Families: Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae
These tiny solitary bees, about the size of an ant, can be difficult to spot, and you may find them crawling around inside flowers as they forage.
Most tiny bees are called “sweat bees” (Lasioglossum sp.) because they are attracted to our sweat, but there are also very small carpenter bees (Ceratina sp.) and orchard bees (Osmia sp.) that range in size from small to medium.
- Compared to other, larger bees, these tiny bees are more slender and have fewer feathery hairs. Due to their small size and lack of hairs, they may be confused with small wasps.
- Many sweat bees, such as this one in the photo, are grey or black colored and may have a metallic shine. Note that we’ve categorize the brightly metallic green sweat bees into their own category. (Photo credit: Judy Gallagher)
- These bees move very quickly and spook easily, so to observe them, be still and avoid casting a shadow on the blooms you’re watching.
Where they carry pollen
Since this is a diverse group of bees, some species carry pollen clinging to feathery hairs on their hind legs (Halictus spp.), while other species carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen (Osmia spp.).
Most of these bees are generalists, meaning they forage on many different species of plant flowers rather than specializing on a particular plant species.
A diverse and numerous group of generalists
The genus Lasioglossum in the Halictidae family is one of the largest and most numerous genera of bees found in Wisconsin and worldwide. These and other small bees have diverse life histories and behaviors. Some will nest in the ground while others nest in woody stems and twigs. Some are solitary while others display ranges of social behavior.
Photo credit: Melissa McMasters