10 Bee Species Found in the United States

carpenter bee
© Gerry Bishop/Shutterstock.com

Written by Zoe Carina

Published: December 26, 2023

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Bees are pollinators crucial to the local ecosystem. Globally there are over 20,000 known species. In the United States, there are 4,000 native species. The animals range from almost microscopic to the size of tangerines. Native bees are the primary insect pollinators of both agricultural and free-growing plants in the country. The animals in the U.S. help grow squash, tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries.

Many species roamed the country before the arrival of violent European Colonizers. The colonizers brought with them European honeybees. While these invasive animals help grow almonds and lemons, they are far inferior to native pollinators. Plus, honeybees are destroying the populations of native species. The only solution is to get rid of honeybees in North America. Now, let’s dive into ten species of bee you can find within the U.S.

Native

Species native to the North American continent are responsible for over 80% of flowering plant pollination. Without these local animals, the ecosystem would collapse. Unfortunately, the unending demand for honey and capitalisms unending appetite for profit are killing these species.

American Bumblebees

a flying bumblebee in the garden bed with Agastache flowers

Bumblebees do not produce honey.

©chris-mueller/iStock via Getty Images

The bumblebee, or Bombus, is probably one of the first species that comes to mind for people when they think of the pollinators. Humans can recognize them by their fuzzy hair divided into black and yellow stripes. They might also notice the large and round bodies of the animals, and that their heads are pointed. The animals live in colonies of 150 workers and one queen.

The bumblebee is essential for the pollination of fruit and vegetable crops around the country. The animals use the pollen to feed their young and eat nectar. They have corbiculae (small pouches) on their hind legs to store the pollen. Unlike other species, the bumblebee can sting more than once. Fortunately, they are only aggressive if their nest is in immediate danger. Bumblebees are a species that humans can be allergic to, but it’s generally mild.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees do not produce honey.

©SweetCrisis/Shutterstock.com

The Carpenter bee, or Xylocopa, comes in a variety of sizes. Some species can be larger than certain types of pears. The animals are quite colorful and nest in large, hard wood. Humans can commonly see their nests in telephone poles, dead logs, and suburban decks. The large species does not shine, nor do they have as much fur as Bumblebees. The animals are not very aggressive.

Others are some of the smallest bees. They are usually colored blue or green. The animals make nests in hollowed-out stems of plants such as raspberry and sumac bushes. Unlike the large species, the small Carpenters cohabitate with one another. And a behavior unique to this species is that reproduction occurs through genetic cloning.

Carpenter bees pollinate wildflowers, fruit trees, and garden plants. Without the species, many plants would die. The animals help encourage new growth and flowers.

Long-Horned Bees

Long-Horned Bee

Long-horned bees do not produce honey.

©tasnenad/Shutterstock.com

The long-horned bee, or Eucerini, contains 30 species native to the United States. The animals have tan, gray, or black coloring. They usually have fuzzy bodies and legs. The inseminating animals have long antennae. The species nests in the group, typically under shrubbery. The nests are branched, and the animals are usually solitary.

As pollinators, they usually choose wildflower prairies or only drink from sunflowers. Sometimes, the animals will also visit melon, squash, and cotton plants. In some cases, the species will also sleep in aggregate groups. Humans can see this in the early morning while watching the flowers.

Sweat Bees

A Pure-Green Sweat Bee (Augochlora pura) on a green glass table.

Pure green sweat bees are active from February to November, but their peak season is between April and October.

©Justin Starr Photography/Shutterstock.com

Another native bee species that does not produce honey is the sweat bee. The species, also called Halictidae, generally hang with humans that work in gardens. The animals love perspiration, because they need extra salt to stay alive, and are mostly harmless. Their sting is relatively mild and painless. The pollinators do not have teeth.

Humans can recognize them by their gray or black coloring. They usually have a metallic sheen. Some species are red, green, or striped with yellow. The animals have short antennae and wings. Their legs are fuzzy, but their bodies only have a bit of fuzz.

Squash Bees

Squash bee inside of a pumpkin flower

Squash bees have a matinal activity cycle, meaning they fly before sunrise when the cucurbit flowers are open.

©Joseph Burdick/Shutterstock.com

The squash bee, or Peponapis, is a small species of bee native to the U.S. The animal has a mostly orange body with black markings. They have snout-like faces that make them easy to recognize. For farmers that grow squash such as pumpkins or zucchini, the pollinators will help the plants grows. This species only pollinates squash. The animals make nests in ground burrows or sleep in closed squash blossoms. Honeybees cannot replace the species when it comes to pollinating.

Digger Bees

Digger bee

Digger bees do not produce honey.

©Judy Gallagher / Flickr – Original / License

The digger bee, or Anthophorini, is one of the larger species native to the United States. Humans can identify them by their large bodies that are very fuzzy. The species has hair all over their abdomens and legs. The animal range from gray-brown to black with yellow stripes.

To make their nests, the species digs into the soil and uses mud to create the structures. The animals are social solitary, which means that they build individuals nests but in groups. Small mounds in the ground indicate nest sites. The digger species are more efficient at pollinating flowers and crops than the invasive, dangerous honeybees. While they resemble wasps, they are docile and only sting if directly provoked.

Cuckoo Bees

Colorful closeup on a fluffy male Field cuckoo-bee, Bombus campestris a bumblebee parasite , on a purple flower. the bee is perch on top of the flower, facing frame left. The bee is striped black and faint yellow.

Cuckoo bees do not produce honey.

©HWall/Shutterstock.com

Of all the species in this list, the Cuckoo, or Nomadinae, most resembles a wasp. The animals have angled antennae and either brown or red in color. Sometimes, they will be black and white striped or have yellow spots. Their bodies are elongated and come to a sharp point at the stringer.

The cuckoo will lay a single egg in the nest of other bees. The egg will hatch and then the parasitic animal will kill all the remaining larva and eat their pollen stores. The species does not build nests or collect pollen at all.

Mason Bees

A closeup of a fresh emerged male red mason bee (Osmia rufa) on a purple wallflower (Erisymum Cheir). The bee is in the right part of the frame. It is black but covered in burnt orange setae (hairs). The bees head is pointing toward the top of the frame as it forages on a purple wallflower.

Mason bees do not produce honey.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

The Mason bee, or Osmia, is a medium-sized animal with a thick body. The coloring ranges from black, rusty red, to metallic greenish-blue. The species will use mud, dirt, and clay to fill tiny gaps in wood or stone. Then, the animals will live in their tiny pockets. Commercial bee houses have mason bees in mind in terms of how humans construct them. The animals are solitary and there are no workers.

The Mason is the most docile of all species in the United States and they are highly efficient pollinators. Unlike other species, they carry pollen on their thorax and drop pollen on almost every flower they pass. For gardeners and farmers, they are the most effective pollinators.

Leafcutter Bees

A macro shot of a leafcutter bee (Megachile species) seen carrying a leaf back to its nest . The left is green, The bee is black and yellow. Its head is pointing to the right top corner of the frame.

Leafcutter bees do not produce honey.

©Keith Hider/Shutterstock.com

The Leafcutter, or Megachilidae, is a large species that usually has black and white stripes on their abdomen. The species carries pollen on their bellies, which makes the area look yellow. The animals use tiny circles of leaves to line their nest cells. The idea is to prevent the pollen and nectar from drying out before their young hatch.

In the United States, there are about 1500 species. The animals visit wildflowers, gardens, and large-scale farming plants. Without Leaf Cutters, many crops and plants would die.

Non-Native

Unfortunately, there are species of the animal that are not native to the country. We will focus on the most well-known here, the European Honeybee.

European Honeybees

European Honey Bee, also called the Western Honey Bee

European honeybees are invasive and quickly killing species native to the United States. They do not belong on the North American continent.

©Andreas Trepte, CC BY-SA 2.5 – Original / License

The European, or western, honeybee is one of the most common species in the world. That is due to colonization, and the misconception that humans are the shepherds of the world who can change ecosystems at will. The honeybee is a species that produces honey, but that is not a justification to keep the animals in North America.

Humans can recognize the species by its amber to brown coloring. The animal also has a mid-sized and streamlined body with hair on the thorax (midsection). In the wild, they steal resources from native bee species. If you see European honeybees in your area, call an expert to come exterminate the invasive creatures.

Summary of 10 Bee Species Found in the United States

Native or Non-NativeSpecies
NativeAmerican Bumblebees
NativeCarpenter Bees
NativeLong-Horned Bees
NativeSweat Bees
NativeSquash Bees
NativeDigger Bees
NativeCuckoo Bees
NativeMason Bees
NativeLeafcutter Bees
Non-NativeEuropean Honeybees


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About the Author

Zoe Carina is a writer at A-Z Animals who primarily covers plants, animals, and places around the world. Zoe has been a professional copywriter and freelancer for six years and holds a bachelors degree in communications from Florida State University, which they earned in 2019. A resident of Oregon, Zoe runs a blog called Intuitive Traveler, where they write about traveling and language learning.

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