Native Bees of North America

 Photographs courtesy of the United States Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

North America boasts a stunning array of more than 4,000 native bees that play a quiet, integral role in our agricultural and native landscape. These powerhouse pollinators are often too quick or too small to see in detail, but a pause is needed to heed their diminishing numbers. The following is an up-close sampling of the native bees that share our home.

THISTLE LONG-HORNED BEE | MELISSODES DESPONSA

Pollen, pollen, pollen. This thistle-loving bee is found throughout North America, from North Dakota to Nova Scotia. Although bees carry loads of pollen on their legs, the pollen collected loosely all over the body helps pollinate most plants as well. This bee was collected in Maine during surveys of blueberry fields and surrounding habitat.

blue orchard bee
BLUE ORCHARD BEE | OSMIA LIGNARIA

The classic blue bee commonly used to efficiently pollinate orchards. Producers drill blocks of wood to create nesting habitat for populations. Collected in Washington, D.C.

cactus bee
CACTUS BEE | DIADASIA RINCONIS

Even harsh desert landscapes depend on pollinators to thrive. This fuzzy species play their part by aggregating nests in desert areas and collecting cactus pollen to feed their young. No cacti, no Diadasia rinconis. Documented in Pima, AZ.

Bombus affinis

RUSTY-PATCHED BUMBLE BEE | BOMBUS AFFINIS

One of the most common species in North America only 20 years ago, this bee is now the newest addition to the Endangered Species List. In the past two decades the population declined by 87 percent. The once robust population, found in 28 states, is now scattered in just 13.

rusty-patched bumblebee

RUSTY-PATCHED BUMBLEBEE | BOMBUS AFFINIS

Queens like this one build nests in the fall before hibernating through the winter, usually underground but in one case in the 70s an intrepid queen built a nest in an abandoned armchair in Canada. With the dramatic habitat decline it is unlikely these bees will recolonize much of their historic Canadian habitat.

augoclorella gratiosa

AUGOCHLORELLA GRATIOSA

An uncommon bee found in the deep South, this iridescent beauty can vary in hues between green and blue. Spotted in Raleigh, NC.

anthrophora californica

ANTHOPHORA CALIFORNICA

Digging for gold and treasure, this desert-dwelling bee was spotted pollinating flowers in the arid climate of Hidalgo County, New Mexico.

anthophora bomboides

ANTHOPHORA BOMBOIDES

This bee is no gambler. Part of the digger group of bees, the solitary Anthophora bomboides excavates its nest in spires of sand. Humorously dubbed the “Kenny Rogers” of bees by the National Wildlife Federation.

Halictus ligatus

HALICTUS LIGATUS

These powerhouse pollinators are one of the more common species of bee, a sweat bee. You may find Halictus ligatus nesting in the ground throughout most of North America, this particular female was found in Philadelphia, PA.Svastra obliqua

SUNFLOWER BEE | SVASTRA OBLIQUA

This ground nesting bee has a liking for pollen from sunflowers. Even though each female Svastra obliqua creates her own nest, she may share the next entrance with a community of other females. Spotted in Kent County, MD.osmia bruneri

OSMIA BRUNERI

Arguably more impressive than Old Faithful, this Osmia can be found in Yellowstone and Fossil Butte National Parks of Wyoming. Spanning the iridescent spectrum, the males tend to don a greener hue.