Bees

More than half of North America's wild bees are in decline, and 1 in 4 at risk of extinction. Native bees, honey bees, wasps and other pollinators are keystone species and provide pollination services for over 30 percent of human food.  The best crop pollinators are a combination of honey bees and wild bees.

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Rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis). photo: Heather Holm

Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are also a major part of the diet of birds and mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears.  There are an estimated 460 wild bees in Minnesota.  The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) was once abundant but is now a federally endangered species.  In addition, Minnesota has 8 state-listed endangered pollinator species, 1 threatened, 10 species of special concern and 19 non-listed in greatest conservation need.  Find the conservation guide for pollinators, plants, and pesticides with more information here. 

Bumble bees and other pollinators need high quality habitat to survive.  For the endangered rusty patched bumble bee, urban habitats can be just as important as parks or rural landscapes.  Keeping areas pesticide free is important for habitat quality and for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee.   Read more on the conservation of rusty patched bumble bee. 

Summary:  Sublethal effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on native bee behavior, compiled by Krischik Lab, 2020.

Bees belong to the class Insecta, the order Hymenoptera and the superfamily Apoidea which are divided into six families native to the United States:

  • Family Andrenidae – mining bees
  • Family Apidae – honey, bumble, carpenter, long-horned, digger and some cuckoo bees
  • Family Colletidae - plasterer and masked bees
  • Family Halictidae - sweat bees and Sphecodes bees
  • Family Megachilidae -  mason, resin, carder, leafcutter and cuckoo leafcutter bees
  • Family Melittidae - Melittid bees

1. Family Colletidae (common name:  cellophane or polyester bee)

Colletes spp.  Black and white banding on abdomen, Size: small – medium, 7 – 15mm (0.3 – 0.6 in)    Head: Hairy head and thorax, Heart – shaped face (strongly converging eves)  Tongue: Short, 1 – 3 mm (0.4 – 0.12 in ), two lobed  Flight distance:~ 500ft, 150 mm.  Nest: Ground, often near water, dense aggregations in sandy, loamy soil, loam, clay loam with nest lining of Dufour's gland secretion of cellophane, brushed on with glossa.  Pollen collection: Scopae, upper hind legs and thorax. 

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ADULT BEE, Photo: Steve Scott, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, Photo: Aaron Schusteff, BugGuide
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Ground nest, Photo: Aaron Schusteff, BugGuide

2. Family Colletidae (common name:  yellow-faced bee)

Hylaeus spp.  Black with yellow markings, Size: Small, 5 – 7 mm (0.2 – 0.3 in.) Tongue:  short, 1 - 2 mm (0.04 - 0.07 inch) hairless, bi-lobed tongue.  Nest: Preexisting cavities: stems or twigs with cellophane-like material, brushed on with glossa.    Pollen collection: Crop, No pollen–collecting scopae

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Adult bee, photo: Kurt Hennige, BugGuide
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Twig nest, photo: George Cordiner, Bugguide
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Collecting pollen, photo: Minnesota seasons
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Adult carrying pollen, photo: iNaturalist
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Ground nest, photo: Libby & Rick Avis
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tawny mining bee, photo: Laurie schneider
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Adult bee, photo: Paul Scharf, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Hartmut Wisch, BugGuide
mining bee inaturalist
Note green eye, photo: Odophile/iNaturalist
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Adult bee, photo: Sarah Christopherson, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Molly Jacobson, BugGuide
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Ground nest, J. Gibbs, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Gary McDonald, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Kurt Hennige, BugGuide
sweat bee
Adult bee, photo: Laurie Schneider
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Adult bee, photo: Peter Bryant, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Betsy Betros, BugGuide
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Ground nest, photo: Diane Wilson, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Ron Hemberger, BugGuide
cuckoo bee
Anchored by mandibles, photo: wikimedia
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Adult bee, photo: Kim Phillips, BugGuide
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Nest in wood, photo: Beatriz Moisset, BugGuide
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Larvae in nest under bark, photo: wikimedia
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Adult bee, photo: Richard Migneault, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Mike Deep, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: wikimedia
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Adult bee, photo: Sam Houston, BugGuide
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Gathering mud, photo: Jonathan Wright, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Diane Wilson, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Carol Davis, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Steve Scott, BugGuide
leafcutter bee
Nest in stem, photo: U of M Krischik Lab
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Adult bee, photo: Kurt Schaefer, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: BugGuide
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Nest in drilled wood, photo: Paul Heiple, BugGuide

14. Family Megachilidae (common  name: mason bee)

Hoplitis spp. Black or metallic (western species), slender, robust, hairy face.  Nest: Preexisting cavities: pithy stems, wood, old nests in soil or mud nests with nest.  Small to medium 5 - 15 mm (0. - 0.6 in.).  Pollen collection: Abdominal scopae

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Adult bee, photo: Dave Beaudette, bugGuide
mason bee
Mason bee, photo: Heather Holm
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Adult bee, photo: BugGuide
cuckoo leaf cutter
Cuckoo leaf cutter bee, photo: Alejandro Santillana, Wikimedia
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Adult bee, photo: T. Stone, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Rich Schilk, bugGuide
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Nest, photo: Don Patterson, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Tom Murray, BugGuide
bumble bee on blueberry
Buzz pollination, photo: Heather Holm
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Nest, photo: Iris, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Diane Wilson, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Harmut Wisch, BugGuide
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Nest, photo: Loren Padelford, BugGuide
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Adult bee, photo: Susan Hare, BugGuide
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Cuckoo bee, photo: Darkone, Wikimedia

20. Family Apidae (common name: cuckoo bee)

Treiepeolus spp.  Black with yellow or white markings, very short hair, appearing hairless. Medium, 3 - 15 mm (0.1 -  0.2 in).  Tongue: Medium, 4 - 5 mm (0.1 – 0.2 in)
Nest: Cleptoparasite of digger bees and Andredids, parassite, lays eggs in other bees' nests.  Pollen Collection: None.

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Adult bee, photo: Salvador Vitanza, BugGuide
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Feeding on nectar, photo: Gideon Pisanty, Wikimedia

21. Family Apidae (common name: small carpenter bee)

Ceratina spp.  Blue, black, green, metallic with cylindrical abdomen, sparsely haired, shiny, often white (or yellow) patch on face. Small - medium, 3 - 15 mm (0.1 - 0.6 in). Tongue: Medium, 5 - 9 mm (0.2 - 0.35 in)  Nest: Pithy stems, wood in vertical or angled nest orientation with nest divisions of pith and saliva. Flight Distance ~ 200 yd, 180 m.  Pollen Collection: Scopae hind legs.

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Adult bee, photo: H. Go, BugGuide
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Nest in wood, photo: Pam Phillips. BugGuide
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Feeding on nectar, photo: L. Schneider

22. Family Apida (common name: long-horned bee)

Melissodes spp.   Robust and hairy, often bands on abdomen in the middle of the abdominal segments. Small – medium, 7 - 18 mm (0.3 - 0.7 in).  Males: long antennae.  Tongue: Medium - long.  Nest: Ground nest with lining of wax-like substance.  Pollen Collection: long scopae hind legs.

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Adult bee, photo: H. Go, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: Giff Beaton, BugGuide

23. Family Apidae (common name:  large carpenter bee)

Xylocopa spp.   Black with yellow hairs, bumble bee-like with robust, hairy thorax, shiny black abdomen.  Large 13- 30 mm (0.5 - 1.25 in).  Tongue: Medium - long.  Nest: Excavated with mandibles in wood and plant stems and nest lining of sawdust (plant stems).  Flight Distance: ~ 1 mile, 1.6 km.  Pollen Collection: Scopae hind legs. 

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Adult bee, photo: JoAnn Poe-McGavin, BugGuide
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Nest in wood, photo: T. Gilliam, BugGuide

24. Family Apidae (common name: honey bee)

Apis mellifera  Black with golden hairs and moderately hairy, long abdomen with black or gold stripes, hairy eyes.  Medium, 10-15 mm (0.4 - 0.6 in).  Tongue: (Worker):  5 - 8 mm (0.2 -0.3 in).  Nest: Social, colony mostly in man-made managed wood equipment. Some feral hives in tree cavities.  Nest materials: Wax hexagonal cells.  Flight Distance ~ 2 miles, 3.2 km.  Pollen Collection: Pollen baskets hind legs (corbiculae).

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Adult bee, photo: Metriopte, BugGuide
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Carrying pollen, photo: T. Gilliam, BugGuide
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Honey bee swarm on lookout for nest area, photo: Aaron Schusteff, bugGuide