Bee Types

The following six families of bees are found in the New York City area: the Colletidae (18 species), Halictidae (46 species), Andrenidae (63 species), Melittidae (3 species, although these have not been observed in several decades), Megachilidae (40 species), and Apidae (59 species). Commonly encountered and recognizable genera are described below. 

Family Colletidae—Plasterer and Masked Bees

Plasterer bees (genus Colletes, 7 species): Medium-sized bees (usually 1.0-1.5 cm long). Several species nest in loose soil and are often observed in early spring.

Colletes inaequalis
Photo by: E. Johnson

Masked bees (genus Hylaeus, 11 species): Very small (<0.8 cm). Not hairy like other bees; carry pollen internally instead of on hairs. Nest in cavities in hollow or pith-filled plant stems. Distinguished by white/yellow “mask” on face, but note that males have more white/yellow than females, and this can vary by species.

Yellow-faced Bee (Hylaeus sp.)
Photo by: S. Nanz

Family Halictidae—Sweat Bees

Small sweat bees (genus Lasioglossum, 49 species): Very small (<0.8 cm). Head and thorax brassy-green with very small hairs on tip of abdomen. Most are greenish but some are bluish. Nest in the ground. Some are social.

Lasioglossum sp.
Photo by: S. Nanz

Green metallic bees (genera Agapostemon, Augochlora, and Augochlorella, 6 species): Medium-sized (~1 cm). Species in the genera Augochlora and Augochlorella are entirely brilliant green. Agapostemon species have a brilliant green thorax but black abdomen. Augochlora species nest in rotting wood while Agapostemon and Augochlorella nest in soil.

Augochlorella sp. 
Photo by: J. Ascher

Sphecodes cuckoo bees (genus Sphecodes, 9 species): Small- to medium-sized, sparsely haired, and shiny. Females are often dark red. Parasitize nests of Agapostemon, Halictus, and Lasioglossum.
Sphecodes sp.
Photo by: Tom Murray

Family Andrenidae—Miner Bees

Miner bees (genus Andrena, 57 species): The most diverse group of bees in New York City but also the most difficult to observe. Most are solitary nesters that build their nests in the soil and emerge only in early spring. Can be small to medium in size and exhibit a variety of colorations. 

Claytonia bee (Andrena eringinae)
Photo by: J. Ascher

Family Melittidae—Melittid Bees

Macropis oil-collecting bees (genus Macropis, 3 species): Small (< 0.8 cm). Males have entirely yellow face. In addition to gathering pollen, these bees also collect floral oils from yellow loosestrife flowers. These oils are mixed with the pollen as food for their developing larvae and are used to line their brood cells to provide a protective layer. These bees have not been found in New York City in many decades and are of regional conservation concern. They construct nests in the ground, often near wet habitats.

Macropis sp.
Photo by J. Ascher

Family Megachilidae—Leaf-cutter Bees, Mason Bees, and Allies

Leaf-cutter bees (genus Megachile, 18 species): Medium-sized (0.8-1.0 cm), with brown, black, or white bands on abdomen and hairs on the underside of abdomen. Build nests in cavities, including building walls and hollow plant stems such as rose, lilac, and Virginia creeper.
Megachile brevis
Photo by: K. Matteson

Leaf-cutter cuckoo bees (genus Coelioxys, 5 species): Medium-sized with tapering triangular abdomen. Parasites of leaf-cutter bees.

Coelioxys sayi
Photo by: J. Ascher

Mason bees (genus Osmia, 8 species): Rotund, medium-sized bees, at times with brilliant metallic green, blue, or purple coloration. Similar to Megachile species, they carry pollen on underside of abdomen.

Osmia bucephala
Photo by: J. Ascher

Wool carder bees (genus Anthidium, 2 species): Rotund, medium-sized bees with distinctive yellow and black coloration. The common name is due to the behavior of the females, who scrape hairs off of leaves to create a soft nest where they lay their eggs. Often observed on the garden plants lamb’s ear (Stachys lanata byzantina) and foxgloves (Digitalis species).

Wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)
Photo by: E. Johnson

Family Apidae—Bumble, Honey, Cuckoo, Long-horned, and Carpenter Bees

Bumble bees (genus Bombus, 11 species): Large (>1 cm) hairy bees. Hives are often constructed in tree cavities or abandoned rodent burrows. A colony includes a queen and up to 100 workers.

Bombus fervidus
Photo by: K. Matteson

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera, 1 species): The common honey bee, medium-sized with golden/brown coloration. Exist in New York City both as managed hives and feral colonies in parks, cemeteries, and other green spaces.

Honey bee 
Photo by: P. Ersts

Nomada cuckoo bees (genus Nomada, 19 species): With yellow striations on abdomen, may appear wasp-like. Primarily parasitize miner bees (genus Andrena) but also other genera. Rare.

Nomada articulata
Photo by J. Ascher

Long-horned bees (genus Melissodes, 9 species): Medium-sized. Named for the long antennae found on males. Several species are very fast flyers.

Melissodes sp.
Photo by: S. Nanz

Small carpenter bees (genus Ceratina, 3 speceis): Very small (<0.8 cm) and bluish black. Males have a little white/yellow on face (not as much as Hylaeus species).

Ceratina sp. 
Photo by: S. Nanz

Large carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica, 1 species): Males have white/yellow on face and more hair on abdomen, which may appear bumble bee-like. Females have no white/yellow on face and a shiny black, hairless abdomen. Build nests in lumber, including park benches, porches, etc.

Large Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Photo by: E. Johnson