Green Orchid Bee Care 101: Essentials for Enthusiasts

As nature’s living jewels, Green Orchid Bees captivate with their unique appearance and intriguing behavior. These beautiful insects can be found throughout the Americas, with about 200 known species displaying a dazzling mix of metallic colors, such as dark green, shiny blue, purple, red, gold, and brassy tones. You can learn more about these stunning creatures by exploring their habitat, behavior, and role in pollination.

Green Orchid Bees, belonging to the genera Eufriesia, Euglossa, Eulaema, Exaerete, and Aglae, typically have a large size, with some species being similar to or slightly smaller than a honey bee. Their vibrant, metallic-green coloration and dark, transparent wing membranes are just a few of the features that make them stand out from other bees. These striking insects serve important functions within their ecosystem, as they are vital pollinators of various types of plants, including the alluring and fascinating orchids.

Their attraction to flowers occurs due to their need for resources such as pollen and nectar, which is used for both their own sustenance and to support their offspring. Green Orchid Bees exemplify the beauty and diversity of the insect world while playing a crucial role in the environment. By getting to know these stunning creatures, you’ll undoubtedly develop an appreciation for their importance within our ecosystem.

The Green Orchid Bee: An Overview

Anatomy and Species

The Green Orchid Bee, scientifically known as Euglossa dilemma, is a species of bee known for its striking metallic-green coloration. This insect is around the same size as a honey bee, typically measuring about 1.3 cm in length. Its wing membranes are transparent but darkened, adding to its distinctive appearance.

Orchid bees exhibit a variety of shapes and colors across different species, such as:

  • Eulaema: Fuzzy black and yellow
  • Exaerete: Bright green and larger than others
  • Euglossa: Metallic variants in blue, green, red, and gold

Natural Habitat

These bees are found exclusively in the Americas, particularly in regions like South America, Central America, and parts of North America. They act as important pollinators within various ecosystems, contributing to the growth of flowers, trees, and crops.

Life Cycle

The Green Orchid Bee’s life cycle consists of egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. Similar to other bee species, male and female roles differ considerably. Males are known for collecting fragrances from their surroundings to attract females, whereas females focus on nesting and provisioning food for young.

Key features of Green Orchid Bees:

  • Metallic-green coloration
  • Size similar to honey bees
  • Transparent, darkened wing membranes
  • Exclusive to the Americas
  • Important pollinators

Comparison Table

Feature Green Orchid Bee Honey Bee
Size 1.3 cm 1.3-1.6 cm
Color Metallic-green Black-and-yellow-striped
Habitat Americas Worldwide
Role Pollinators Pollinators and honey producers

Behavior and Mating

Solitary Behavior

Green Orchid Bees are a type of solitary bee. They do not live in large colonies like honey bees. Each female builds her own nest and takes care of her offspring independently.

Mating Rituals and Scents

Male Green Orchid Bees are attracted to scents from various sources like orchids and other aromatic plants. They collect these scents in specialized pouches on their hind legs and use them to attract females for mating. This unique process is also known as “perfume collecting.”

Flower Pollination

Green Orchid Bees are important pollinators of orchids and other tropical flowers. They have a long, specialized tongue for collecting nectar from deep within flowers. While feeding on nectar, they also transfer pollen between flowers, leading to pollination.

Characteristics of Green Orchid Bees:

  • Solitary behavior
  • Bright metallic colors
  • Long tongue for nectar collection
  • Males attracted to scents for mating
  • Important pollinators for orchids and tropical flowers

Example of a Green Orchid Bee species:

  • Euglossa dilemma: A species with a metallic-green coloration and found in North and Central America.

Comparison Table: Green Orchid Bee vs. Honey Bee

Feature Green Orchid Bee Honey Bee
Social Behavior Solitary Colonial
Mating Uses scents to attract Mating flight
Pollination Orchids & tropical plants Variety of flowers
Tongue Long & specialized Shorter & less adapted

Nesting and Dietary Preferences

Building Nest Sites

Green Orchid Bees are unique in their nesting behaviors. These non-aggressive insects are known to build nests using natural materials like plant resin, and propolis. They prefer to construct their nests in cavities, similar to carpenter bees, which differ from honey bees that form large hives above ground. Some examples of sites chosen include tree holes or hollow stems.

A Varied Diet

Orchid bees have specific dietary needs that include a variety of food sources, such as:

  • Pollen: A primary food source for carrying protein.
  • Nectar: Provides quick energy and helps in metabolizing pollen.
  • Resin: Used for nest construction and to protect against predators.
  • Human sweat: Occasionally, some species get attracted to minerals in sweat.

This diverse diet helps them meet their high-energy needs for survival and reproduction.

Orchids and Mutualism

One fascinating relationship exists between orchid bees and orchids. This mutualism involves the bee collecting fragrant compounds from the orchids, which are crucial for attracting mates. In return, the bee pollinates the orchid, assisting in its reproduction. This interdependence showcases a vital ecological role that these bees play in certain regions, such as in Broward County.

Comparison between Green Orchid Bee, Carpenter Bee, and Honey Bee:

Feature Green Orchid Bee Carpenter Bee Honey Bee
Nest Building Material Plant resin, propolis Wood Wax
Nest Location Tree holes, hollow stems Wood tunnels Above ground hives
Diet Pollen, nectar, resin, occasionally human sweat Nectar, pollen Pollen, nectar, honey
Aggressiveness Non-aggressive Rarely aggressive Can be aggressive
Pollinator Role Important for Orchid pollination, ecological role in certain areas General flower pollination Vital for crop pollination

The Green Orchid Bee in the United States

Expansion in Florida

The Green Orchid Bee, known as Euglossa dilemma, is native to Central and South America, but has been spotted in various parts of Florida, such as West Palm Beach and Tampa. Scientists believe its expansion might be due to ornamental plant trade from countries like Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Adaptation and Ecosystem Impact

Green Orchid Bees are known for their metallic and vibrant colors. They play an essential role in pollination in their native ecosystems. As they adapt to Florida’s environment, their impact on local ecosystems is still being studied. However, they have shown great flexibility, and there isn’t any evidence of negative consequences on the local flora and fauna.

Invasive Species or Not

While the expansion of Green Orchid Bees is noticeable, they are not officially classified as an invasive species. They appear to coexist with native bees without significant disruption. The pros and cons of their presence in the United States are as follows:

Pros:

  • Improved pollination of native plants.
  • Encouragement of biodiversity.

Cons:

  • Possibility of competition with native bee species.
  • Potential future ecosystem disruption.

In conclusion, the Green Orchid Bee’s expansion in Florida and the United States is an interesting topic for scientists and entomologists alike. As of now, they are contributing to the local ecosystem without significant negative impact, but their influence on native species and ecosystems will continue to be closely monitored.

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 – Green Orchid Bee

 

Subject: Bee Fly?
Location: Plantation FL
September 24, 2012 12:41 pm
Photographed this bug in my south Florida back yard. It was really attracted to my basil plant. Is it a bee or a Fly?
Signature: Laura

Green Orchid Bee

Hi Laura,
We first reported on Green Orchid Bees,
Euglossa dilemma, in Florida in 2004, and that posting created quite a stir.  We have since learned that this Central American species has become well established in southern Florida.

Letter 2 – Green Orchid Bee

 

Metallic Green Fly
Sat, Mar 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM
As shown in the picture, it has a blue-green metallic color to it. It looked like a fly and it was flying to different flowers. I located this bug in Southern Florida. There’s not much else I can think of.
Jenna Marie
Coconut Creek, Florida

Green Orchid Bee
Green Orchid Bee

Dear Jenna Marie,
This is a Green Orchid Bee, Euglossa viridissima, a tropical species that has become well established in Florida in recent years, perhaps due to global warming.
In a general sense, species range expansion and species range declines are both evidence of climate changes.  While range expansion might be considered a benefit in some cases, it also becomes harmful to the environment by crowding out of established species that are native to the area.

Letter 3 – Green Orchid Bee

 

Turquoise Bug That Looks Like a Bee
Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 5:54 PM
I was taking pictures of bumblebees in my yard and saw this beautiful blue bug that hovered by the same yellow flowers. Do you know what it is? It looks like a mutant bumblebee in shape! The color is amazing. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide me. Hopefully it is not a pest that I have to worry about in the garden.
Sandi
Boca Raton, FL

Green Orchid Bee
Green Orchid Bee

Hi Sandi,
When we first posted a photo of a Green Orchid Bee, Euglossa viridissima, a few years ago, it created quite a stir.  Now according to BugGuide, this tropical species is well established in Florida.

Letter 4 – Green Orchid Bee

 

Identification Request: Green hovering bug
Location: Ft Lauderdale, Florida
April 11, 2012 10:09 pm
I see these bugs on rare occassions. They will hover in one spot in mid air. If you disturb them, they fly away and then they will return to the exact same spot. They move very quickly.
These photos were taken in South Florida in June.
Signature: Danman

Green Orchid Bee

Dear Danman,
When we first posted an image of a Green Orchid Bee in the genus
Euglossa, in 2004, it was something of a sensation because it was a more tropical species that was not reported from Florida.  It has since become quite well established.  Its presence could be due to global warming or other man made causes like accidental introduction or cultivation of its food source in gardens.

Daniel,
I first saw these in Hollywood, Florida in 1987. That is 18 years previous to your 2004 post. They would find a spot in mid air for no apparent reason and they would hover without any deviation. If you waved your hand, they would fly away in an arc, and the they would return to that same spot in mid air. They are raelly odd insects.
Danman

Wow, that is fascinating.  We wonder how they avoided detection for so long.  See this:  Establishment of the neotropical Orchid Bee Euglossa viridissima (Hymenoptera:  Apidae) in Florida which states  “During the summer of 2003, however, several male Euglossa viridissima Friese 1899 were trapped around Fort Lauderdale (26°08’N, 80°08’W), Florida, by USDA employees in the fruit fly monitoring program and sent to the Florida State Collection of Arthropods for identification (Wiley 2004).”  To the best of our knowledge, that represents the first official Florida sighting.

Letter 5 – Green Orchid Bee

 

what kind of bee is this
August 29, 2009
I would like to know as much info on this cool looking green bee as possible
mike samsel
pompano beach florida

Green Orchid Bee Colony
Green Orchid Bee Colony

Dear Mike,
When we first posted an image of a Green Orchid Bee, Euglossa viridissima, in October 2004, and it created quite a stir.  The species has since become established in Florida, having crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.  The Online article on BioOne entitled ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEOTROPICAL ORCHID BEE EUGLOSSA VIRIDISSIMA (HYMENOPTERA: APIDAE) IN FLORIDA by Charlotte Skova and Jim Wiley provides a wealth of information.  We are thrilled to get your photos which illustrate the communal nesting habits of the Green Orchid Bee.

Green Orchid Bee Colony
Green Orchid Bee Colony

Update from Eric Eaton
Daniel:
I don’t know if they are nesting, or are seeking minerals in the soil, or just what.  I’d love to see that spectacle myself, though:-)
Eric

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.

    View all posts

37 thoughts on “Green Orchid Bee Care 101: Essentials for Enthusiasts”

  1. I saw one of these on my cucumber flowers today. I live in Edmond, Okla. I was wondering if that is unusual. Wish I had my camera. I usually carry it with me in the garden.

    Reply
  2. I have found this bee in my pool in Evans County Ga for the past ten years. They never sting when I pick them up.

    Reply
  3. I have three wooden bird houses that have these green bees making hives in. They move unlike a normal honey bee; very quick and appear to move in 90 degree angles! I don’t want to kill them with a spray but my wife is allergic to bee stings. What can I do? should I put a garbage bag over the bird houses and take them out in the woods and drop them off?

    Reply
  4. I live in Montego Bay Jamaica and that bee is present here, we see it occasionally. In Jamaica we call them Money Bee as it is believed that when that bee appears around you it’s a sign of good luck and that you will receive some unexpected money which I have proven to be true for me. It is the reason why it is my favorite insect. Love that bee.

    Reply
  5. John, are you sure it’s a bee? The flight description sou D’s more like a fly. There are quite a few fly varieties that look like bees. They can be differentiated by the head shape & usually the way they fly.

    Reply
  6. I was stung by a green orchid bee a year ago . It flew into our car and under my sleeveless top. I got stung 3 times in my back. We never found a stinger. Now I have a small knot where it stung me. Sometimes it a little sore. How concern should I be.

    Reply
  7. The Green Orchid bee has made its way up to Sarasota FL now. I have seen it a number of times in a conservatory behind my home. Today I decided to photograph it and video it since it’s so welcoming of getting up close.

    Reply
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. I can confirm Jim Barden’s claim, i saw one today, on 8-20-18, in my Sarasota backyard hovering and moving around like a hummingbird.

    Reply
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. I found one in Greene county PA. I don’t know if this is the same thing but looks the same kinda. I posted a video of it on my Facebook page look it up and let me know if this is it.

    Reply
  14. I have three orchid bees living in the coconuts on my front porch. I had never seen them before until I brought my orchids outside. They seal the coconut hole every night and open it up in the morning. So fun to watch. I’ve posted a video and pictures.

    Reply

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