Texas Native Bees

Bees visit flowers for nectar or pollen and transfer pollen between plants. Bees play a key role in plant pollination.

Not all bees live in large colonies like honeybees. Most native bee species are solitary. Honey bees, brought to the American continent by Europeans, have been managed for honey production and crop pollination for hundreds of years. Of 20,000 native bee species in the world only six species produce honey. But some native bee species are being used for a much more important purpose – pollination services in farms and orchards. (Honeybee vs. native bee. Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC)

Female bees take pollen to their nests to make pollen balls or ‘bee bread’ for their developing young. Bees have complete metamorphosis with four developmental stages in their life cycle: egg – larva – pupa – adult.        Bee Metamorphosis.jpg





Egg and larva on pollen balls (‘bee bread’) (Dennis Briggs)
Pupa in an underground brood cell (Robbin Thorp)
An adult mining bee feeding on an aster flower (John Ascher)

Bees work hard to collect pollen and nectar but they share the fruits of their labor with us. ~30% of fruit, vegetable and nut crops depend on bee pollination to set fruit. So, every third bite of food that we take can be traced back to bee pollination!

A balanced breakfast thanks to bees!

Our world without bees…

Photos by Laura Russo

Pollination Services.pdf

Bee flight ranges depend to some extent on their body size which depends on the species. Most bees forage for food in the day but some are active at night. Bees that can see in dim light are called crepuscular bees.

Bees see in the visible as well as the ultraviolet light spectrum while humans see only in the visible light spectrum.

Three tiny Ocelli on top of this sweat bee’s head complement two large compound.

(USGS Native Bee Inventory Monitoring Lab)

We may see a colorful flower while bees see nectar guides (patterned speckles) on petals!

These flowers are seen with visible (left) and UV light (right). (Wikipedia.org)

                                 What other senses do bees use to find nectar?

They smell with their antennae like this long-horned bee! (Sam Droege)


Generalist bees visit many plant groups for their pollen. Bumble bees shake their abdomens to ‘buzz’ pollen from flowers by ‘sonication’.

Specialist bees obtain pollen from a narrow group of plants. Squash bees like pumpkin, cucumber, and zucchini; while cactus bees prefer prickly pear cactus flowers.



For info on bee plants see  http://Wildflower.org

Texas Native Bee Foraging & Nesting.pdf


All bees have the same body type with three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax has three pairs of legs and two pairs of membranous wings (Hymenoptera).

Many bees are tiny so it’s hard to distinguish them from wasps or flies visiting flowers. Observe what they’re eating, their body shape and their wings. (Wikimedia)

Bee, Wasp or Fly?

  • Bees are herbivores; they eat only nectar and pollen
  • Wasps are carnivores that mostly eat insects but also nectar
  • Flies are detrivores (eat decaying plants/animals) that can consume nectar
bee15 (1)

Margarita Lopez Uribe

  • Bees/wasps have 2 pairs of wings & long antennae; flies have 1 pair & stubby antennae
  • Bees have rounded bodies; wasps have long narrow bodies
  • Bees are hairier than wasps or flies; only bees have branched hairs (pile)

Native Bee Diversity

Since 2012 the Jha Lab has studied pollinators from 60+ sites in South, Central and Northern Texas. About 880 native bee species have been described in Texas.

Bees are as small as a rice grain or bigger than popcorn. Traits such as color and ‘hair’ location are used to identify bees.

Six Texas Bee Families

  • Apidae: large & small carpenter bees, bumble, stingless, cactus, long-horned bees
  • Miner bees like Diadasia (Andrenidae) dig tunnels with chimneys to build nests
  • Some Colletidae bees make plaster by chewing leaves into spit balls to line their nests
  • Tiny sweat bees in the Halictidae drink human perspiration for its salt (metal-green)
  • Megachilidae leaf-cutters use mega mouth-parts to cut & drag leaves to their nest
  • Some Melittidae bees such as Hesperapis collect plant oils in dry climates (marigold)


Texas Native Bee Families.pdf


For more on native bees in Texas, see TPWD Native Pollinator Management and Michael Warriner’s post on the Native Plant Society of Texas website:   http://npsot.org/wp/story/2012/2422/

Page authors Laurel Treviño and Margarita López Uribe
Thank the following organizations for supporting the development of outreach materials
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Horned Lizard License Plate Grant 
The National Science Foundation
The U.S. Army
Images are for educational use; copyrights apply; image credits are listed below
(CC) Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike
(CC) Alain C. www.flickr.com, Small carpenter bee (Ceratina sp.) drills hole in plant stem
(CC) Bob Peterson, Large carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica)
(CC) Diane Wilson, 2010, http://bugguide.net/node/view/422934/bgpage Nocturnal Lasioglossum
(CC) http://commons.wikimedia.org; en.wikipedia.org; flowers seen in visible and UV light
(CC) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Megachile-pjt.jpg, Leaf-cutter Megachile
(CC) Bumble bee wildflower USPS stamp, USDA Forest Service  http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/news/2007.shtml
(CC) Lynette Schimming, 2008, www.bugguide.net, Hesperapis sp. Miner bee males
(CC) Sean McCann, 2006, http: tolweb.org Eastern carpenter bee Xylocopa virginica; www.eol.org
(CC) Ted Kropiewnicki, 2009, Metallic blue bee (Native Bee Diversity section)
(CC) Tom Van Devender, MABA, www.madrean.org, Diadasia sp. (‘fuzzy’ bee on cactus flower)
(CC) T’ai H. Roulston, 2014, www.virginia.edu/blandy/blandy_web/biota/bees Augochlorella aurata (gold sweat bee); Colletes latitarsis (tomatillo flower)
(CC) Nancy Adamson, Peponapis pruinosa (several squash bees in flower)
(CC) USGS Native Bee Inventory Monitoring Lab 2012, http://commons.wikimedia.org Halictus poeyi (Sweat bee ocelli)
© Copyright protected – use was permitted for educational purposes
© Bruce Lund, 2012, www.bugguide.net, digger Diadasia enavata; Andrenid bee in tunnel
© Charles Schurch Lewallen 2005 (UF/IFAS) http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in207, American bumble bee, Bombus pensylvanicus
© Debbi Brusco, 2008, http://bugguide.net/node/view/182479 Miner (Hesperapis sp.)
© Dennis Briggs & Robbin Thorp, www.vernalpools.org/Thorp Andrena Life Cycle
© Gail Starr 2011 www.discoverlife.org, Sunflower/cactus bee, Diadasia enavata
© Hadel Go 2011, www.discoverlife.org, small carpenter bee, Ceratina calcarata
© John Ascher, 2006-2010, www.discoverlife.orgDianthidium ulkei; (fuzzy Megachilid -Diversity); Andrena (metamorphosis -adult)
© Kathy Keatley Garvey, 2014, Regents of the University of California, flower with honeybee & native bee
© Laurence Packer, York Univ. wikimedia.org, Hairless blue, carpenter Ceratina calcarata; American bumble bee, Bombus pensylvanicus; www.padil.gov.au
© Sam Droege, www.flickr.com/photos/usgsbiml, long-horned Svastra petulca
© www.discoverlife.org, Agapostemon angelicus male