Most New Yorkers know that honey bees produce honey, live in hives, swarm in the spring, and have been declining recently due to the mysterious affliction known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Fewer New Yorkers, however, know about the city’s industrious and beneficial wild bees. Unlike honey bees, most of these are solitary—they live alone instead of in a hive. They nest in tunnels in the ground, and do not produce harvestable honey. These wild bees include bumble bees; large carpenter bees, which are among the “giants of the bee world”; mining bees, which live underground; brilliant green metallic bees; and even parasitic cuckoo bees, which attack the nests of other bee species.
In addition to the 200-plus bee species that have been found in New York City so far are a surprising number of exotic bees—16 of the estimated 30 exotic bees known to inhabit North America, indicating that New York is a port of entry or establishment for bees as well as other species including insects, plants, and people. Interestingly, bees do not migrate like some butterflies and birds. Rather most adult bees fly relatively briefly during the spring and/or summer and overwinter as individuals, not as a group within a hive. Many bees overwinter within their nests as mature larvae, but those that emerge early in spring overwinter as adults. Therefore, all bee species encountered in New York City can be viewed as year-round residents.
Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that some wild bee species have experienced regional declines in North America, including the New York City area. Find out more about the threats to bees and how to help conserve them here.
Bees in the New York City area exhibit a wide range of lifestyles. They vary in where they build nests, whether they live in groups or alone, what plants they require, and how efficient they are as pollinators.
Types of bees in New York City
Six families of bees are found in the City. Read more.
How to identify bees
Web-based pictorial guides can help you distinguish one type from another. Read more.
Where they live
Most of the City’s bees nest in the soil or hollow plant stems. Read more.
Who they live with
New York City’s bees have various living arrangements. Read more.
Specialist bee plants
While most bees are generalists, some have restricted floral requirements. Read more.