Large Dark Bee

Families: Apidae, Andrenidae, Colletidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae

If you see a medium to large sized bee (1/2 inch in length or more), and it is not a bumble bee or a honey bee, categorize it as a “large dark bee” in the WiBee app.

For our app, we created the “large dark bee” category to encompass a diverse group of large solitary bees which have different life cycles and nesting behaviors. Unlike bumble bees and honey bees, solitary bees do not nest in colonies. Many different solitary bees visit crop flowers, including mining bees, mason bees, squash bees and leafcutter bees.

Description

  • Coloring may be dark brown, black or deep blue.
  • Abdomen can be striped or solid and may have some hairs, but is not covered in dense hairs like bumblebees. Notice the feathery hairs on this bee’s legs and thorax (middle section), but minimal hair on its abdomen.
  • A few species, such as squash bees, have noticeably long antennae.

Where they carry pollen

Leafcutter bees and mason bees carry pollen tucked under their abdomen (photo at right), while other large dark bees carry pollen loosely on feathery hairs on their hind legs (see photo above). In contrast, bumble bees and honey bees carry pollen in tight pollen sacs (corbiculae) on their legs. If you’re wondering how to categorize the bee that you are observing, look at how it’s carrying pollen on its body.

Solitary nesters

Each of these types of solitary bees have different nesting and foraging behaviors. A mining bee, for example, will nest in underground tunnels. A mason bee will often find a hollow stem or beetle burrow where she builds her nest. Watch this great 5 min video created by an Oregon beekeeping company on solitary bees, specifically mason and leafcutter bees.

The second video by PBS Digital Studios provides an up-close Deep Look at blue orchard mason bees.