This striking bee foraging on a drumstick allium is Halictus farinosus, also known as the brown-winged furrow bee. Showing off his bright yellow legs, the male in the first photo is tanking up on nectar. He was not alone but accompanied by several other males doing the same. In the second photo, a female also enjoys the allium.
Bee names are always confusing. As far as I can tell, the common name “furrow bee” is used to describe bees in the family Halictidae, regardless of whether they are in the genus Halictus or Lasioglossum. If you search for furrow bee, you will find examples from both genera.
As with most bees, it’s hard to find much information on a particular species. Halictus farinosus, however, is stunning, so it’s easy to find lots of photos. The brownish-orange wings and the boldly striped abdomen look nice in the camera, even if you don’t know what the heck it is.
An Oregon specimen
I found these specimens in a suburban garden in Bend, Oregon. On a visit last July, I couldn’t help but notice these bees all over a flower garden wedged between the road and the sidewalk. Other bees visited, too, especially honey bees, but the brown-winged furrow bees worked the allium for long periods. Some of the blooms entertained three or four furrow bees at once.
In my searches, I did manage to find two detailed papers about these bees. I learned they are scattered over most of western North America, they are most abundant May through July, and they live in small, unstructured groups. They are ground nesters that forage on a wide range of flowers and are quick flyers—you can barely seem them go.
The bees nest in dry areas with sparse grass, brush, or open woodland. The main nest tunnel is vertical, and each of the brood chambers are constructed directly off the main tunnel. They appear to have two sets of brood per year. The first is small and comprises only workers. Later in the season, a larger brood nest yields both males and females.
As a side note, drumstick allium was quite popular with many bees and may be a species to consider for your pollinator garden this spring.
Honey Bee Suite