Descriptions of Families ,
and Tribes of Long-Tongued Bees
Anthophoridae (Anthophorid Bees)
This is a large family of long-tongued bees that includes various Miner bees, Carpenter bees, and parasitic bees. Miner bees build nests in the ground consisting of tunnels and brood chambers, while Carpenter bees chew holes in rotting wood or the pith of shrubs to construct their nests. Anthophorini (Miner Bees, Anthophorine Bees): These are rather large, fast-flying, hairy bees with very long tongues. This tribe includes the Anthophora spp. Ceratinini (Little Carpenter Bees): These small bees construct nests in the pith of shrubs, particularly Elderberry and Sumac. Includes the Ceratina spp. While few in species, they are common visitors of many prairie wildflowers. Emphorini (Miner Bees, Emphorine Bees): This small family includes Ptilothrix bombiformis and Melitoma taurea. The latter species is especially attracted to large bell-shaped flowers in the Mallow and Morning Glory families. Epeolini, Melectini, & Nomadini (Cuckoo Bees): The bees from these three tribes are brood parasites on other Miner bees in the Anthophoridae family. Some species of Nomadini also parasitize the nests of Andrenid bees. Nomadine bees are most active during the spring or early summer, while Epeoline bees are more active later in the year. Melectine bees are uncommon visitors of prairie wildflowers.
Eucerini (Miner Bees, Long-Horned Bees, Eucerine Bees): Sometimes called "Long-Horned Bees" because of the long antennae of the males. Species in this tribe construct nests in the ground and are important visitors of many prairie wildflowers. Includes Melissodes, Synhalonia, and Svastra spp. Some specialist pollinators of this tribe are Peponapis pruinosa pruinosa (Squash & Gourd Bee) and Cemolobus ipomoeae (Morning Glory Bee). Pasitidini (Miner Bees, Pasitidine Bees): This small tribe includes Holcopasites spp. The species Holcopasites heliopis is a specialist pollinator of Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower). Xylocopini (Large Carpenter Bees): This includes Xylocopa virginica (Eastern Carpenter Bee). This large bee chews holes through rotting wood to construct its nests. It will sometimes rob nectar from a flower by chewing holes at the base near the nectaries. Larger flowers offering abundant pollen and nectar supplies are especially attractive to it.
Apidae (Honeybees & Bumblebees)
The bees in this family display varying degrees of sociality in their living arrangements. While there are few species in this family, they are common visitors of many prairie wildflowers. Apinae (Honeybees): There is only one species in this subfamily, Apis mellifera (Honeybee), that is present in North America. This familiar bee was introduced to the New World by early colonists. It has declined in numbers in recent years and probably isn't as important as when Charles Robertson observed its behavior during 1880-1930. The flight time of the honeybee ranges from spring to late fall, and it visits a wide variety of wildflowers. Bombini (Bumblebees): These large fuzzy bees are probably the most important pollinators of all. They are especially like to visit the larger composite flowers and long tube-shaped flowers from various families of plants. They nest in the ground or in cavities of various kinds. This tribe includes various Bombus spp. (Bumblebees), which are usually black and yellow and covered with abundant hairs.
Megachilidae (Leaf-Cutting Bees)
The long-tongued bees in this family usually cut portions of leaves or petals as a construction material for their nests. The leaves may be used to create partitions between brood cells, to line the outer walls of the nests, or they may be chewed to create a masonry material to plug any holes in the nest. Some tribes of this family are parasitic on other Leaf-Cutting bees. Important tribes are the following: Anthidini (Carder Bees): This small tribe includes the Anthidium spp. Many species in this tribe use leaf down from such plants as Common Mullein to create a water-resistant lining for their nests. They nest in various cavities, including tunnels of insect-boring insects, hollow stems of shrubs, abandoned nests of other bees and wasps, etc. Megachilini (Large Leaf-Cutters): This includes many Megachile spp., which are among the largest Leaf-Cutters. They tend to visit the larger flowers in the Bean and Aster families, and many other flowers as well. This tribe is important in the pollination of many prairie wildflowers. They resemble bumblebees, but are somewhat smaller. Osmiini (Small Leaf-Cutters, Mason Bees): These small bees have surprisingly long tongues and nest in pre-existing cavities. They chew leaves to create masonry material for their nests. Mason bees are most common in the spring and often visit the flowering shrubs and small trees in the Rose family (including fruit trees in orchards). Stelidini & Coelioxini (Cuckoo Bees): These tribes include Stelis & Coelioxys spp., respectively. They are brood parasites on other Leaf-Cutting bees. The species from the latter tribe are more common visitors of prairie wildflowers than the former. Trypetini (Leaf-Cutters): This includes the Heriades spp., one of which, Heriades carinatum, is known as the "Onion Bee." They are not common visitors of wildflowers.
Melittidae (Oil-Collecting Bees)
Some of the unusual bees in this small family (Macropis spp.) collect floral oils for their larvae from Lysimachia spp. (Yellow-Flowered Loosestrifes). The floral oil is mixed with pollen in the shape of a ball. These bees usually construct nests in the ground, which are lined with water-resistant chemicals. Adults feed on nectar while visiting flowering plants other than the Yellow-Flowered Loosestrifes. Another unusual bee in this family is the oligolectic or monolectic bee, Melitta americana, which collects pollen from Vaccinium stamineum (Deerberry).