Generally, only the queen lays eggs. She is dependent upon the workers, usually sterile females, for her food and for building the nest. The males help to continue the species, adding genetic variability. Social bees live in colonies. Honey bees live in the largest colonies. Bumble bees live in much smaller ones. There are more than species of native bees in Maine. Here we provide a brief overview of the major genera in the six bee families found in Maine and mention a few species that you are likely to encounter. Colletids 0. In Maine, there are two major genera, Colletes and Hylaeus. Colletes species are very hairy.
Most are black with white pile on their head and thorax the middle region of the body that bears the wings and legs. They have conspicuous white stripes on their abdomen. They nest in soil burrows. Occasionally, many bees of these species nest in the same area, forming dense aggregations of burrows in the spring.
Hylaeus , the yellow-faced plasterers, are much smaller than Colletes. They are relatively hairless and look more like wasps. Most are black with yellow or white markings on their faces. The yellow-faced plasterers nest in twigs, plant stems and wooden bee nesting houses. Some species are metallic green, but most are black or brown. They nest in the soil and rotten wood. Some species in this family are solitary nesters, while others are not. Halictids are often found feeding at composite flowers, with a center of tiny true flowers surrounded by rays, such as black-eyed Susans during midsummer and asters during late summer and early fall.
They are moderately robust 0.
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Most are black; a few species are shades of gray-brown, sometimes with abdominal stripes. The miner bees are among the first bees to emerge in the spring. Mellitids are uncommon, solitary—but gregarious—soil-dwelling bees. They superficially look like Andrena. Two genera are found in Maine: Melitta and Macropis.
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The Macropis are unusual because the adults feed on nectar but do not collect nectar for their offspring. Instead, the females collect floral oils from loosestrife e. The females use leaves, mud and sometimes pebbles in their nest construction. Most are about the same size as those in the family Andrenidae 0. In Maine, the two most common genera are Osmia and Megachile.
Some Osmia are shades of metallic blue, or blue-black. The Megachile are shades of gray-brown, often with abdominal stripes. Most species in this family are moderately hairy, especially the abdomens of the females. The hairs are an adaptation for collecting pollen to take back to the nest.
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With a thick layer of pollen coating their bellies, it is easy to identify these females. Some species of Megachilidae nest in the ground. In Maine, however, most species in this family use old borings in trees made by other insects for their nests. These bees readily accept wooden bee nesting houses. Like honey bees, bumble bees have three castes: queens are the largest 0. Bumble bee tongue length varies among species. Bumble bees are very furry and have a robust physique.
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Sixteen species of bumble bees are found in Maine. Most North American species are black with yellow markings. Bombus ternarius, a common species found throughout the United States and much of Canada, is yellow and orange, and thus aptly known as the orange-belted bumble bee.
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Bumble bees visit flowers even in cold, rainy weather and are superior pollinators. Some species live below ground, others above ground, and some have no preference. Nest sites include abandoned rodent nests in undisturbed meadows and pastures, abandoned bird nests, cavities in rock walls, foundations, and other sheltered areas.
The impatient bumble bee, Bombus impatiens, often nests in foundations and even in insulation in walls and rugs stored in sheds. In Maine, bumble bee colonies rarely have more than 40 individuals. The larval stage in most insects, including bees, is wingless and looks very different from the adult stage.
The duration of each stage varies for each species. Here are life cycle descriptions for three native bee species.
This may be the first bee you see in the spring. It is very partial to sunny, south-facing, bare, sandy-clay soil slopes. It is solitary, but gregarious; the nests tend to be in aggregations. Starting in late March in warm years, adult males emerge from the soil before the females, leaving visible holes in the soil.
Usually, the males alternate between feeding on flower nectar and waiting for females to emerge so they can mate. Another sign of miner bees are little mounds of soil with a hole in the center, which indicate where the females are constructing their nests below ground. For about a month, female miner bees forage on nectar and pollen from such flowers as maple, dandelion and crocus. They lay eggs in carefully constructed cells lined with a special waterproof material. In each completed cell, a tiny creamy-white egg sits atop a mass of pollen moistened with a bit of nectar, which the hatching larval bee will feed on.
After the larva undergoes several molts, it develops into the pupal stage and finally into the adult stage. All these development processes happen within each natal cell below ground.
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The new generation of adult miner bees will remain dormant until the following spring, awaiting warm temperatures and a burst of early spring flowers. Blue orchard bees overwinter as dormant adults. About the time apple trees begin blooming, the first males appear. The blue orchard bee is a superior pollinator of apples and its relatives in the genus Malus.