Broward County and South Florida

Found throughout South Florida and Broward County, green orchid bees are a vital component of the region’s pollinator population2. Their unique features include:

  • Darkened, transparent wing membranes
  • Various colors, including blue, purple, red, and gold

A comparison of the green orchid bees found in these locations is presented in the table below:

Area Green Orchid Bee Features
West Palm Beach Large size, metallic-green
Tampa Important pollinators
Broward County Diverse coloration
South Florida Significant pollinator

Footnotes

  1. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/orchid-bees 2

  2. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/orchid_bees.shtml 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bird House Mystery Solved: Green Orchid Bee

 

bug nest?
Location: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
November 12, 2010 8:45 pm
I haven’t seen the bug yet, but something completely covered the hole in a decorative birdhouse on my porch with a thick, shiny, sticky substance that looks like it has dried bits of stuff embedded in it. It’s been closed over for about a week and today I noticed the hole was open and I saw a glimpse of an insect head, but it ducked back into the birdhouse. What in the world can this be?
Signature: Linda G

Bird House Mystery: Dripping Honey Perhaps???

Dear Linda,
Bumble Bees frequently nest in empty bird houses and Bumble Bees provision the nest with honey.  We have an awesome image in our archives of a Red Tailed Bumble Bee nest in a birdhouse and another image from earlier this year of a Bumble Bee nest in a bird house in Oklahoma.  According to the Bee Man Exterminators website (which does not condone the removal or extermination of Bumble Bee nests):  “They often nest in bird houses using the old bird nest from a past year to nest in.
”  Our best guess is that this might somehow be related to a nest of Bumble Bees and the oozing may be honey.  We would be thrilled to post any additional images of the insect should you be able to secure any, and we would love to be able to assist in clearing up this mystery.

Dan,
Thanks for the reply.  I had put the whole birdhouse in a big plastic bin on Friday evening and during the day on Saturday the “bee” came out….not very lively, but crawling around on the bottom of the bin.  Earlier today I put in some wildflower weeds from my yard for him and he went right to them and started crawling around from flower to flower.  When I checked again at dinner, he was latched onto a flower and not moving at all, so I went for the camera.  I picked the whole stem out and took a couple of pictures thinking he was dead since he hadn’t moved at all and poof!…off he flew!  I’m attaching the 3 pictures I did get.  When I googled iridescent green bee, I checked out a couple sites….could he be a “sweat bee”?  And why would there only be 1?  In 2 days, there was nothing else coming out of the birdhouse.  And the stuff gooking down from the hole is black, almost like tar!  So WEIRD!  But I guess a lot is weird in the bug world.  If you can give me any other info, I’d love it!
Thank you so much for the interest and the reply!
Linda G

Orchid Bee

Hi Linda,
Your bee is an Orchid Bee
Euglossa viridissima, a recent immigrant to Florida first reported to What’s That Bug in 2003 or 2005, or somewhere in between.

Dan,
Thank You, Thank You!!!!!  After I googled Orchid Bee and checked out several sites with pictures, I’m sure that’s what he (she) was!  I’m glad it wasn’t something nasty like the African Killer bees!  I’ll be on the lookout for more hanging around my porterweed…it really was very pretty!
I love watching butterflies, caterpillars and such and try to make my yard welcoming to all sorts of wildlife…it was very exciting to see something so unusual and thanks to you it’s been identified!
Thanks again!
Linda G

UPDATE:  November 17, 2010
Just a quick follow-up on my orchid bee that you identified….I hung my birdhouse back up on my porch without cleaning off the black resin goop and when I came home last evening, it was closed up again! Totally!  After being completely open since last Friday.  And just a little while ago, I went out for mail and there is a hole about the size of a tack, so I’m guessing the bee came back, more were inside and just never appeared over the weekend when it was inside the big bin, or another 1 or more have taken over the nest!?  Whatever, it sure is fascinating!  Funny I’ve  never see any activity in over a month of watching the resin get bigger, close over completely and then the holes during the day.  Should I report my orchid bee to anyone?  If so, who or where should I look to find it….guess I can google it like I did to find you!
Thanks again,
Linda G

Thanks for the update Linda.  We don’t think you need to report your Green Orchid Bee as it is already known they are well established in Florida.

Letter 2 – Green Orchid Bee

 

Identify Lasia Purpurata?
Hi-
Could you help me identify this bug. It was eating the nectar from a Desert Cassia. I have attached two photos. I looked through your site and I thought it might be Lasia Purpurata. The photos were taken here in in West Palm Beach, FL. Your site is great and very informative. Thanks for your help.
Stefanie

Hi Stephanie,
This beauty is a Green Orchid Bee, Euglossa viridissima. This is a tropical genus but the Green Orchid Bee is established in Florida and has also been reported in Texas according to BugGuide. It is the second photo we have received of this species from Florida since the New Year.

Update: (03/14/2008) Green Orchid Bee
Dear what that bug I was down if Fl (Broward Co.) working on a fruit fly trapping program and collected several of the orchid bees in the traps that you posted in January. This exotic neotropical bee was first collected in the state in fruit fly traps. Attached is just so info that you may find interesting. Pete reported around the basil plants which makes sense due to the male was collecting chemical compounds that he uses to attract females.
Brian Sullivan
PS-You are doing a great job as always

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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22 thoughts on “Do Green Orchid Bees Sting? Uncovering the Truth About These Insects”

  1. The thick, sticky substance blocking the entrance of your birdhouse is called Propolis, which bees produce to aid in constructing their hives. Bees normally use Propolis to limit the number of entrances to their hive (thereby making it easier to defend and limiting the size of intruders), seal cracks in the hive, or general water-proofing. Incidentally, propolis is one of the best things I’ve ever found to fix a hole in a bucket!

    Reply
  2. It’s me again…almost 3 years later! And my birdhouse is STILL an active nest for the green orchid bee. I know they don’t live that long, so it must be successive bees. even though I’ve learned they are solitary and only females do nests, I have on many occasions seen 2 bees using this nest…most often 1 guarding the hole and another coming back with it’s back legs carrying little yellow sacs. Sometimes there will be no observed activity (opening and closing of hole) for days or even a week or 2 at a time, other times the hole is opened and closed more than once a day, but it’s always closed at night! This birdhouse is right next to my front door, so I’ve been able to observe activity lots over the last 3 years! I named her BEA and her name is now on her house!

    Reply
    • Thanks for following up with us Linda. Though the Green Orchid Bee is a solitary bee, they do tend to nest communally, with each female providing for her own brood, but often in close proximity to other nesting females.

      Reply
  3. I too have discovered orchid bees nesting in a bird house on my patio. I posted this question in your comments section. I’m concerned because the bird house sits low and very close to people and my dog. I don’t necessarily want to disturb their home but I don’t want any of us to get stung for getting too close to their nest. Anyone have advice? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  4. Thanks and I’m glad to know they aren’t aggressive. Still I’m nervous for my dog. Now that she has watched me looking at this nest her interest in it has grown. Just tonight she had her nose all over it. I would like to move it to a higher and safer location. Will they be able to find their home? I don’t want to move it far, just higher and away from dog level. Any advice? Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Here’s My experience with the Orchard Green Bee
    On my weekly walk on the beach in. Florida
    I noticed a green object in the sand ahead
    I thought it was a gemstone but it turned out
    It was a bee struggling in the surf so I picked it up to save its life and placed it in the dunes on a plant The green bee turned his head to look at me shook his wings an flew off … just a few days ago I heard this intense buzzing at my
    Front door it was an green Ochard. Bee

    Reply
  6. I still have mine 4 years later. I added a second bird house to a higher shelf on the plant stand and it wasn’t long before an orchid bee made her home there. Now we have an orchid bee townhouse! I love them.

    Reply
  7. I have a bird box with the front hole covered in what looks like a spider web.
    This covering has a hole in it about 10mm dia. having searched I wandered if it could be one of these insects?
    Blue tits originally went into the box but never nested in it.
    I live in Camberley Surrey UK

    Reply
  8. Location: Plantation, FL
    October 26, 2017

    My son found two of this in his bedroom. I believe I brought them into the house 6 weeks ago just before Hurricane Irma arrived. I had taken down a small bird house my son made as part of a scout merit badge. I had placed it in a shelf in his room.

    Reply
  9. Orchid bees are eating away the paint and caulk of pine bannisters near my front door. How do I get them to leave my home alone? The home is for sale and the black gunk looks pretty bad. Any advice to get them to find another place to feed?

    Reply
  10. I am in The Bahamas and first saw one of these about 5 months ago. It appeared out of no where and hovered in front of me almost motionless apart from it’s wings moving then darted straight up and hovered for a moment again then took off with great speed out of sight. Today there were about 8 going feverishly at the wild orchids which had recently opened.

    I would like to upload a photo if someone can tell me how.

    Reply
  11. These bees are green orchid bees. It is thought they were transported to the States from Mexico by accident. They are not aggressive and only the female can sting. The pics are of male bees collecting fragrances. The males bees have an enlarged section on their hind legs (tibia)and spend most of their time gathering scented oils from various plants and collecting the scents in there hind leg pouches. Then they the attract the female by fanning there wings and spreading the scent into the air.
    Ref.:https://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/green_orchid_bee.htm

    Reply
  12. Mine keep nesting in my outdoor electrical boxes. Always gives me quite a fright when I go to plug in seasonal lights. Any suggestions on how to get them to nest somewhere else?

    Reply
  13. Hi, I’m so glad to read all these posts. I now know what I have living in my birdhouse in our kid’s fort. We have had the holes covered up and were afraid to break it open. We have seen the bee and he is green and very bright. Thank you for all this information. We have an orchid bee house.

    Reply

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