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Sphecodes (arvensiformis) “Cuckoo Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Euphorbia esula “Leafy Spurge” Euphorbiaceae

Blue Mountain National Recreation Area, MT
May 16, 2016
Robert Niese

Sphecodes bees are cleptoparasitic, cuckoo-like bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other sweat bees. Despite their outward appearance, these insects are not wasps, but they have converged on a very cuckoo-wasp-like life-history strategy. A female enters the nests of another Halictid, consumes a developing egg and replaces it with her own. Unfortunately, these bees, like the vast majority of Halictids, are very poorly studied and there are few entomologists capable of accurately identifying them beyond the genus level. Oh, and by the way, Leafy Spurge, while it is one of Missoula’s most widespread invasives, is also one of my favorite spring plants. They’re just such odd organisms! More photos and natural history info to come, I’m sure.

Looking back at my other photos of these bees from years ago makes me realize how far my skills as a photographer and natural historian have progressed.

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Lasioglossum (Hemihalictus) sp. “Weak-veined Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Solidago missouriensis. “Prairie Goldenrod” Asteraceae

Apgar Lookout Trail, Glacier National Park, MT
October 9, 2015
Robert Niese

Lasioglossum is the world’s largest genus of bees and contains more than 1700 species worldwide. Like many other speciose invertebrate genera, we know relatively little about these organisms and only a handful of entomologists worldwide are capable of identifying them to species. In the last five years, researchers throughout North America have revised the taxonomy of this group using phylogenetic data, new morphological characters, and over 10,000 museum specimens. According to their keys, this particular individual is possibly a male L. (Hemihalictus) inconditum.

Halictus sp. “Sweat Bee” Halictidae on
Geranium viscosissimum “Sticky Geranium” Geraniaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Sticky Geranium, as its name would suggest, is covered in tiny glandular hairs that are quite sticky to the touch. Some have suggested that these sticky glands are capable of capturing and digesting small orgnanisms, making the plant slightly carnivorous. It grows in meadows, Ponderosa Pinelands, and at the edge of sagebrush-steppe habitats throughout the PNW. 

Halictus (Seladonia) tripartitus “Sweat Bee” Halictidae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Another species of small Sweat Bee in the genus Halictus. If you’re interested in attempting to identify these bees with a dichotomous key (there are only 10 species in the Northwest, so it’s not too difficult!), check this one out here. Once you learn more about these little guys, you start noticing them everywhere!

Sphecodes (arvensiformis) “Cuckoo Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Lomatium “Biscuit Root” Apiaceae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Sphecodes bees are cleptoparasitic, cuckoo-like bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other sweat bees.

Halictus ligatus “Sweat Bee” Halictidae on Aster (Asteraceae)

Missoula, MT
September 2, 2013
Robert Niese

Sweat Bees in the genus Halictus can be difficult to identify, but fortunately, as compared to other genera in our area (see Lasioglossum), there are relatively few species in the Northwest (10). If you’d like to take a shot at IDing your own photographs, check out this key to our species.

Halictus (Seladonia) tripartitus “Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Balsamorhiza sagittata “Arrowleaf Balsamroot” Asteraceae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Another species of small Sweat Bee in the genus Halictus. If you’re interested in attempting to identify these bees with a dichotomous key (there are only 10 species in the Northwest, so it’s not too difficult!), check this one out here. Once you learn more about these little guys, you start noticing them everywhere!

Lasioglossum (Subgenus Dialictus) “Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Achillea millefolium “Yarrow” Asteraceae

Tacoma, WA
July 6, 2013
Robert Niese

These bees are notoriously difficult to identify. There are more than 290 species in the US and Canada and approximately 1700 species worldwide. Most Sweat Bees (family Halictidae) in our area fall into this mega-Genus. Look for them anywhere and anytime there are flowers blooming. You’re bound to see at least a half dozen species of Halictids on any given summer day!

Sphecodes (arvensiformis) “Cuckoo Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Lomatium “Biscuit Root” Apiaceae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Sphecodes bees are cleptoparasitic, cuckoo-like bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other sweat bees.