Halictidae – Sweat bees

Some of the most striking looking bees belong in this family, with some members having shiny metallic bodies of green, gold, blue, and copper. They can be found in abundance across the United States, with an increase in numbers in temperate regions. Female Halictid bees carry pollen on the tibia and femur of their hind legs.


Photo credit: Jon Sullivan

Sweat bees have a very diverse set of social behaviors. Some are solitary in which females build and tend their own brood cells individually. Others are also considered solitary but will share an entrance to their nest with another female.  In most cases, the entrance is all they share and so are not considered truly social. However, there a few sweat bee species that show some division of labor in guarding the entrance and rearing the young.

Finally there are species which are considered truly social with a division of labor in which the mother and founder of the colony lays eggs while the daughter does all the work.

Read this article to learn more about what Smithsonian scientists are discovering about brain development and its relation to social queens and solitary queens in the sweat bee species Megalopta genalis .

Halictid bees build their nests below ground, with some species (Augochlora pura) building under the bark of decomposing logs.