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*** Note: KnowYourInsects.org does its best to include correct identifications of insect photos. It’s always possible that we made a mistake, however, so if you see a misidentification, please contact us and we will correct it. Thanks!

Order Hymenoptera: the bees, wasps, hornets and allies — Examples

Now on THREE pages

Families represented — Page 1 (current page):
Ampulicidae Andrenidae Apidae Chrysididae Crabronidae Halictidae Megachilidae Pelecinidae Sphecidae
Page 2:
Aulacidae Braconidae Cynipidae Encyrtidae Evaniidae Gasteruptiidae Ichneumonidae Leucospidae Stephanidae
Page 3:
Argidae Cephidae Cimbicidae Diprionidae Formicidae Mutillidae Pompilidae
Scoliidae Siricidae Tenthredinidae Thynnidae Tiphiidae Vespidae

Sphecidae, the thread-waisted wasps, including the digger wasps

Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
Great black digger wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ This great black digger wasp has a jet-black body and blue-black wings.
□ They are called digging wasps because they dig tunnels into sandy ground. The tunnels can extend a foot (30 cm) or more and end in small chambers where the female lays her eggs. The hatching larvae develop there.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. Well done on the ID, Thomas! See his full-size images here and here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 5 June, 2021.
Thomas said this one was about 2 cm (0.8 inches) long.
Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
Great black digger wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ Female great black digger wasps will sting and paralyze katydids and bring them to their nests to feed their larvae. It is quite a feat to fly carrying a katydid that may weigh three times as much as the wasp!
□ They are very large digging wasps. The photographer described this one as “at least 1–1.25 inches” (2.5-3.2 cm).
Photographed by: Paula Lomasney. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Northern Saratoga County, New York, USA. Date: 13 July, 2015.
Paula says they were “burrowing like mad in the sand of the window wells that surround the basement windows (on the outside).”
Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
Great black digger wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The photographer captured this great black digger wasp both on the flower and just as it took flight. A close look at the left wing in flight shows both the forewing and hind wing. In flight, the two wings work as one, thanks to a tiny row of hooks, called hamuli, on the hind wing that connect it to the forewing.
□ In the right photo, the wasp has its middle legs outstretched, making them look very long although they are about the same length as the hind legs (the forelegs are much shorter than the middle and hind legs).
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here and here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 17 September, 2022.
Thomas said this wasp was on a Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’ Magenta Rock Rose flower.
Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
Great black digger wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ If this great black digger wasp is successful against this spider (likely a trap door spider in the family Antrodiaetidae), she will drag the paralyzed body of the spider to her nest to feed her hungry young.
Photographed (and spider identified) by: Tori Thompson. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: southeastern Michigan, USA. Date: July 2023.
Gold-Reined Wasp (Sphex habenus)
Gold-reined wasp, also known as a gold-reined digger wasp, Sphex habenus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ Click on this photo to zoom in and see the large gold patches on this gorgeous gold-reined wasp. The gold is quite a contrast against the reddish-brown abdomen.
Photographed and identified to family by: Brad Miller. Location: southern Alabama, USA. Date: 24 June, 2019.
Brad says, “I’m an avid outdoorsman and I’ve never seen a wasp quite like this one. I’m very intrigued for sure.”
Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)
Great golden digger wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ Here is the great golden digger wasp with the hole it has dug. Identifying features of this species include black wings and black end on the abdomen, along with a thorax that has a gold U between two gold bands.
Photographed and identified by: Tim Spohn. Nicely done on the ID, Tim! Location: Mexico (near the eastern shore of Lake Ontario), New York, USA. Date: 14 August, 2017.
Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)
Great golden digger wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The photographer found this great golden digger wasp making a hole for the insect prey it has paralyzed, and added this description of the tunnel and the wasp’s behavior: “The tunnel is almost vertical with cells branching off of it. Each cell gets paralyzed prey with one egg laid on it.”
Photographed and identified by: Robert Carpenter. See Robert’s slow-motion nature video here. Well done, Robert! Location: Kerrville, Texas, USA. Date: 27 May, 2022.
Robert adds, “Only the females sting, but this one let me get within 12 inches (0.3 meters) of it with my cell phone, and paid no attention to me.”
Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)
Great golden digger wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, family Sphecidae.
□ This photo provides a view of the underside of a great golden digger wasp, including the orange legs and black-tipped abdomen.
Photographed and identified to family by: Casper Key. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Michigan, USA. Date: 11 July, 2020.
Ashmead's Digger Wasp (Sphex ashmeadi)
Ashmead’s digger wasp, Sphex ashmeadi, subfamily Sphecinae, family Sphecidae.
Ashmead’s digger wasp is a large wasp with a gold to orangish abdomen, including the petiole (its super-thin “waist”, sometimes called a pedicel), which is clearly seen in the right photo of the wasp’s underside. Identifier Dr. Douglas Yanega says it is a predatory wasp that “provisions its larvae with paralyzed katydids, stuffed into small underground chambers that are sealed when the egg is laid.” Katydids! That is one bold wasp!
Photographed and identified to order by: Brian Baker. Identified to species by: entomologist Douglas Yanega of the Entomology Research Museum at the University of California, Riverside. Thank you, Dr. Yanega (and also to entomologist Rick Vetter who put KnowYourInsects.org in touch with Dr. Yanega). Location: Los Angeles, California, USA. Date: 24 July, 2020.
Brian says, “Very interesting stuff and now I am armed with that knowledge and can read more about them.”
Black mud dauber wasp, Sceliphron spirifex
Black mud dauber wasp, Sceliphron spirifex, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ These two views of a black mud dauber wasp show the black and yellow pattern of its body, and its clear wings. The female makes a mud nest and lays her eggs in cells inside. She will add an egg to a cell, and then paralyze a few spiders to stuff inside with the egg. When the young hatches, it has the spiders as its main course.
Photographed by: Marcia Hall. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Rhodes, Greece. Date: 16 September, 2022.
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber Wasp (Sceliphron caementarium)
Black and yellow mud dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The black and yellow mud dauber wasp sometimes goes by the name of black-waisted mud dauber. Individuals have some variability in the stripe pattern, as well as the color of the stripe at the front of the abdomen (it may be orange as shown here, or yellow).
Photographed and identified by: Sheldon L. Boyd. Well done on the ID, Sheldon! Location: The Villages, Florida, USA. Date: 11 April, 2018.
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
Black and yellow mud dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ This is the black and yellow mud dauber wasp in flight. Note the ultra-thin “wasp waist,” a thin structure called a petiole (or pedicel) that connects the thorax with the rest of the abdomen. In the black and yellow mud dauber wasp, the petiole is usually black in northern areas, but often yellow in southern locations.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. Nice job on the ID, Thomas! See his full-size image here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 29 August, 2017.
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)
Black and yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The nests of the black and yellow mud dauber have a cement-like quality (see the photographer’s comment below). Depending on available space, the female may make nests that are separate (as seen here), or may stack them together so it looks more like tunnels in a glob of mud.
Photographed by: Caroline Bird. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: near Chicago, Illinois, USA. Date: 10 March, 2021.
Caroline found them attached to the edge of a window. She says, “They have a cement/crumbly quality (all were empty).”
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
Black and yellow mud dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ This beautiful close-up of a black and yellow mud dauber wasp shows the characteristic stripe pattern of this species: one at the front of the thorax, a double stripe at the rear of the thorax (also seen in other photos on this page), and a stripe at the front of the abdomen.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. Excellent ID, Thomas! See his full-size image here Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 28 September, 2018.
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
Black and yellow mud dauber wasp, larvae, Sceliphron caementarium, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The black and yellow mud dauber wasp is a solitary species, so this nest (left photo) was made by a single female. Within her nest are a series of chambers, each of which contains a larva. The photographer has broken off a piece of the nest (center photo) to show two large, dark-brown larvae in adjacent chambers.
□ The right photo shows the spiders the photographer found inside the larval chambers. The adult female will sting, paralyze and lay an egg on a spider; and slide the spider into the chamber. She will then sting, paralyze and stuff additional spiders into the chamber. These paralyzed spiders provide food for the larvae once they hatch. For more information on this interesting wasp, click here (University of Florida “Featured Creatures”).
Photographed and identified as a mud wasp by: Carlo Castoro. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Maryland, USA. Date: 27 August, 2017.
Carlo says, “There are numerous comatose spiders, I guess food for the larvae.” KnowYourInsects.org says, “You guessed exactly right, Carlo!”
Black Mud Dauber wasp, Sceliphron madraspatanum
Sceliphron madraspatanum (no specific common name), subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
Sceliphron madraspatanum has a bright yellow petiole (its super-thin “waist”), as well as a yellow section on each of its legs and a few small yellow spots on its thorax. It also has brown wings.
Photographed by: Saloni Sharma. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Akhnoor, India. Date: 27 August, 2020.
Black Mud Dauber wasp (Sceliphron madraspatanum)
Sceliphron madraspatanum (no specific common name), subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ This Sceliphron madraspatanum is busy making its mud nest, which is used in folk medicine: A paste is made of the nest and either placed on the head to treat a migraine headache, or on the navel to treat dyspepsia (indigestion), according to a 2015 scientific article (Journal of Biological Control.
Photographed by: Marvin Dsouza. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Daikinakatte, Dakshina Kannada Dist, Karnataka State, India. Date: 23 August, 2021.
Oriental mud-dauber wasp, (Chalybion bengalense)
Oriental mud-dauber wasp, Chalybion bengalense, subfamily Sceliphrinae, family Sphecidae.
□ The Oriental mud-dauber wasp, one of several wasps collectively known as blue mud dauber wasps, is a beautiful metallic blue. It has spread from its native range in southeastern Asia, and is now found in Europe and North America. To learn more about this expansion, click here (the journal Ampulex).
Discovered by: Jameel Weamama. Identified by: Wasana Niyomdecha. Great job! Location: Hatyai, Thailand. Date: 26 June, 2020.
Wasana’s son Jameel spotted this wasp dead on the house staircase.
Cutworm Wasp (Podalonia spp.)
Cutworm wasp in the genus Podalonia, family Sphecidae.
□ This is likely a cutworm wasp in the genus Podalonia. It is called a cutworm wasp because its prey are cutworms (caterpillars of certain types of moths), which the wasp finds by digging into the soil.
Photographed and identified as a wasp by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here, here, and here. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 31 October, 2018.
Insect facts
□ Would you like a list of all the Hymenoptera (bee, wasp, hornet, horntail, etc.) families — all in one place? We made one for you! To see it, click here.

Crabronidae, the crabronid wasps, including the mud daubers and sand wasps

Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, subfamily Bembicinae, Sphecius speciosus, family Crabronidae.
Eastern cicada killers are wasps that do indeed kill cicadas. A female cicada killer will sting and paralyze the cicada, tote it to her burrow, and lay an egg under its leg. The egg hatches into a larva that begins to eat the cicada, which remains alive, and throughout its development, the larva continues to gnaw on the cicada.
Photographed by: Richard Lewenson. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, USA. Date: 6 August, 2017.
Richard says, “It seems to have built a hive in the ground.”
Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, Sphecius speciosus, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
Eastern cicada killers will dig into the ground, as shown at left, so they are often known as ground digger wasps. They are also sometimes called cicada hawks or sand hornets, but they are indeed wasps. Cicada killers can get quite large, as described by the photographer below.
Photographed and identified by: Daniel Cardella. Well done on the ID, Daniel! Location: Warren, Michigan, USA. Date: 13 August, 2014.
Daniel says, “Wasp dug for two days, then never came back. It was over 2 inches long (5 cm) and had a pile of dirt 6 inches (>15 cm) high & 10 inches (>25 cm) in diameter — amazing to watch.”
Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, Sphecius speciosus, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
Eastern cicada killers are not aggressive and will usually keep their distance from people, but they sometimes get a little too close and will sting. It is quite a beautiful wasp with the brown and black thorax, and black and yellow body.
Photographed by: Kyle Lengerich. Location: Greenwood, Indiana, USA. Date: 2018.
Kyle says he unfortunately had to kill this one. “It was close to our back door and buzzed my son, so it had to go.”
Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, Sphecius speciosus, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
□To provide an idea of the size of the eastern cicada killers, the photographer took this shot next to a handy ruler.
Photographed by: Lisa Hetchler. Location: Lake Odessa, Michigan, USA. Date: 31 July, 2019.
Lisa says, “These are active around 5-6 p.m. and are burrowing in my friend’s yard around her sidewalk.”
Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, also known as a ground digger wasp, Sphecius speciosus, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
□ The photographer was not exaggerating when she guessed this eastern cicada killer was about 2 inches (5 cm) long. This species can indeed get that large.
Photographed by: H. C. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Dallas, Texas, USA. Date: 25 June, 2020.
H. C. says, “Chases bees and wasps away.”
Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus)
Eastern cicada killer, also known as a ground digger wasp, Sphecius speciosus, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
□ This photo shows the size of the Eastern cicada killer — quite an impressive insect! See the comment below.
Photographed and identified by: Bernie Tomsa. Nicely done on the ID, Bernie! Location: West Bloomfield, Michigan, USA. Date: 12 July, 2020.
Bernie says, “I actually saw one of these (same species I think) kill a cicada when I lived in Virginia during the last swarm.”
Crabronid Wasp (Bicyrtes viduatus)
Bicyrtes viduatus (no specific common name), subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
□ Features of Bicyrtes viduatus include incomplete yellow bands on its black abdomen; a smear of dark color on the edge of its forewings; and as the photographer describes it, “a smiley face” on its thorax.
Photographed and identified to family by: Robert Carpenter. See Robert’s slow-motion nature video here. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Guadalupe River near Ingram, Texas, USA. Date: 24 July, 2020.
Robert spotted this wasp feeding on spotted water hemlock (Conium maculatum), which is quite a poisonous plant (the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was put to death with the forced ingestion of an infusion of this plant).
Sand Wasp (Bembix americana)
Bembix americana (no specific common name), female, subfamily Bembicinae, family Crabronidae.
□ This female Bembix americana has extended and pointy mouthparts, as well as a series of long spines (tarsal spines) extending off the rear of the forelegs (both of which are visible in the photo at left). She also has a beautifully striped abdomen, yellow legs, and big green eyes that are set off with a thin white stripe (as shown in the photo at right). It is one of the wasps collectively called sand wasps, because they dig in the sand.
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size photos here and here. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 29 September, 2018.
Thomas says, “The flowers are about 10 mm (0.4 inches) in diameter.”
Digger wasp (Astata boops)
Shieldbug digger wasp, Astata boops, subfamily Astatinae, family Crabronidae.
□ The shieldbug digger wasp’s abdomen is nearly split evenly between a brick-red color and black. This wasp is a predator of stink/shield bugs (family Pentatomidae): It will sting and paralyze the bug, carry it back to its underground nest, and lay a single egg on the bug. Once the egg hatches, the bug serves as food for the larvae. To see a few images of this wasp stinging stink/shield bugs click here (BWARS.com).
Photographed by: Eric Eddles. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Baffins Pond, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK. Date: 2 August, 2022.
Crabronidae
Wasps in the Crabronidae family are solitary digger wasps that make burrows, where they lay eggs. Their smooth bodies are well-suited to sliding into and out of their underground burrows.
Beetle Wasp (Cerceris sextoides)
Cerceris sextoides (no specific common name), female, subfamily Philanthinae, family Crabronidae.
□ In Cerceris sextoides, some individuals have nearly straight black stripes showing between their abdominal segments (as shown here), while others reveal a black-filled half-circle or triangle on each abdominal segment (see other posting on this page).
□ A careful look at the right-hand photo shows a two-pointed clypeus (the yellow U-shaped “nose”), which is present in the female but not in the male. This, therefore, is a female.
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size photos here, here and here. Identified by: Lynn Kimsey, Ph.D., professor of entomology and director of both the Center for Biosystematics and the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 29 September, 2018.
Dr. Kimsey says, “Nice animal; probably one of the most common species of Cerceris in California.”
Beetle Wasp (Cerceris sextoides)
Cerceris sextoides (no specific common name), male, subfamily Philanthinae, family Crabronidae.
□ The photographer noted that this male Cerceris sextoides has a tiny yellow dot behind its eye, a feature he did not see in the female (which is pictured in the row above).
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size photos here, here and here. Identified by: Lynn Kimsey, Ph.D., professor of entomology and director of both the Center for Biosystematics and the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 29 September, 2018.
Click the photo to enlarge it
Green-Eyed Wasp (Tachytes distinctus)
Green-eyed wasp, also known as a burrow builder, male, Tachytes distinctus, subfamily Crabroninae, family Crabronidae.
□ The green eyes, silver-banded abdomen and orange wings are all characteristic of the green-eyed wasp. See the photographer’s comment for one more interesting feature. A nearly identical-looking species, Tachytes seminole (no specific common name), also lives in Florida, but it has only three silver bands on its abdomen. The green-eyed wasp is also sometimes called a burrow builder because it digs holes in the ground. To see a burrow, click here (BugGuide).
Photographed and identified to order by: Sheldon L. Boyd. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: The Villages, Florida, USA. Date: 19 June, 2019.
Sheldon says, “Small bee with very unusual legs.”
Green-Eyed Wasp (Tachytes spp.)
Crabronid wasp in the genus Tachytes, subfamily Crabroninae, family Crabronidae.
Crabronid wasps in the genus Tachytes are solitary wasps, so they do not have a large nest like honey bees do. They are predators, feeding on other insects, including grasshoppers. This family of wasps (Crabronidae) called collectively called square-headed wasps, although Tachytes species have heads tht are more oblong than square.
Photographed and identified as a wasp by: Lena Lemon. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. Date: 27 August, 2019.
Lena says, “I took this after it stung me.”
Crabronidae
The larvae of wasps in the Crabronidae family are carnivorous, and eat invertebrates procured by the adults. In a few species, the adults continue to bring prey to the larvae as they grow. The adults feed on nectar.
Crabronid Wasp (Trypoxylon spp.)
Crabronid wasp, likely Liris subtessellatus, subfamily Crabroninae, family Crabronidae.
□ This species of crabronid wasp has a red femur, banded abdomen (sometimes with much whiter bands that this one) and tht bit of white outline around the bottom half of the eye, as shown.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehaut. Nice job on the ID, Eric! Location: Mueang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 17 March, 2023.
Crabronid Wasp (Trypoxylon spp.)
Crabronid wasp in the genus Trypoxylon, subfamily Crabroninae, family Crabronidae.
□ Females of some species of crabronid wasps in this genus (Trypoxylon) paralyze spiders as food for their hatching larvae, according to a 2006 study (Brazilian Journal of Biology). Several species in this genus have red on the abdomen, as seen here.
Photographed and identified as a wasp by: Tommy Vick. Identified to tentative genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Davis Mountains, Fort Davis, Texas, USA. Date: 27 May, 2020.
Tommy says, “They are small, shy and fast, so hard to photograph.”
Add your photo here!

Apidae, the honey bee, bumble bee and many other bees

Blue-banded bee (Amegilla cingulate)
A blue-banded bee in the genus Amegilla, quite possibly Amegilla cingulate, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This eye-catching blue-banded bee has blue bands on a black and shiny abdomen. The banded abdomen is set off further by the golden hue of the thorax. This photo was taken in India, which is home to at least five species in this genus Amegilla; the identify of this one is unknown.
□ Females have four blue bands on the abdomen (photo at right). Males have five bands.
Photographed by: Ambika Bhatt, a student at Garhwal University in Uttarakhand State in northern India (guide: Dr. P.Tiwari). Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Fatehpur district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Date: 15 May, 2018.
Blue-Banded Bee (Amegilla spp.)
A blue-banded bee in the genus Amegilla, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This is a typical resting pose of a blue-banded bee — clinging to a stem with its mouthparts, which look rather like fangs. Depending on the light (and the species), the bands on the abdomen may look quite blue.
Photographed by: Diganta Rabha. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Goalpara district, Assam, India. Date: 19 June, 2021.
Blue-Banded Bee (Amegilla spp.)
A blue-banded bee in the genus Amegilla, possibly Amegilla zonata (no specific common name), subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This blue-banded bee is one of those insects that has such a noticeable feature — in this case, the banded abdomen — that it can be identified just by a quick look and even when it is in flight. Currently, taxonomists are trying to rework the species in the genus Amegilla and often list many as being part of the Amegilla zonata group.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehaut. Location: Bang Krang, Thailand. Date: 25 February, 2023.
Urbane digger bee (Anthophora urbana)
A digger bee, quite possibly an urbane digger bee, Anthophora urbana, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ One of the ways to identify an urbane digger bee (sometimes called an urban digger bee) is to look for the banded abdomen; setae/hairs on its head, thorax and parts of its abdomen; and the nearly 8-shaped vein section on its forewings (see blue arrow). Depending on the lighting, its eyes may appear quite blue or green.
□ The urbane digger is one of the solitary bees that flits from flower to flower gathering pollen and nectar.
Photographed by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size image here. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 18 September, 2022.
Digger bee (Anthophora spp., possibly Anthophora curta)
A digger bee in the genus Anthophora, possibly Anthophora curta, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The big green eyes and profusion of fuzz on the head and thorax of this little species of digger bee are evident in these photos. The photographer described its body length at just 8 mm long (about a third of an inch). This genus of bees is found in California, possibly extending to other southwestern states.
Photographed by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size photos here and here. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 6 June, 2022.
Two-spotted Long-horned Bee, Melissodes bimaculatus
Two-spotted longhorn bee, Melissodes bimaculatus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ A careful look at the rear of this two-spotted long-horned bee reveals one of its two large, oblong, white spots: one on either side of the tip of its abdomen. Another feature of this bee is white setae/hairs on its legs, which are vaguely evident in this photo, but show up well when seen in person.
Photographed by: Tori Thompson. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: southeastern Michigan, USA. Date: 27 July, 2023.
Drury's Long-horned Bee, Melissodes druriellus
Long-horned bee in the tribe Eucerini, possibly Drury’s long-horned bee, Melissodes druriellus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Drury’s long-horned bee is often seen later in the summer, nectaring on the flowers of goldenrod (Solidago) and aster (Aster.
□ It is also known by the common name of rustic longhorn, and was previously classified as a different species: Melissodes rustica.
Photographed by: Conrad Storad (who writes fun children’s nature books). Identified to tribe and possible genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Akron, Ohio, USA. Date: 28 August, 2022.
Long-Horned Bee, (Melissodes spp.)
Long-horned bee in the tribe Eucerini, possibly Melissodes pallidisignatus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The photographer watched this long-horned bee wake up one morning from a cozy spot wrapped within the daisy-like petals of this hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) flower. See the photographer’s observation below.
Photographed and identified to tribe by: Thomas Langhans. Nicely done, Thomas! See Thomas’s full-size photos here and here. Identified to tentative genus and species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 13 September, 2022.
Thomas says, “Woke up once the sun started shining on it, rubbed its face a few times, and flew right over to another flower and went to work.”
Long-Horned Bee, (Melissodes spp.)
Long-horned bee in the genus Melissodes, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The long antennae (the “horns”) are characteristic of this group of bees: the long-horned bees. The male of the genus Melissodes, as shown here, has a longer body and longer antennae than the female.
Photographed by: Linda Crowley. Identified by: Dr. Rufus Isaacs, an entomologist at Michigan State University. Location: western Lower Peninsula, near Ludington, Michigan, USA. Date: 16 July, 2017.
Linda says, “I have recently seen a large numbers of these... six or eight would crowd on a black-eyed Susan or shasta daisy.”
Long-Horned Bee, (Melissodes spp.)
Long-horned bee in the tribe Eucerini, possibly the genus Melissodes, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ Besides the fairly long antennae, the pattern of wing veins help to identify this as a long-horned bee.
Photographed and identified to family by: Sandy Domine. Identified to possible genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: southeastern Lower Peninsula, Michigan, USA. Date: 31 July, 2019.
Sandy says, “I found these tiny bees, covered in pollen, on my sunflowers this morning. Some were no more than a quarter-inch (6.3mm), some up to a half-inch (12.7mm).”
Long-Horned Bee, (Melissodes spp.)
Long-horned bees, males, in the tribe Eucerinim possibly the genus Melissodes, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ Male long-horned bees will often take joint naps in flowers, as they are here. They will bed down at sunset in a favorite flower and spend the night until temperatures warm up in the morning. On cool days, they will sometimes do the same (see the comment below).
Photographed by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size photo here. Identified to possible genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 6 July, 2023.
Thomas says, “They were on this flower for at least two days; the temperature was in the 50s (teens Celsius) and it was continuously damp and overcast with low coastal stratus.”
horns = antennae
Many insects have common names including the descriptor “long-horned”, and often the word horn refers to the antenna. Long-horned bees, therefore, have long antennae compared to other bees.
Honey bees
Although they are a predominant bee species in North America today, honey bees (Apis mellifera) have only been on the continent since the 17th century when they were introduced from Europe.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Western honey bees have the scientific name Apis mellifera. Apis is Latin for bee, melli is Greek for honey, and fera is Greek for bearing or producing, so the scientific name translates to honey-producing bee.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 7 July, 2013.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Western honey bees drink the nectar, and transport the pollen via a structure called a pollen basket (or corbicula), which is evident in the large orange-yellow clump on this bee’s hind leg.
Photographed and identified by: Sheldon L. Boyd. Location: The Villages, Florida, USA. Date: 12 December, 2017.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This photograph shows amazing detail of the western honey bee, which is visiting on lavender (in the genus Lavendula.
Photographed and identified by: Bryan Wenham-Baker. Location: Ivybridge, Devon, England, UK. Date: 17 July, 2019.
Bryan says, “We have a lot of European honey bees (Apis mellifera) on a white lavender in our garden, but they don’t seem to be ‘collecting,’ just feeding.”
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This western honey bee is coming in to gather up nectar and pollen, which it will transport back to the hive. The nectar will eventually become honey, which provides the bees with energy. The pollen is the primary source of protein for the hive and is important for development of the young (the brood).
Photographed and identified by: Sheldon L. Boyd. Location: The Villages, Florida, USA. Date: 12 December, 2017.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Western honey bees make honey from the nectar of different flowers. For instance, honey made from the nectar of clover flowers honey is called clover honey, and nectar from tupelo gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica) becomes tupelo honey.
Photographed and identified by: Sheldon Boyd. Location: The Villages, Florida, USA. Date: 1 May, 2017.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The wing veins of a honey bee show up beautifully in this photo.
Photographed and identified by: Jean-Louis Metzger. Nicely done, Jean-Louis! Location: Headington, Oxford, England, UK. Date: 12 July, 2012.
Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, also known as the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, family Apidae.
□ This western honey bee has a noticeably filled pollen basket. A honey bee will sweep pollen from its body setae/hairs toward the basket (corbicula) and pack in the pollen.
Photographed and identified by: Caterina Ochoa-Zamora. Location: Denver, Colorado, USA. Date: 19 September, 2021.
Caterina says, “I was super-excited because I was able to take some great pictures of its corbicula. It was buzzing around a cluster of dandelion flowers.”
Honey bees
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are divided into several subspecies, which often are found in distinct geographic areas. An example is the East African lowland honey bee.
East African Lowland Honey Bee (Apis mellifera scutellata)
East African lowland honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The East African lowland honey bee is one of many subspecies of honey bees, and is native to eastern and southern Africa. It has been introduced elsewhere, where it may crossbreed with other subspecies to produce the so-called Africanized or “killer” honey bees. Africanized honey bees can be quite aggressive.
Photographed and identified to species by: Natalie Rowles. Identified to subspecies by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Pinetown, South Africa (near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal). Date: 11 April, 2020.
Natalie says she photographed this honey bee on a rocket herb (Eruca vesicaria).
European Dark Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera)
European dark bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This photo is a three-for-one: a European dark bee in the clutches of a goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia), with several small flies (perhaps freeloader flies in the family Milichiidae) attending the feast. The European dark bee is a subspecies of the western honey bee.
Photographed by: Iggy Tavares. Bee and spider identified by: Iggy Tavares. Fly tentatively identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Lloyd Park, Croydon, UK. Date: 9 July, 2018.
After seeing this collection of invertebrates, Iggy describes his next sight: “I got even luckier when 10 minutes later, a wasp came in and stole the bee from the spider before my very eyes. A once in a lifetime vision.”
Western honey bee (Apis mellifera)
Western honey bee, possibly a Carniolan, Apis mellifera carnica, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The photographer guesses this may be a Carniolan honey bee, and it may be. Carniolans or “Carnies,” are one of the many subspecies of western honey bees, and often have a grayer appearance than other subspecies. Click on the photos to see enlarged versions.
□ Beekeepers in cooler climates appreciate Carniolans because they do well in colder temperatures, however Carniolans will readily breed with other subspecies of western honeybees, so outside of the beekeeper’s hive, they do not remain “pure” Carniolans for very long.
Photographed and identified by: Diana Luntena. Nicely done, Diana! Location: Riga, Latvia. Date: 3 September, 2023.
Diana suggests taking a close look to see the bulging yellow pollen baskets on the hind legs. She adds, “Seems they’re stocking up on some snacks today!”
Add your photo here!
Red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea)
Red dwarf honey bee, Apis florea, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae (the honey bee and many other bees).
□ As its name implies, the red dwarf honey bee is small with workers only reaching 7-10 mm (about 0.3-0.4 inches) in length, and has a a reddish color on the front half of its abdomen.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehout. Nicely done, Eric! . Location: Bang Krang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 4 July, 2022.
Asian honey bee (Apis cerana)
Asiatic honey bee, Apis cerana, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae (the honey bee and many other bees).
□ Zoom in to see the setae/hairs on the compound eyes of this Asiatic honey bee. These setae actually collect pollen while the bee is visiting flowers. Another common name for this species is Eastern honey bee.
□ This species looks similar to the red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea), which is also pictured on this page and is found in Thailand where this photo was taken, but the Asian honey bee workers are generally larger: 10-11 mm (0.4-0.5 inches) in body length compared to dwarf red honey bees, that are in the 7-10 mm (0.3-0.4 inch) range.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehout. Nicely done, Eric! Location: Bang Krang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 4 July, 2022.
Green lynx spider and honey bee
Bee in the genus Apis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae (the honey bee and many other bees).
□ This bee is shown as dinner for a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans).
Photographed by: Theresa Goff. Bumble bee identified by: Theresa Goff. Spider identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Clark Gardens Botanical Park, Weatherford (Parker County), Texas, USA. Date: 4 September, 2016.
Theresa reports that this spider was dining on a bumble bee one day, and this bee the next. She says, “The bumble bee carcass was on the ground. I checked back a few hours later and it had another bee. The first bee carcass was on the ground next to the bumble bee and the ants were enjoying both.”
Cloak-and-Dagger Bee (Thyreus spp.)
Cloak-and-dagger bee in the genus Thyreus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ Different species of Ccloak-and-dagger bees have interesting patterns of white dots and lines on a black background. Cloak and dagger is a good name for these bees that sneak into the nests of other bees, deposit their eggs, and leave not only their eggs but all the parenting duties behind.
Photographed by: Yanni Petropolus. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: mainland of southwest Greece. Date: 29 July, 2020. Karen says, “There were about 6-8 of them sampling the flowering bushes. They’re big! They didn’t mind my presence.” KnowYourInsects.org says, “Yes! They can be nearly an inch (2.5 cm) long!”
Click the photo to enlarge it
Yellow-fronted bumble bee, (Bombus flavifrons)
Yellow-fronted bumble bee, Bombus flavifrons, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The yellow-fronted bumble bee has a yellow thorax with a few black setae/hairs mixed in, followed by a black band, then another yellow band, and finally a orange rump.
□ The Great Basin bumble bee (Bombus centrali) is similar, but the yellow at the front of the thorax is all yellow without the black hairs mixed in.
Photographed and identified by: Robert E. Carpenter. Nicely done, Robert! See Robert’s slow-motion nature video here. Location: South Fork, Colorado, USA. Date: 18 July, 2022.
Bumble bee (Bombus auricomus)
Black-and-gold bumble bee, male, Bombus auricomus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The black-and-gold bumble bee is found in central to eastern U.S. and Canada. It is very similar in appearance to the Nevada bumble bee (Bombus nevadensis), which is found in the central and western U.S. and Canada, and at one time, the two were considered the same species. The Nevada bumble bee is posted elsewhere on this page.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 2 September, 2012.
Bumble bee (Bombus auricomus)
Black-and-gold bumble bee, Bombus auricomus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This worker of a black-and-gold bumble bee is shown here with its pollen basket filled with yellow pollen. This species is often found in prairies where it makes its nest on the ground and in the open.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 8 July, 2009.
Black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus)
Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The black-tailed bumble bee comes in two color forms: edwardsii, which typically has a black hind end; and melanopygus, which typically has a red rump.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Thomas Langhans. Identified to species by Ohio State University entomologist Jamie Strange. Thank you, Dr. Strange! See Thomas’s full-size images here and here. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 23 March, 2022.
Thomas photographed it on snow flurry flowers (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus).
Black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus)
Black-tailed bumble bee, likely a male, Bombus melanopygus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The edwardsii color form of the black-tailed bumble bee (seen here) was formerly considered its own species: Bombus edwardsii. It is found mainly in California and Oregon. This species can be confused with several other bumble bee species. To learn how to separate many of the U.S. species, click here (Montana State University).
Photographed and identified to genus by: Thomas Langhans. Identified to species by Ohio State University entomologist Jamie Strange. Thank you, Dr. Strange! See Thomas’s full-size images here, here, here and here. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 23 March, 2023.
Two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus)
Two-spotted bumble bee, male, Bombus bimaculatus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This male two-spotted bumble bee is on a plant called a false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Point Pelee National Park, Leamington, Ontario, Canada. Date: 8 July, 2009.
Jackie says, “This rare plant is a magnet for many insects, including moths.”
Two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus)
Two-spotted bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The two spots are really obvious in this photo of the two-spotted bumble bee.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 8 July, 2009.
Jackie notes that this is a worker, and it is flying into some lupine (in the genus Lupinus) that are just opening.
Bombus is a large genus
Molecular evidence (differences in genetics) is helping scientists determine whether some species of bumble bees should actually be split into two. This happened with the two-form bumble bee (Bombus bifarius): those in California are now classified as their own species called Bombus vancouverensis.
Buff-tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris)
Buff-tailed bumble bee, Bombus terrestris, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ With a yellow band around its middle and a rather tan-colored rump, this pair of buff-tailed bumble bee stands out fairly well. The female is the plump bee toward the bottom right, and the male is mounted behind her at the upper left.
Photographed and identified by: Jean-Louis Metzger. Nice job on the ID, Jean-Louis! Location: Headington, Oxford, UK. Date: 31 July, 2022.
Jean-Louis found this pair on the sidewalk of Pitts Road in Headington.
Northern amber bumble bee (Bombus borealis)
Northern amber bumble bee, queen, Bombus borealis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This queen northern amber bumble bee is on a wildflower known as either a fringed polygala or gaywings (Polygala paucifolia).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Bruce Peninsula National Park, Tobermory, Ontario, Canada. Date: 28 May, 2012.
Bumble bee (Bombus haemorrhoidalis)
Blood-tipped bumble bee, Bombus haemorrhoidalis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The blood-tipped bumble bee has a bicolored abdomen: yellow on the front half, and orange at the rear.
□ Note: The common name of blood-tipped bumble bee is not widely accepted. It often is listed only by its scientific name: Bombus haemorrhoidalis.
Photographed by: Ambika Bhatt, a student at Garhwal University in Uttarakhand State in northern India (guide: Dr. P.Tiwari). Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Fatehpur district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Date: 15 May, 2018.
Blood-tipped bumble bee (Bombus haemorrhoidalis)
Blood-tipped bumble bee, Bombus haemorrhoidalis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ According to a study done in 2011 (the journal Apidologie), the blood-tipped bumble bee is a major pollinator of the black cardamom plant (Amomum subulatum), which produces a popular smoky-tasting spice used in Southeast Asia.
Photographed by: Syed Gazanfar. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Kashmir, India. Date: 20 July, 2018.
Early bumble bee (Bombus pratorum)
Early bumble bee, Bombus pratorum, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The early bumble bee is sometimes called an early nesting bumble bee, and both refer to the particularly early time of year that the queen emerges from winter hibernation to start building her colony. Colony-building can begin as soon as February in the northern UK. For more on early bees in the UK, click here (University of Bristol Botanic Garden).
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehaut. Nicely done, Eric! Location: Lille, France. Date: 5 June, 2023.
Eric photographed this bee on common comfrey (Symphytum officinale).
Lemon cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus citrinus)
Lemon cuckoo bumble bee, Bombus citrinus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The lemon cuckoo bumble bee gets the “lemon” part of its name from the yellow fuzz. Some individuals have black abdomens, but others are covered in yellow setae/hairs.
□ The genus name of bumble bees — Bombus — comes from the Greek word bómbos, which means a buzzing or humming sound.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 21 June, 2014.
Jackie says this is a female, photographed on a sumac flower.
Golden northern bumble bee (Bombus fervidus)
Golden northern bumble bee, Bombus fervidus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The golden northern bumble bee is sometimes known by another, simpler common name: “yellow bumble bee.” Some entomologists consider the golden northern bumble bee and its near-twin, the California bumble bee (Bombus californicus), to be the same species, but others classify them separate species.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 30 May, 2008.
Jackie says this is a queen, photographed on lupine (in the genus Lupinus).
Golden northern bumble bee (Bombus fervidus)
Golden northern bumble bee, male, Bombus fervidus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ Notice the characteristic series of five yellow stripes on the abdomen of this male golden northern bumble bee.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 24 August, 2009.
Jackie says this is a male, photographed on obedient plant (also known as false dragonhead).
Brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis)
Brown-belted bumble bee, Bombus griseocollis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The top photo is a queen brown-belted bumble bee; the bottom is a worker of the same species.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 30 May, 2006 (queen), 23 July, 2009 (worker).
Brown-Belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis)
Brown-belted bumble bee, possibly male, Bombus griseocollis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The yellow setae/hairs on the brown-belted bumble bee is short and neat, almost as if it just made a trip to the barber. Some have an obvious brown band on the mainly black abdomen, but others do not. This one appears to have large, bulbous eyes, which is a feature of the male.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Gail Rowley, Ozark Stream Photography. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Texas County, Missouri, USA. Date: 24 May, 2023.
Gail snapped this photo of the bee on a coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
Try the key! Red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)
Red-tailed bumble bee, female, Bombus lapidarius, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The orange-red rump of this red-tailed bumble bee almost blends in with the flower color. The male and female both have the orange-red rump, but the male has bits of yellow setae/hairs mixed in with the black here and there.
Photographed by: Neil Ardeshir. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org Location: Street, Somerset, England. Date: 24 July, 2018.
Neil says, “I found this bee on our miniature sunflowers this evening.... it’s huge.”
Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens)
Common eastern bumble bee, queen, Bombus impatiens, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ Queen common eastern bumble bees are larger than other females. The queen can be up to an inch long (2.5 cm), which is twice as long as typical workers. Some workers, however, are on the larger size — about 3/5 inch (1.6 cm) long.
□ This queen is on a globeflower (in the genus Trollius).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 29 March, 2005.
Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens)
Common eastern bumble bee, male, Bombus impatiens, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The male common eastern bumble bee ia distinguished from the female by the color of the head and face: yellow in the male (as shown above), and black in the female.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 15 March, 2012.
Jackie says, “Sometimes after a mild winter, males will survive and emerge the following spring (but) live only a few days.” And males typically have a yellow mustache, as seen in this photo.
Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens)
Common eastern bumble bee, Bombus impatiens, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Photographed and identified by: Ros Miller. Nicely done on the ID, Ros! Location: U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., USA. Date: 29 October, 2018.
Ros says, “We really enjoyed the U.S. National Arboretum.... We particularly enjoyed both the bonsai collection (both the Japanese and Chinese collections are very impressive) and the 250-million-year Chrythansemum Stone which is beautiful and amazing.”
Nevada bumble bee (Bombus nevadensis)
Nevada bumble bee, queen, Bombus nevadensis, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The queen Nevada bumble bee is about an inch (2.5 cm) long. Workers reach 60-80 percent of that size. For a nice key to many of the female U.S. bumble bees, click here (Montana State University).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Celiska, British Columbia, Canada. Date: 24 June, 2010.
KnowYourInsects.org says, “Jackie rocks when it comes to bumble bee identification!”
American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus)
American bumble bee, queen, sometimes called a Sonoran bumble bee, Bombus pensylvanicus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This queen American bumble bee is pictured on the orange center of a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). This species has declined precipitously in recent years. To learn more, click here (U.S. Forest Service).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 15 June, 2006.
Jackie says, “Never saw one again!”
Half-back bumble bee (Bombus vagans)
Half-back bumble bee, queen, Bombus vagans, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ With its fluffy setae/hairs, the half-back bumble bee looks as if it just came out of a dryer. It has a black dot in the center of its thorax, and black on the back half (the four rear segments) of its abdomen. For a good guide to many of the bumble bees of the U.S., click here (University of Wisconsin Madison).
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Celista, British Columbia, Canada. Date: 24 June, 2010.
Jackie says this queen is “sleeping on a leaf.”
Orange-belted bumble bee (Bombus ternarius)
Orange-belted bumble bee, queen, Bombus ternarius, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This queen orange-belted bumble bee has a conspicuous orange “belt.” It also has yellow and black setae/hairs, which gives it the alternate common name of tricolored bumble bee. It is sitting on coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). Coltsfoot is named for the shape of its leaves, which resemble the imprint of a horse hoof.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: St. Ann’s Bay, Bird Islands, Nova Scotia, Canada. Date: 9 June, 20011.
Orange-belted bumble bee (Bombus ternarius)
Orange-belted bumble bee, Bombus ternarius, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The beautiful and wide orange band makes this aptly named orange-belted bumble bee really stand out!
Photographed and identified by: Bill Flor. Well done on the ID, Bill! Location: Los Alamos County (7,500 ft.), New Mexico, USA. Date: 30 August, 2015.
Bill says it is on lavender (in the genus Lavandula), which he notes is “starting to show the wear and tear of the summer.”
Bombus is a large genus
Bumble bees — in the genus Bombus — are a very large group with more than 250 species. China is home to about half of those species, although some live elsewhere too. By comparison, the United States (about the same land size as China) has around 50 species.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The yellow-faced bumble bee not only has a yellow face (as shown in the left photo), but also has a narrow yellow band around its abdomen (as shown in the right photo). This attractive bumble bee is common along the Pacific coast of the United States.
Photographed and identified as a bumble bee by: Thomas Langhans. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. See Thomas’s full-size images here and here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 28 December, 2017.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, queen, Bombus vosnesenskii, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The mouthparts of the yellow-faced bumble bee are clearly visible in the right photo. The photographer took the other photo while the bee was taking a 20-minute nap. See the photographer’s comments below.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size images here and here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 25 January, 2020.
Thomas says, “I see these big queens flying around in the winter but they usually fly nonstop and never land, at least for me, (so spotting one resting) was quite an experience!”
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This series of beautiful close-up photos shows this queen yellow-faced bumble bee (left to right) arriving on scene, getting a little to eat, looking for a good spot to sleep, and just about settled in for a nap, according to the photographer.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size images here, here and here. More photos of the sleeping Bumble can be found here, here, here and here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 25 January, 2020.
Click the photo to enlarge it
Bumble bee (Bombus spp.)
Bumble bee in the genus Bombus, possibly Bombus fernaldae, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Iggy Tavares. Identified to tentative species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Big Sky Resort, Montana, USA. Date: June, 2015.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
Bumble bee, Bombus spp., subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
Bumble bee colonies are different from those of honey bees. Entire honey bee hives survive the winter in the north, whereas all but the queen bumble bee dies off when winter arrives. The queen bumble bee hibernates, and in the spring emerges and starts laying eggs. As the eggs hatch into worker bees, the colony begins to build.
Photographed and identified by: Leslie Mertz. Location: Kalkaska, Michigan, USA. Date: 8 July, 2012.
Green lynx spider and bumble bee (Bombus)
Bumble bee in the genus Bombus, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ This bumble bee is in the clutches of a green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans.
Photographed by: Theresa Goff. Bumble bee identified by: Theresa Goff. Spider identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Clark Gardens Botanical Park, Weatherford (Parker County), Texas, USA. Date: 3 September, 2016.
Bombus identification
Different species of bumble bees — in the genus Bombus — often look much alike. Many also have considerably variation within the species. For these reasons, bumble bee photos are frequently only identified to the genus level.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
Bumble bee in the genus Bombus), subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The setae/hairs on a bumble bee’s body collect pollen, and they also serve another purpose, according to research published in 2016 (the journal PNAS): The setae detect weak electric fields of flowers so they can home in on them.
Photographed and identified by: Dirk Sundbaum. Location: Auburn, Washington, USA. Date: 16 June, 2003.
Add your photo here! Pagden's stingless bee (Tetragonula pagdeni)
Pagden’s stingless bee, Tetragonula pagdeni, subfamily Meliponinae (sometimes listed under Apinae), family Apidae.
Pagden’s stingless bees are important pollinators of wildflowers and crops in Thailand, where this photo was taken. They also are major producers of honey and the resin-like, gluey substance called propolis. The bees use to build their hives, and it is also sold commercially. For the reported (but not proven) human health benefits of propolis click here (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).
□ For more about the stingless bees, click here (Australian Native Bee Research Centre).
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blauhaut. Nicely done, Eric! Location: Wat Bangrahong, Mueang Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 17 March, 2023.
White-cheeked carpenter bee (Xylocopa aestuans)
White-cheeked carpenter bee, Xylocopa aestuans, subfamily Apinae, family Apidae.
□ The two left photos show the female white-cheeked carpenter bee; and the other two show the male. The male covered with rich, golden-yellow setae/hairs, while the female is black and bright yellow with short, white setae around her face (click on the photo to zoom in). The white facial setae give this species the common name white-cheeked.
□ This is a large species, with individuals reaching about 2 cm (0.8 inch) in body length. Like many carpenter bees, it is a solitary species, so each nest is typically tended by a single adult female, although occasionally two adult females will share a nest. White-cheeked carpenter bees are found in southeastern Asia from India to China.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehaut. Excellent ID and photos of both sexes, Eric! Location: Bang Krang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 30 August, 2022.
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The eastern carpenter bee looks very similar to the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens), except that the eastern carpenter bee has a shiny abdomen with almost no setae/hairs. (Some tufts of setae are visible on the rear end of the abdomen in these photos.)
Photographed and identified by: Karen Altobelli. Well done on the ID, Karen! Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Date: 3 May, 2020.
Karen says, “There were about six to eight of them sampling the flowering bushes. They’re big! They didn’t mind my presence.” KnowYourInsects.org says, “Yes! They can be nearly an inch (2.5 cm) long!”
Buzzing bees
The buzz of bees comes from their rapidly beating wings that vibrate the air. Our eardrum picks up that vibration, transmits it through our middle and inner ear, along an auditory nerve, and to the brain, which turns it into the sound we recognize as buzzing.
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ See the photographer’s comment below.
Photographed and identified by: Fleur Duggan. Well done on the ID, Fleur! Location: Fairfax, Virginia, USA. Date: 21 September, 2021.
Fleur says, “Interesting thing about the bee, it wouldn’t fit into the petunias, so after trying, it moved to the outside stem end of the blossom and worked on that for a bit.”
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ A male eastern carpenter bee is distinguished from the female by a large square patch of yellow or yellowish-white in the middle of his face.
Photographed and identified to order by: Jacqueline Faust. Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA. Date: 31 May, 2021.
Jacqueline says, “On my petunias. His head was covered with pollen when he flew away.”
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ This photo of an eastern carpenter bee gives a nice view of the thick yellow setae/hairs on its thorax and the front of its abdomen.
Photographed and identified to order by: Maggie Merriman. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Ringgold, Georgia, USA. Date: 26 August, 2020.
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa caffra)
Xylocopa caffra, females, (no specific common name), subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The female Xylocopa caffra is black with two bold yellow (sometimes white or even orange) bands: one band on the rear of her thorax, and one near the front of her abdomen, as seen above. The male is instead covered in yellowish setae/hairs. To see the male, click here (WaspWeb.org).
□ The female lays her eggs inside stems of various plants, including aloe and agave.
Photographed by: Natalie Rowles. Location: Pinetown, South Africa (near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal). Date: 30 March, 2020.
Natalie says, “It was so difficult to photograph them as they fly too fast all around pollinating the blue flowers!”
Violet Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea)
Violet carpenter bee, Xylocopa violacea, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The genus name of the violet carpenter bee (sometimes called a blue carpenter bee) is Xylocopa, and it comes from the ancient Greek word xylokopos, which means “wood cutter.” This refers to to its habit of boring tunnels into wood. The female lays her eggs in the tunnels — a safe and dry spot for the eggs to hatch and the larvae to develop.
Photographed by: Yanni Petropolus. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: mainland of southwest Greece. Date: 19 June, 2020.
Violet Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea)
Violet carpenter bees, Xylocopa violacea, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The violet carpenter bee is quite a large species — one of the largest in Europe (these were photographed in France) — with wings that have a violet sheen depending on the light. The bee at right is covered with pollen.
Photographed by: Emma Crook. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Vender, France. Date: 20 August, 2019.
Emma says, “I love bees and am always interested in different species. I have never seen these before.”
Yellow-and-Black Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa flavonigrescens)
Yellow-and-black carpenter bee, female, Xylocopa flavonigrescens, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The female yellow-and-black carpenter bee is all black except for the thorax, which is bright yellow, usually with a short, black stripe in the center. Her forewings have a greenish or bluish iridescence.
Photographed by: Rachel Wong. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Date: 2 May, 2022.
Splay-footed carpenter bee (Xylocopa valga)
Splay-footed carpenter bee, Xylocopa valga, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The splay-footed carpenter bee has a considerable amount of fuzzy setae/hairs on its thorax and much of its abdomen. Note, however, the bare band on the abdomen, which is visible in the right photo — it almost looks as if this bee is wearing a belt. Some individuals in this species are not as fuzzy as this one.
□ This species is found in much of Europe, but is now becoming less common in southern countries and beginning to appear in more northern countries. In other words, it is moving north. Some researchers suspect this is due to climate change. For a discussion of this northward migration, click here (Forest Research Papers).
Photographed and identified as a carpenter bee by: Angela Conifer. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org Location: Lemgo, Germany. Date: 5 September, 2022.
Angela says, “The bee visited the garden in Lemgo for consecutive two days, then disappeared.”
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa pubescens)
A carpenter bee, female, in the genus Xylocopa, probably Xylocopa pubescens (no specific common name), subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ This carpenter bee was buzzing around on beach sand. It may be the species Xylocopa pubescens, which has a very fuzzy, yellow thorax centered with a small black spot. The species name of pubescens refers to the copious yellow fuzz on the thorax (centered with a small black spot). Its shimmering wings look black to brown to purple depending on the light.
Photographed by: Marlene. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Sousse City Resort, Tunisia. Date: 2 October, 2020.
Marlene says, “It got stuck in the sand and tried to escape.”
Slender-Scaped Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa tenuiscopa)
Carpenter bee in the genus Xylocopa, quite possibly Xylocopa tenuiscopa (no specific common name), subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The yellow and blue sheen on the wings of this slender-scaped carpenter bee are quite spectacular. The prominent veins make the wings almost look wrinkled.
Photographed by: Abhirup Saha. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Mekhliganj, India. Date: 14 May, 2020.
Bumble bees
Insect exoskeletons are made of a fibrous material called chitin. Chitin also makes up the bristles, spines, and setae (the hairs) on insects.
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.)
Carpenter bee in the genus Xylocopa, possibly a valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ This carpenter bee is a large, shiny, all-black bee. Although the photographer described it as a “scary thing” — and it can give a start when it lands nearby! — carpenter bees are actually quite docile and have no interest in engaging with humans.
Photographed by: D. Struthers. Location: Henderson, Nevada, USA. Date: 6 July, 2020.
D. describes it at about an inch (2.5 cm) in body length with a similar-sized wingspan.
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp., possibly Xylocopa californica)
A carpenter bee in the genus Xylocopa, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ In California, where this carpenter bee was photographed, several similar-looking species occur. It could be a western carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica) or horsefly carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis), both of which sometimes have yellow setae/hairs on the thorax, as seen here.
□ The photographer noted a helpful book for identifying and learning about bumble bees (not carpenter bees), titled Bumble Bees of the Western United States. To get a free download of the publication, produced by U.S. Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership, click here.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size photos here and here. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 3 April, 2022.

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.)
A carpenter bee in the genus Xylocopa, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ This carpenter bee has huge, light-blue eyes. Click on the photo to zoom in and see the detail.
□ A careful look will also reveal dozens of tiny reddish marks on the surface of this carpenter bee. These are hatching larvae of other insects collectively called parasitoids. Parasitoids lay their eggs in another organism, and in this case, in the carpenter bee. As shown, the hatching larvae emerge from the carpenter bee’s body. Various insects may be parasitoids, including numerous types of small wasps.
Photographed and identified as a carpenter bee by: Axay Chauhan. Location: Gujarat, India. Date: 24 February, 2019.
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.)
A carpenter bee, female, in the genus Xylocopa, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ Although this carpenter bee lacks its wings (for an unknown reason), bee researcher Carley McGrady said “the fuzziness of the legs, the thickness of the abdomen and the width of the head” identifies it as a female.
Photographed by: Beverly Hall. Identified by: entomologist Elsa Youngsteadt and researcher Carley McGrady. Thank you to both! Location: Rhode Island. Date: 22 August, 2019.
Beverly says, “Thought this insect was a carpenter bee, which we do have — drilling holes in our house — until I took a closer look.... Looks a bit like wingless large, heavy-set, bee.”
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.)
A carpenter bee in the genus Xylocopa, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ This carpenter bee has lightly shaded smoky wings, a white blush on its hind legs, and violet eyes.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. See Thomas’s full-size photo here. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 16 September, 2022.
Thomas says this bee briefly posed for this photo while sitting on the flower of a Cleveland sage plant (Salvia clevelandii).
Bumble bees
Not all carpenter bees are large, black bees with white or yellow markings. Some, like those in the genus Ceratina, are small and may have metallic bodies.
Small carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.)
Small carpenter bees in the genus Ceratina, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ Species in this genus of small carpenter beesCeratina — have tiny indents all over their shiny exoskeleton, almost as the bees have survived a fierce sandstorm. Click on the photos to zoom in and see the amazing detail in these three.
Photographed and identified by: Victoria Virgona. Nicely done, Victoria! To see more of Victoria’s images, click here. Location: East Setauket, New York, USA. Date: Left to right, 28 July, 2021; 29 May, 2022; and 16 September, 2020.
Victoria says, “Ceratina bees are small but mighty pollinators. They get into the hard-to-reach flowers and work tirelessly to get the job done! I love them.”
Small carpenter bee (Ceratina spp.)
Small carpenter bee in the genus Ceratina, male, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
Small carpenter bees in the genus Ceratina have a little bead-like segment in each antennae, which is visible in this photo. Males also have prominent white markings on their faces, one of which is also seen here. Look carefully to also see the blue coloration on the abdomen of this busy bee.
Photographed by: Gail Rowley, Ozark Stream Photography. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Texas County, Missouri, USA. Date: 24 May, 2023.
Gail spotted this native bee on her native wildflowers — a great reason to plant native :-)
Small carpenter bee (Ceratina spp.)
Small carpenter bee in the genus Ceratina, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ The abdomen of small carpenter bees is rather “fat” and stays wide until the very end, which ends in a little point. To see another good look at the abdomen shape, click here (bugguide.net).
Photographed by: Conrad Storad. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Springfield Bog Metro Park, just east of Akron, Ohio, USA. Date: 24 May, 2023.
Conrad says “I just happened to see the little bee out of the corner of my eye as my wife and I were trying to get images of red-winged blackbirds and yellow-throated warblers.”
Emerald Small Carpenter bee (Ceratina smaragdula)
Emerald small carpenter bee, Ceratina smaragdula, subfamily Xylocopinae, family Apidae.
□ With its brilliant metallic-green color, the emerald small carpenter bee looks much different from most other members of the carpenter bee family. This one is visiting the white bloom of a butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea).
□ Note: Formerly, this bee’s genus was listed as Pithitis.
Photographed and identified by: Eric Blehaut. Well done on the ID, Eric! Location: Bang Krang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 2 January, 2023.
Add your photo here!
Cuckoo bees
Cuckoo bees (in the genus Epeolus) are often called kleptoparasites, which means that the female will lay her eggs in another bee’s nest. When the eggs hatch, they eat (or “steal”) the provisions in the nest, and sometimes even dine on the host bee’s young.
Notch-Backed Cellophane Cuckoo Bee (Epeolus scutellaris)
Notch-backed cellophane cuckoo bee, male, Epeolus scutellaris, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ The notch-backed cellophane cuckoo bee, sometimes called a shield-backed epeolus, is shown here on a black-eyed susan flower. According to Bugguide.net, the female will lay her egg atop a plasterer bee’s egg (genus Colletes). When the young cuckoo bee hatches, it kills the plasterer bee egg (or larva if it has already hatched), and then eats the pollen and nectar stored in the nest.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 21 August, 2009.
Autumnal Cellophane Cuckoo bee (Epeolus autumnalis)
Autumnal cellophane cuckoo bee (female), Epeolus autumnalis, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ Photographed on New England aster, the autumnal cellophane cuckoo bee is sometimes known by the common name of fall epeolus.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 2 October, 2014.
Two-Banded Cellophane Cuckoo Bee (Epeolus bifasciatus)
Two-banded cellophane cuckoo bee (female), Epeolus bifasciatus, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ This two-banded cellophane cuckoo bee has two prominent light-colored bands crossing its abdomen. It is photographed here on Virginia mountain mint.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 31 July, 2014.
Canada Cellophane Cuckoo bee (Epeolus canadensis)
Canada cellophane cuckoo bee (female), Epeolus canadensis, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ The angled band at the front of the abdomen is a characteristic feature of the Canada cellophane cuckoo bee. It is photographed here on Culver’s root.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 31 July, 2013.
Sumac Cellophane Cuckoo Bee (Epeolus lectoides)
Sumac cellophane cuckoo bee (male), Epeolus lectoides, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ The sumac cellophane cuckoo bee has a series of thin, broken bands on its abdomen. It is photographed here on a gorgeous orange backdrop of butterflyweed.
Photographed and identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you for the ID, Jackie! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 13 July, 2014.
Cellophane-cuckoo bee (Epeolus spp.)
Cellophane-cuckoo bee in the genus Epeolus, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
Cellophane-cuckoo bees in this genus are kleptoparasites of cellophane bees (genus Colletes). Although their names are similar, they are in different families with different lifestyles. The cellophane bees are ground nesters. To see one, click here.
Photographed and identified as a cuckoo bee by: Robert E. Carpenter. Nicely done, Robert! See Robert’s slow-motion nature video here. Identified to genus by: KnowourInsects.org. Location: South Fork, Colorado, USA. Date: 20 July, 2022.
Cuckoo bees
Cuckoo bee is the common name of several groups or genera of bees, including Epeolus, Holcopasites, and Nomada, which are all shown on this page.
Cuckoo bee (Holcopasites calliopsidis)
Cuckoo bee, Holcopasites calliopsidis, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ This species of cuckoo beeHolcopasites calliopsidis — has light outlining and spots on its black thorax and red abdomen. Depending on the lighting, the spots and outlining can look quite white and pronounced. Notice also the nice view of the insect’s neck, which is called a cervix.
Photographed and identified by: Victoria Virgona. Nicely done, Victoria! Identification verified by: John Ascher. To see more of Victoria’s images, click here. Location: East Setauket, New York, USA. Date: 9 July, 2020.
Victoria finds the often-elusive cuckoo bees this way: “I've learned that if I familiarize myself with their host species and where they usually prefer to nest, I might just get lucky and spot one.”
Cuckoo bee (Nomada spp.)
Cuckoo bee in the genus Nomada, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ This genus of cuckoo beeNomada — has long and thick antennae and patterning similar to wasps.
Photographed and identified by: Victoria Virgona. To see more of Victoria’s images, click here. Location: East Setauket, New York, USA. Date: 13 May, 2021.
Victoria says, “I love cuckoo bees!”
Nomad Bee (Nomada vegana species group)
Nomad bee, Nomada vegana species group, subfamily Nomadinae, family Apidae.
□ Like cuckoo bees, nomad bees are also kleptoparasites. The female will identify a host nest (usually that of a sweat bee), steal inside, lay an egg in a cell, and quickly exit. When her egg hatches, it survives by eating the host bee’s larva.
□ Identifying features include two noticeable, yellow, ornamental knobs on each side of the thorax just in front of the wings, two more yellow knobs next to one another at the rear of the thorax, a yellow collar, and a bit of brown smudging on each wing.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. Nicely done, Thomas! See Thomas’s full-size photos here and here. Location: San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California. Date: 11 September, 2022.
Thomas says, “About 10 mm long. On a hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) flower. This is the first year I have had this plant, and the first I have seen one of these bees.”

Pelecinidae, pelecinid wasps
Andrenidae, the mining bees

Pelecinid wasp, Pelecinus polyturator
Pelecinid wasp, female, Pelecinus polyturator, family Pelecinidae.
□ It is a special pleasure to have the photo of this pelecinid wasp because it is one of only three species in this family, and this particular species is the only member of the family to live in the United States. This is a female, as seen by her long, six-segmented abdomen (males have a shorter abdomen that has a club-shaped end.)
□ The female uses her long abdomen to poke through the soil and find a suitable host — often a beetle grub — for her young. She lays an egg on the host, and a larva hatches out and bores into the grub, which serves as the larva’s food source. This does kill the grub, but it is part of the wasp’s life cycle.
Photographed by: Lori Kvittem. Identified by: entomologist Lynn Kimsey, University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: Coon Rapids, Minnesota, USA. Date: 22 July, 2016.
Lori also photographed it next to a penny to show size. From the tip of the head to the end of the abdomen, it is estimated about about 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) long.
See the variety! Mining bee
Mining bee in the genus Andrena, subfamily Andreninae, family Andrenidae.
□ This mining bee is on back of a common eastern bumble bee queen (Bombus impatiens). Distinguishing features of mining bee females include the patch of velvet-like setae/hairs at the front of the head, between the eyes and antennae; and the long setae located on the hind-leg trochanter, which is where the leg attaches to the body.
Photographed by: Jackie Lucier. Identified by: entomologist Lynn Kimsey, University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: Wheatley, Ontario, Canada. Date: 8 April, 2005.
Jackie says, “Very territorial, these males harass all the bees visiting low-growing flowers in the spring.” And the males usually emerge from hibernation three days before the females and scent-mark all the flowers, which attracts the females.

Megachilidae, the leafcutter, mason, resin bees and allies

Sculptured Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)
Sculptured resin bee, Megachile sculpturalis, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ Female sculptured resin bees have very large mandibles, and nest in aggregations within pre-existing cavities, preferring old carpenter bee holes, according to identifier Jackie Lucier.
Photographed by: John Wieller. Identified by: Jackie Lucier. Thank you, Jackie, for the ID and all the information! Location: Easton, Pennsylvania. Date: 8 April, 2005.
John says, “After catching 18 of these bees in my basement over a two-week period, I have not seen any more of them in the last 13 days. I am still trying to figure out how they got into my basement. Out of the 18 I caught, two of them must have been females as they were larger than the other 16.”
Silver-tailed Petal-cutter Bee (Megachile montivaga)
Silver-tailed petal-cutter bee, Megachile montivaga, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ The silver-tailed petal-cutter bee gets its name from the copious silvery setae/hairs on the underside of the tail end of the abdomen, and the way it makes tunnels for its nests and lines them with flower petals it cuts from flowers.
Photographed and identified to order by: Gail Rowley, Ozark Stream Photography. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Texas County, in Missouri Ozarks. Date: 15 July, 2023.
Gail nicknamed this bee “butter butt” for its upward-pointed rear end that is often covered with bright-yellow pollen. She adds, “AND it ‘sings’ to flowers…. :^)  Just love it!” See the Fun Facts box to learn about the singing.
Leafcutter Bee (Megachile spp.)
Leafcutter bee in the genus Megachile, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ The patterned green eyes on this leafcutter bee are stunning. The setae/hairs on its black body even show up well in this beautiful photo.
Photographed and identified to order by: Melissa Cervantes. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: central Luzon, Philippines. Date: 16 June, 2021.
Resin bee(Megachile velutina)
A resin bee,Megachile velutina, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ This honeybee-looking species of resin bee has orange setae/hairs covering its head and thorax, and also the first segment of its shiny, black abdomen. The closely related shadow-winged resin bee (Megachile umbripennis) looks similar, but half of its wings have a dark cast.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Eric Blehout. Nice job on the ID, Eric! Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Bang Krang, Thailand. Date: 10 August, 2023.
Leafcutter Bee (Megachile spp.)
Leafcutter bee in the genus Megachile, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ This leafcutter bee is coated with pollen, thanks to the short setae/hairs covering its body.
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here, here and here. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 5 May, 2019.
Leafcutter Bee (Megachile spp.)
Leafcutter bee in the genus Megachile, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
Leafcutter bees in this family (Megachilidae) have stout bodies, whereas other bees are more svelte. Interestingly, female Megachilid bees have pollen sacs on the underside of the abdomen, rather than on their legs as is the case with other bees.
Photographed by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here and here. Identified to genus by: entomologist Lynn Kimsey, University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 28 September, 2018.
Leafcutter Bee (Megachile spp.)
Leafcutter bee in the genus Megachile, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
Leafcutter bees have abdomens with setae/hair-covered undersides, which do the job of collecting pollen. This one has a full load of bright yellow pollen.
Photographed and identified by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size image here. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 27 August, 2022.
Thomas spotted this bee visiting narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), a native flower of California, where this photo was taken.
Sharp-tailed bee (Coelioxys spp.)
Sharp-tailed bee in the genus Coelioxys, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ The sharp-tailed bees are named for the tapered abdomen and pointed ovipositor of the female, and both are evident in this photo. To see the male’s abdomen, which is more rounded at the tip and armed with several short spines, click here (bugguide.net).
Photographed and identified by: Victoria Virgona. Nicely done, Victoria! To see more of Victoria’s images, click here. Location: East Setauket, New York, USA. Date: 21 August, 2020.
European Wool Carder (Anthidium manicatum)
European wool carder, Anthidium manicatum, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ The European wool carder doesn’t card wool, but it does scrape the tiny hairs from plant leaves and then lines its nest with them. It is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, but has spread to many other regions, including the United States, where this photo was taken.
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here and here. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 9 July, 2019.
Thomas says, “This one did a lot of hovering around the bush compared to other bees that I have seen.”
Wool Carder (Anthidium spp.)
Wool carder, possibly in the genus Anthidium, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
Wool carder bees are mainly solitary species. Do you see the spider? See the comment below.
Photographed and identified to order by: Yanni Petropoulos. Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: southern Greece. Data: 2 June, 2020.
Of the crab spider (Thomisus spp.), Yanni says, “It was perfectly camouflaged on a pink/purple flower and I guess the bee had quite a surprise!”
European Wool Carder (Anthidium manicatum)
European wool carder, Anthidium manicatum, subfamily Megachilinae, family Megachilidae.
□ The amount of yellow on the abdomen of the European wool carder varies between individuals. This one has much more yellow than the previous photos, and it also has yellow markings on its thorax, which may be lacking in others. The wing venation, however, is the same.
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here, here and here. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 5 June, 2019.
Add your photo here!

Ampulicidae, the cockroach wasps

Cockroach Wasp (Ampulex compressa)
Cockroach wasp, Ampulex compressa, subfamily Ampulicinae, family Ampulicidae.
Cockroach wasps get their name because their reproduction involves cockroaches. A female wasp will sting a cockroach twice, which leaves the roach lethargic, and then tugs on on the roach’s antenna to lead it to a burrow. Once there, the wasp lays a couple of eggs near the incapacitated roach, seals up the burrow, and when the eggs hatch, the young feed on the still-living roach.
□ The cockroach wasps are a brilliant blue metallic with vivid orange femurs on their middle and hind legs.
Photographed and identified by: Soham Gajre. Great job on the ID, Soham! Location: Mumbai, India. Date: 30 January, 2023.
Try the key!

Halictidae, the sweat bees

Texas Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus)
Texas striped sweat bee, also known as ultra green sweat bee, male and female, Agapostemon texanus, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ The male Texas striped sweat bee (pictured in the left and center photos) has a bright yellow abdomen with black stripes. The female (photo at right) is all metallic green with fainter black stripes on her abdomen. As the common name implies, sweat bees are attracted to human perspiration, so they can get on people’s nerves!
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here, here, and here. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 2 November, 2018.
Thomas says, “These green bees sure were a surprise when I started seeing them!”
Texas Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus)
Texas striped sweat bee, also known as ultra green sweat bee, female, Agapostemon texanus, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ This pretty little Texas striped sweat bee was found on a garden flower.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Wayne Center. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Riverside, California, USA. Date: 26 February, 2020.
Wayne says, “It seems the more California native plants I add to the yard, the wider variety of insects come visit.” KnowYourInsects.org says, “So true! Native plants are great for insect diversity!”
Bi-colored Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens)
Bi-colored striped sweat bees, male and female, Agapostemon virescens, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ Both male and female bi-colored striped sweat bees have a metallic green head and thorax. Several adult females may live together in underground nests, each one taking care of her own brood.
Photographed by: Michelle Von Sutphen. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Albany, New York, USA. Date: 10 June, 2011.
Bi-colored Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens)
Bi-colored striped sweat bee, male and female, Agapostemon virescens, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ This close-up of a bi-colored striped sweat bees shows its very hairy (setae-covered) body and legs.
Photographed by: Mark Andersen. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Central Minnesota, USA. Date: 8 September, 2021.
Bi-colored Striped Sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens)
Bi-colored striped sweat bee, female, Agapostemon virescens, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ See the photographer’s description of this bi-colored striped sweat bee. The female (seen here) has either white bands on her abdomen or an all -green abdomen, while the male has a yellow-banded abdomen.
Photographed and identified by: Victoria Virgona. Nicely done, Victoria! To see more of Victoria’s images, click here. Location: East Setauket, New York, USA. Date: 17 June, 2021.
Victoria says, “Bi-colored sweat bees can be challenging to capture because of how quickly they zip from flower to flower, however, when they spot our ‘Yellow Rose of Texas,’, they dive bomb into it and frolic around, covering themselves in balls of pollen, LOL.”
Sweat bees
The species name virescens is derived from the Latin word for becoming green, so green insects often have this species name.
Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon spp.)
Striped sweat bee in the genus Agapostemon, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ The green metallic color and the black-and-cream striped abdomen suggest that this is a pair of striped sweat bees. This pair was photographed on a purple coneflower.
Photographed by: Hailey Holda. Submitted and identified to family by: Cynthia Holda. Great team work, Hailey and Cynthia! Identified to genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Spokane, Washington, USA. Date: 6 October, 2019.
Sweat Bee (Lasioglossum spp.)
Sweat bee in the genus Lasioglossum, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ Many species of sweat bees have banded abdomens, as does this one. The exact species of this specimen is uncertain, but one good possibility is the white-combed sweat bee Lasioglossum albescens, which is found in Thailand, where this photo was taken.
Photographed and identified to genus by: Eric Blehout. Nice job on the ID, Eric! Location: Bang Krang, Nonthaburi, Thailand. Date: 1 July, 2022.
Insect facts
A 2019 study showed that flowers can sense a bee’s buzzing, and quickly throw out the welcome mat by making extra-sweet nectar.
Add your photo here! Sweat Bee (Halictus farinosus)
Sweat bee in the genus Halictus, possibly a wide-striped sweat bee, Halictus farinosus, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ A distinguishing feature of this small sweat bee and all sweat bees in the family Halictidae is a strongly curved basal vein in each forewing. To see a good image of the curved basal vein — and learn more information about this family of bees — is click here (University of Florida “Featured Creatures”).
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here, here, and here. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 13 May, 2019.
Thomas says it is a small, about ant-sized bee.
Sweat Bee (Halictus spp.)
Sweat bee, possibly Halictus tripartitus, subfamily Halictinae, family Halictidae.
□ The tripartite sweat bee and wide-striped sweat bee (Halictus farinosus) are nearly identical, but the tripartite has a greenish metallic tint and the wide-striped does not. That tint can be difficult to see, but these photos seem to show it, so it is tentatively identified as a tripartite.
□ The arrow in the right photo shows the curved basal vein, which is a characteristic of the sweat-bee family. For photos of the wing venation of several genera and species in this family, see figures 4 and 5 here (graduate student Christopher Jonathan Hall’s thesis).
Photographed and identified to order by: Thomas Langhans. See his full-size images here and here. Identified to tentative species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: city of San Bruno, county of San Mateo, California, USA. Date: 8 July, 2022.
Sweat bees
Sweat bees get their name from their attraction to human sweat, so they will often buzz a person who is perspiring.

Chrysididae, the cuckoo wasps

Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp, likely Chrysis angolensis, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ They’re called cuckoo wasps because they do the same thing cuckoo birds do — they lay their eggs in someone else’s nest and let those parents care for them. If you look very closely, you can see that this cuckoo wasp has a handsome navy-blue tip on the end of its abdomen.
Photographed and identified as a cuckoo wasp by: Carlo Castoro. Identified by: entomologist Lynn Kimsey, University of California-Davis. Thank you, Dr. Kimsey! Location: Maryland, USA. Date: 29 August, 2017.
Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ The body of a cuckoo wasp is covered with tiny pits, as shown in these photos. To protect themselves from attack by other insects, cuckoo wasps have quite a thick cuticle (outer covering) that acts almost as armour.
Photographed and identified by: Chinmay Chaitanya Maliye. Location: Banglore, India. Date: 10 August, 2019.
Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp in the genus Chrysis, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ This cuckoo wasp looks like a jewel with its stunning blue/purple and green coloration. One of the characteristics of cuckoo wasps is that they will curl up, as seen here, when they feel threatened. Thank you to Jameel for spotting this beauty (see the photographer’s comment below)!
Discovered by: Jameel Weamama. Photographed by: Wasana Niyomdecha. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Thailand. Date: 11 June, 2020.
Wasana says, “This one was found dead. My son was so excited as the insect has beautiful colour combination.”
Cuckoo Wasp (Stilbum cyanurum)
Large cuckoo wasp, Stilbum cyanurum, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ Identifier Audrey Maran determined this to be a large cuckoo wasp based on “the coloration, antennal segments, pronotum shape, and ability to curl into a ball.” Nice job, Audrey!
Photographed by: K J Westman. Identified to family by: Audrey Maran. Identified to species by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Nitulemada, Digana, Rajawella, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Date: 17 February, 2018.
Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ This cuckoo wasp may be only a half-inch long (less than 15 mm), but the green and blue metallic color make it one to remember. These wasps are sometimes called emerald wasps because of their brilliant color.
Photographed and identified by: Leslie Mertz. Location: Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, Michigan, USA. Date: 5 July, 2017.
Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ As shown so well here, cuckoo wasps are not only beautiful in color, but also in the sculptured pattern on the body, especially on the thorax. The photographer said it was about an inch (2.5 cm) in length, which is huge for a cuckoo wasp (most are less than half that length). KnowYourInsects.org has not been able to determine the species.
Photographed and identified as a wasp by: Melissa Cervantes. Identified to family by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Central Luzon, Philippines. Date: 6 October, 2020.
Melissa says, “It's blue then kinda turns green under the sun."
Chrysididae vs. Halictidae
Cuckoo bees have two features that separate them from some of the similar-looking sweat bees in the family Halictidae: cuckoo bees have tiny pits covering their bodies, and can curl up. See sweat bees here.
Cuckoo Wasp
Cuckoo wasp, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ This shot of a cuckoo wasp gives a clear view of the pitted surface on its body. This is one of the features of this family of insects. A good way to tell a male from a female is to count the number of segments in the antennae: 12 for females, and 13 for males.
Photographed and identified to order by: Gail E. Rowley. Identified to family by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Banglore, India. Date: 10 August, 2019.
Gail says, “This little solitary bee was on our black-eyed pea vine stems, and appeared to be sipping ‘sap’ from the spots where pea pods had been picked. Various wasps and bees were feeding in the same manner, for days.”
Cuckoo Wasp, Chrysura spp.
Cuckoo wasp, possibly in the genus Chrysura, family Chrysididae (the cuckoo wasps).
□ Some cuckoo wasps are called parasitoids: they lay their eggs in another wasp’s nest, so their hatching larvae can live among the host insect’s brood, eating food meant for the host’s young. Other cuckoo wasps are known as kleptoparasitoids, because their hatching larvae also eat the host’s eggs and larvae.
Photographed and identified to family by: Annette Powell. Identified to tentative genus by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Woodland Park, Colorado, USA. Date: 29 May, 2022.
Annette says, “it is relatively small — like around the size of a fly.”
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