Apparently not much is known about this little bee which I found in my backyard last June. I sent my photo into BugGuide.net where the bee was identified by John Ascher of the American Museum of Natural History. It turns out to be a Lasioglossum (Hemihalictus sensu lato) ovaliceps in the family Halictidae.
That’s a lot of name for such a little bee. I didn’t collect it—only got a few photos—but I would say it was about 1/8 of an inch long and it was foraging on some catmint flowers. At first the red abdomen made me think it was a small wasp, but the pollen load on its legs gave it away as a bee.
I’ve searched and searched for more information on this species, but the only thing I found is that it lives in western North America. The genus Lasioglossum is huge—containing about 1800 species worldwide—and most of them are black or dark shades of green. However, a few species like this one have a red or yellowish-red abdomen.
Nearly all Lasioglossum species live in the ground, but they have a diverse range of lifestyles from semi-social to solitary, and they can be found foraging on a number of different plants from early till late in the season. They are known as excellent pollinators, and the sheer number of individuals makes them especially important.
I wish I could tell you more about my little bee, but part of the charm of bee watching is that many of the species are largely unknown to everyone. I will definitely be on the lookout for this one next year.