Green Bees in Florida: What Are They?

Colorful orchid bee or Exaerete on a red tropical flower. Amazing Brazil fauna. Euglossini family
© Murilo Mazzo/Shutterstock.com

Written by Chanel Coetzee

Updated: May 11, 2023

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Green Orchid bees first came to Florida from Mexico. Specimens of Euglossa dilemma were found by entomologists in Broward County, FL, in 2003. They soon established high populations in south Florida but are primarily located in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade Counties. There are approximately 250 species of these bees, but none are native to the US. The green orchid bee seems to be the only one of its species to migrate to the States.

Description of the Green Bees in Florida

Florida green bees are about the same size as the honey bee, but what sets them apart is their metallic green bodies. In fact, they closely resemble the green sweat bees found in Florida. One difference between the two species is the green bee’s tongue, which is longer than the sweat bee’s. Their tongues extend about two-thirds of the length of their bodies.

Colorful orchid bee or Exaerete on a yellow tropical flower

Green orchid bees’ tongues extend about two-thirds of the length of their bodies.

©Marco Lissoni/Shutterstock.com

Green Orchid Bee Distribution and Habitat

As mentioned above, the green orchid bee is the only one of its species that crossed the border into the US from Central America. Their migration was probably accidental; researchers believe they were transported through the agricultural trade in pellets.

These bees display a more adaptable nature than other species of the Family in its native range. They prefer hot and dry environments and inhabit parks, pastures, gardens, and degraded forests. Green orchid bees also display specialized biology in both males and females. For example, males are very specific about the types of orchids they visit, which is how they derived their name. Once on the orchid, the male will collect specialized ingredients used to attract females. When searching for pollen, females aren’t as fussy in their choices and will visit several flower species in their search. Furthermore, females build their own nests.

Green Orchid Bee Behavior

The green orchid bees of Florida don’t need orchids as much as the orchids need them. These beautiful flowers rely on bees to pick up packets of pollen and carry them to another flower. Male green bees collect scent-producing chemicals from the flower using their forelegs and hover while transferring it to the sponge-like section on their hindlegs. The female anatomy differs as they store pollen in baskets, which they also use to feed their young.

Males attract mates by fanning bouquets of scents into the air with their wings. While females are not picky about the pollen they collect, they are very specific about what they look for in a mate. Therefore they will reject males with insufficient scent or if the odor does not please them. Males will try and steal these chemicals from each other, often leading to fights.

Interestingly, the type of orchid these green bees prefer does not occur in Florida, but they are thriving. These bees have adapted to the environment and collect scents from wood-rotting fungus instead. In addition, male green orchid bees will gather odors from decomposing vegetation, rotting wood, flowers, and specific natural oils. Therefore, researchers have deduced that they do not need orchids to survive in Florida.

Unlike other bee species, green bees in Florida don’t nest in colonies. In fact, they are solitary as females build their own nests in cavities or an enclosed space where they lay as many as 20 eggs in cells with pollen. Lastly, females are the only ones with stings. However, they do not sting as much as regular honey bees, and if they do sting you, it is less painful, but they can sting multiple times like wasps.

Are Green Bees in Florida Harmful?

While these bees are less volatile than honey bees, females do have stingers, and if provoked, they will sting. So, if you are allergic to bees, they can be harmful.

Conservation Status

Surprisingly, green orchid bees have a relatively sizable population, unlike their cousins, whose population numbers are declining. Therefore, they are listed on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species. However, threats like climate change and habitat loss can potentially affect their numbers.
Similar Bees in Florida
People often mistake green orchid bees for sweat bees in Florida. The latter is an extremely diverse group that occurs in the Sunshine State throughout the year. But not all of them are metallic green, and they vary in size, as some are smaller than a grain of rice.

They get their name because of their behavior. For example, they will search for overheated humans and collect their sweat on a hot day. This is because they need the salt and protein in our sweat to nourish their developing offspring.


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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

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