There are over 4000 species of bees in the US, here are a few you may encounter in your own backyard! This visual aid may help you identify some bees you see in your area as well as an interesting (to me) fact about them and their Wikipedia link in case you’d like additional info. If you are interested in seeing who pollinates what, Wikipedia has this nifty table of plants that lists which bees are pollinating which crops.
Honey Bees – Wikipedia
These are some of the best known bees in the US, but did you know they are not a native species? Honey bees were imported to the US from Europe in the 1700s. Honey bees are eusocial, meaning they live in a colony where there are only a few reproductive individuals and many infertile workers. The honey bee’s colony structure is a huge part of what makes them such a valuable asset, as it allows them to be easily transported to places that are in need of pollinators. The only native bee with a very similar social structure are bumblebees.
Bumble Bees – Wikipedia
Bumbles and honey bees are not interchangeable as pollinators, since there are plants that bumblebees are better at pollinating–such as eggplants and tomatoes–than honeybees and vice versa. Like honey bees, bumblebees live in colonies and can be purchased by farms that require them for pollination. But unlike honey bees, bumble bees colonies are annual and all but the newly mated queen dies every winter.
Sweat Bees – Wikipedia
So named because they are often attracted to sweat, these cute little pollinators can be yellow and black similar to other bees, metallic green or a mix. Some species are eusocial, but not to the same degree as honeybees and are considered “primitively eusocial”.
Leafcutter Bees – Wikipedia
As the name implies, some of these bees cleanly cut off pieces of leaves which they use to line and seal off their nests, others chew up leaves or flower petals to construct their nests. The alfalfa leafcutter bee specifically is transported in a pre-pupa dormant stage, grown to adulthood by farmers and used to pollinate crops such as alfalfa, clover, legumes and rapeseed.
Carpenter Bees – Wikipedia
Named for the fact that they will tunnel into (often dead) wood or bamboo to build their nests. They do not eat the wood however, they either reuse the wood particles to build nest partitions or get rid of it. Often confused with bumblebees, according to Wikipedia, you can tell the different between carpenters and bumbles based on the fact that “…most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, whereas bumblebee abdomens are completely covered with dense hair”.
Mason Bees – Wikipedia
These bees will seek out dark cavities to lay their nests and use mud to partition and seal them up, hence the name. Because of the way they seek out naturally occurring tunnels and cavities in which to build their nests, they will readily use man-made nest boxes such as these or even blocks of wood with holes drilled into them. During their dormant period farmers can place these filled nests where they would like additional crop pollination.