Descriptions of Families, Sub-Families,
and Tribes of Short-Tongued Bees
Andrenidae (Andrenid Bees, Small Miner Bees)
These small short-tongued bees nest in the soil and are usually solitary, although a few species are communal. There are two subfamilies that will be described. Andreninae (Andrenine Bees, Small Miner Bees): These small bees are most common during the spring. They are especially likely to visit shrubs or small trees of the Rose family that bloom during the spring, while a few species are specialists of certain spring-blooming wildflowers, such as violets and trout lilies. They line their nests with water-resistant chemicals. There are many Andrenid species; the specialists among them are usually uncommon. Panurginae (Dagger Bees, Panurgine Bees): These relatively hairless bees that construct unlined nests in the ground. This subfamily consists primarily of Calliopsis, Heterosarus, & Perdita spp. They are more likely to visit wildflowers later in the year than the Andrena spp.
Colletidae (Plasterer Bees, Miner Bees, Masked Bees)
The bees in this family have short, bilobed tongues. They have often been regarded as the most primitive family of bees. Female bees line their brood cells with a clear liquid mixture of chemicals, which is water-proof and resistant to fungal attack. Two subfamilies will be described. Colletinae (Plasterer Bees, Miner Bees): These hairy bees are solitary and dig nests in the ground. At favorable sites, such as an eroded bank, they may construct nests in sufficient numbers to resemble a "bee village," even though no sharing of labor was involved. Hylaeinae (Masked Bees): These relatively hairless bees lack an external structure to carry pollen (which is swallowed and stored in the crop), and resemble wasps. They are usually black, with white or yellow markings on the face, hence the name, "Masked Bees." They construct nests in plant stems, plant galls, tunnels of wood-boring insects, abandoned nests of other bees and wasps, or in the ground.
Halictidae (Halictid Bees, Green Metallic Bees, etc.)
These are small to medium-sized bees that are often metallic in color. They may be solitary, semi-social, or highly social in their nesting and food-gathering habits. Sometimes, they are called "Sweat Bees," but this refers to the predilection of only a small number of species in this family (and some flies that resemble bees). Usually, they nest in the ground and line the brood cells with a water-resistant coating of chemicals. Three subfamilies and one tribe will be described, which vary considerably in their importance. Dufourinae (Dufourine Bees): There is some doubt whether this subfamily has been properly assigned to the Halictidae. There is only one species that appears in the database: Dufourea marginatus. It is not a common visitor of prairie wildflowers. Halictinae (Halictine Bees, Green Metallic Bees, etc.): There are many species in this subfamily, and they can be hard to tell apart. The Halictine bees are the among the most important and common visitors to prairie wildflowers, and have a long flight season. In appearance, these small bees may be black, dull brown, shiny green or blue, or have black and yellow stripes on the abdomen. The Agapostemon, Augochlora, and Augochloropsis spp., in particular, are called "Green Metallic Bees" because of their shiny appearance. The smaller prairie wildflowers are especially likely to be favored by these bees. Nomiinae (Alkali Bees): Alkali Bees are more common in the western United States. Only a single species, Nomia nortoni, is contained in the database from this subfamily. Alkali Bees typically nest in dry, open areas, and often have large hairy legs. Sphecodini (Cuckoo Halictid Bees): This tribe contains several Sphecodes spp. They are parasitic on the brood cells of other Halictid Bees.