Arizona Pollinators: Is that a bee?

Arizona is home to many flying insects. We are most familiar with Honeybees and the dreaded Africanize bees but what about the other important pollinators that sometimes get mistaken for Honeybees?

The following are a few examples of what you might see in your yard this summer.

Mining Bees

Mining bees are a group of about 450 native bee species of North America. They are extremely docile, solitary bees which are only active in the spring. Mining bees dig tunnels in which they lay their eggs and raise their young. They seek out areas with exposed soil, excellent drainage, and light shade or dappled sunlight from taller plants. Though mining bees may form tunnels rather close to each other, they are not colony forming bees and live solitary lives. From the outside, the tunnels look like ¼ inch (6 mm.) holes with a ring of loose soil around them and are easily mistaken for small ant hills or earthworm mounds.

mining bee
leaf cutter bee

Leaf Cutter Bees

Leaf Cutter Bees are very common in the Sonoran Desert, especially around the urban areas. Flowering plants produce nectar and pollen which these bees gather for their young. It is fascinating how these bees prepare for reproduction. Leaf Cutter Bees most commonly use bougainvillea and rose petals to construct perfect cylindrical tubes, about the size of a pencil, to place their one egg and a supply of honey and pollen in for their babies to feast on when they hatch. The bees do not eat the leaves they just use them to house their babies. Each bee lives independently and builds individual nests for their eggs. They are docile and rarely sting people, they are vital pollinators of vegetables and fruits in our gardens.

Sweat Bees

Sweat bees are found throughout desert areas of southwestern US. They have an unmistakable appearance. Females have a bright, metallic green color across their whole body. Males have the same metallic green, but only up to their thorax. They also have mixed bands of bright yellow and black.

Sweat bee females prefer bare soil where they will dig out tunnels for nesting. They also enjoy the warmth of the sun. Because their nests are underground, it can get cold, so they often seek out an area that’s exposed to the sun.

Sweat bees do not live in a hive. Although solitary they can also live in communities where several females will build their nests close to each other.

sweat bee

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are found throughout the Southwestern United States. They are big and fluffy and some of the largest pollinators in the world. They got their name because of how they use their strong mouthparts to chew round nesting holes into wood.

Unlike honeybees, they live by themselves or in small matriarchal family units.

Females can sting but they rarely do unless you handle or harass them. Their stingers are not barbed so if they do sting you, they can sting multiple times. Sometimes male carpenter bees will fly right up to people’s faces, which can be scary, but they are just being territorial, they cannot sting you.

These bees can do damage to wood. If you see holes in your patio posts or other areas around your home we can give you tips to keep them away.

Bees in their natural habitat are usually no harm to humans but at times they invade spaces that are just a little too close for safety and comfort.

If you encounter a beehive stay clear and hire a professional beekeeper or exterminator to take care of it for you. You never know when a peaceful looking hive will present dangerous and aggressive Africanized bees.

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