Native Bees: Gentle and buzz-worthy

The mining bees in the Andrenidae family are incredibly gentle bees.

According to “Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide” by Heather Holm, a park in Minneapolis is the home to thousands of Andrena nests each year, but most people have no idea that they are walking right over them. These bees are solitary and busy, so they “have neither time nor inclination to defend their nests.”

Photo of native bee

Andrena barbilabris

Another related species, called Aster Andrena, uses sonication to access its nest. They buzz their way through the top layers of sand to find their nest burrow below. It’s quite adorable actually.

Photo of native bee head

Andrena asteris

We may have left the Andrenidae family for last in our native bees series, but that doesn’t make these bees any less interesting or worthy.

(Start reading at the beginning of the series: Exotic honeybees and their Apidae family.)

Andrena are ground nesters, creating burrows in lawns, around house foundations, in fields, in gardens, under plant foliage, in woodland edges and on beaches or shorelines. They are wonderful pollinators, collecting pollen on the hairs of the hind femur and tibia. Most bees appear to gather pollen on their thighs, but these bees carry pollen higher, almost in their armpits.

Andrena range from 5 mm to 18 mm in size, and they are a populus genus. There are 1,541 species found in the world and 500 species in the United States and Canada.

Calliopsis

Calliopsis is another species of mining bees in the Andrenidae family. There are fewer species in this genus than in Andrena, with only 86 species worldwide and 68 species in the U.S. and Canada.

Calliopsis are also ground nesters and wonderful pollen collectors. They are common on hoary and blue vervain, and some species specialize on vervain, meaning that they will only forage for pollen on vervain plants. Females rake pollen out of the flower with claws on their forelegs.

Photo of calliopsis bee

Calliopsis andreniformis

Some calliopsis species are also specialists on goldenrod and another on beggarticks.

From bees that plastic-wrap their brood cells to the true sweat bees, native bees are truly incredible and overlooked creatures. We’re passionate about protecting them, as well as all of our pollinators.

Check out what we’re doing for pollinators in our new Pollinator Paradise addition!

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