Sweat Bees on the North Shore
Sweat Bees belong to the large family of bees known as Halictidae of which we have, native to our area, members of the sub groups, Sweat Bees (Halictus), Metallic Green Bees (Agapostemon) and Orchid Bees (Lasioglosum). Sweat bees (Halctidae) are among the smallest of our many local bee species, averaging only 5 to 10mm in length, and get their common nickname from the habit of landing on people to collect the salt from our skin during hot summer weather. These little bees, like most bees, have the ability to defend themselves with small stingers which they will use if harmed or roughly handled. Sweat bees are excellent pollinators of many of the smaller flower type of native plants which are often bypassed by the larger bees.
Sweat bees (Halictus) are ground nesting bees that generally use vertical tunnels with side passages leading to egg chambers to rear their young. These shallow nesting sites are often accidentally destroyed by gardeners who are unaware of the presence of these native bees in their yards and gardens. Setting aside an area of sparsely covered, sandy soil in a sunny location will help provide a safe habitat to encourage these little pollinators to nest in your area.
The Green Sweat Bees (agapostemon) are among the most strikingly noticeable of our native bee species with their metallic green or blue-green sheen and exotic mix of colors. These small bright green bees are a very solitary ground nesting sweat bee species that makes it’s nests in separate locations and tends to each alone, unlike some of it’s more communal (eusocial) relatives which sometimes share their nesting tunnels. The female green bees are fast fliers and have solid coloring while the males tend to fly more slowly while searching for females in the garden and have distinct stripes of different colors on their abdomens.
Other native Sweat bees found on the North Shore are the dark metal green Orchid Bees, (lasioglossum dialictus) and the dark green, almost black Orchid Bee, (lasioglossum zonulum), both short range flyers that require nest habitat and forage sources to be within a few hundred yard area.These tiny generalist pollinators are commonly found in a wide range of habitats in large numbers due to their very communal nesting habits. Orchid bees use both ground and wood tube nest systems and may reuse the same nesting tunnels each year. Having stumps and old log features in your garden or landscape design can provide these types of bees with excellent nesting habitat for many years.