wild bees and native bees

Metallic green sweat bees add sparkle to your garden

A metallic green bee, Agapostemon

Many species of bee come in shades of green and blue. Of those, the Agapostemon metallic green sweat bees are spectacular beauties.

I finally got a photo of a metallic green bee. It turns out these bees are a wee bit camera shy and it took a lot of persistence to get this one to pose. This bee is most likely in the genus Agapostemon in the family Halictidae. Even though the 44 species of Agapostemon are in the sweat bee family, they are not attracted to human sweat, and instead of hanging around humans, they tend to shy away.

Agapostemon sweat bees

The short-tongued Agapostemon are native to North and South America. Although they forage on many plants, they love composite flowers such as daisies and dandelions.

Most species are solitary ground-dwellers. In some species, several females will share a common tunnel entrance and post a single guard outside, but inside the burrow, each female builds and maintains her own nest.

The bees appear green or blue, depending on how the light reflects from their bodies. All species have a green or blue head and thorax, and sometimes the females have a similarly colored abdomen. Other females and most males have a yellow and black (or white and black) striped abdomen. The females carry pollen in the dense hairs that cover their hind legs. These medium-sized bees range from about 0.3 to 0.6 inches long.

Green bees are common

In addition to the Agapostemon bees, many other green or greenish blue bees live in North America. Other members of the sweat bees (Halictidae) are green as are many of the mason bees (Osmia) and some of the orchid bees (Euglossa) which have recently entered Florida from Central America.

In smaller bees, the green tones are harder to see because they don’t reflect much light. But the Agapostemon bees, like the one pictured here, are fairly large and easy to spot.

They are also quite common, inhabiting a panoply of different environments throughout North America. If you are seeing a robust, fast, good-sized bee with an unmistakably metallic green body, it is likely one of the Agapostemons.

Honey Bee Suite

Green metallic bee found in Olympia. © Rusty Burlew.


  • Beautiful, like the peacock of the bee world! Apparently I’ve had a very narrow view of what a bee is: if it wasn’t a honeybee or a bumblebee than it was a wasp/hornet (to me). I have definitely had my eyes opened to the world of “Bees, other” since finding this website. Thanks, Rusty, for your always gorgeous photography and your efforts to enlighten us to the hidden realm all around us.

    • Mary, I agree with you. I wouldn’t have known this was a bee just by looking. I, too, am becoming educated since I found this site only two days ago.

    • Now that my bluebells and thistle are in bloom I see green metallic sweat bees daily. I also tiny sweat bees as well as carpenter bees.

      • I live in Greenwood S.C. just saw a tiny green bee. All green thou beautiful. Wish I could have got a pic. Going start rising leafcutters as I have no bees for my garden. Little green bee was one of the first ones I have seen.

  • I just saw one of these for the first time a week ago and started to look up info on them. Funny what you start looking at once you start to work with bees.

  • That is a very pretty bee 🙂 I agree with Mary — I, too, have been paying more attention to all bees since I have come across your website. I am trying to educate others, too.

    • Nick,

      Yes, well, you have me pegged. I am pretty much obsessed with these creatures. I’d like to have an outfit like that; I could look like a flaming tranny.

  • I think I just saw one of these the other day. The wife and I were walking our dog, and I saw it from about 20 feet away. I stopped to look at it, and I literally thought to myself, “Why is that fly dancing around on that flower?”

    Who knew?

    Thanks for the insight, Rusty! I love everything you write.


    • Faye,

      There are many different species of metallic green bees. The species vary from place to place, but overall they are found throughout North and Central America. There are some in South America as well.

  • I saw one of these green bees today in Bradenton, Florida. First one I have ever seen. She was very metallic and very bright green! Thanks for all the info.

  • I have one in my front yard! And I kept seeing something peeking out of this ant hill, I thought, and pop back in whenever I moved so I sat and got a pic of it but when it came fully out I was so shocked that it was a bee I forgot to take a picture of its full body! I’m petrified of bees so I was happy to look this up and find out they are not interested in humans. I’ll leave him bee. 🙂

  • My daughter and I had never seen one of these before about 2 weeks ago. We were out in the backyard and I noticed these small insects with an odd flying pattern and a very unique color. We have been watching them build their small volcano shaped nest next to the edge of our patio. They are beautiful and entertaining. At first sight I could not determine whether it was a type of fly or bee. So glad to have found this info, thank you. We are learning so much about them!

    • Also, we are in southwest Washington, just over the bridge from Portland, Oregon. The nest in our yard consists of 3 bees that fly in and out repeatedly, one after another, always together.

      • Does anyone know if I should worry about water getting on their hole? It’s in the ground where I usually water the lawn and I’ve been trying to avoid it…but then I thought maybe they need it? Idk what to do…

  • I have my first metallic bee as we speak in my back yard burrowing. Live in Portland and have never seen one here in all of my 58 years.

  • I have seen my first metallic green bee and it looked like a bee but I was not sure because some flies like to mimic bees. This one is building a nest inside my handrail on my back porch. I will try to photo her if and when I ever see her again. So bright, shiny and all over her body green.

  • I live in Florida. Just had what appeared to be a green honey bee land on me while I was checking him out so I googled it. They’re called green orchid bees. He was all alone, flew off, and went on his way. I’m wearing camo shirt that’s what he landed on. I’ve seen many in Mulberry, Florida. First one I’ve seen in Homosassa, Florida. They are butterflies of the bees.

    • Kelan,

      Euglossa dilemma, the green orchid bee, was first discovered in Florida in 2003. They are originally from Central America, and I hear they are quite beautiful.

  • I just found one of these on my pants leg yesterday. Luckily I had my phone handy and got 2 very good clear pictures of it. I live in north western Wisconsin and don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these before. Very beautiful – I’ll be on the lookout for more!

  • I found one of these bee’s today 8/30/16. I have never even heard of them before and obviously this was the first time I have ever seen one. I am in North Dakota so this bee is very far from where its origins. He seemed very docile and held very still when I took its picture, they are beautiful.

  • Try wearing moccasins for sneaking up on shy bees. Just learned that tip this week.

    Have you seen metallic wasps too? I had a bright blue one similar in shape to this bee. It too, was shy so my photo is not quite in focus.

    I have Agapostemons with green head and thorax but yellow striped abdomens–a rather unusual combination of colors!

  • Was at a friend’s house today and his wife put in some new flowers a few months back, now they have what seems like hundreds of them. They do not cause any problems and tend to move when you come close, they seem to be pretty relaxed and pose no real threat. Neat to look at and they are really fast. I am in Jacksonville Florida. Also not they seem to like staying around the flowers which are closest to their swimming pool.

  • Hey guys. Was in the boardroom and I saw this bee just now but unfortunately it was already dead. So beautiful. Too some really beautiful pictures of it and it’s wings. Wanted to post them for you but unfortunately there is no options for photos here. I’m in South Africa. Never seen one ever in my life.

  • Thank you for this site! I saw a bunch on my wild bergamot and couldn’t find good info, til your site. (MN) Thanks!

    • Katie,

      Their eyes are the same as other bees, only green. They have two large compound eyes and three small ocelli. The pattern on the surface on the compound eyes comes from the way the light bounces off them.

  • Had an encounter with one of these spectacular bees on a hike in Portland, Oregon! Was flying solo and didn’t hang out too long. I had no idea! Very sweet bee!

  • I just saw my first green bee on Sunday. It is on my deck filling the holes in crank area of my patio umbrella with what looks like mud. The are 4 small holes and she has filled in 3 so far and I bet #4 is next. Is she laying eggs and sealing them up or what? She is tiny and very industrious for such a tiny bee. I live in western WA near the Hood Canal. ?

    • Carol,

      Yes, she is laying eggs and sealing them up. Bees are indeed industrious, it doens’t matter how little or big they are.

  • We saw a few of these bees on my cornflower blooms. We had not seen them before and we have lived here in Michigan for 50 years. They are so beautiful. Thanks for letting us know. It is interesting to see how many different places they are seen.

  • I kept bees many years ago and I live in central East Coast Florida. I found 1 floating in my rain bucket and always fish things out that fall in. I thought it was a bee fly as we have many around here, but when it was on my finger I saw that it had the configuration of a bee. I had never seen one before nor seen any references to them. It was a gorgeous blue green. I always try to rescue bees that are in trouble and was happy to see it’s quick recovery. I wish I would have had my phone with me to share because it was so incredibly beautiful, for a minute I thought it was a drone LOL! I’ll keep my camera handy from now on!

  • Every summer Biden’s Alba takes over my garden. Today I noticed they are FULL of these beautiful green bees! I am in Jacksonville FL.

    • Janet,

      You are so lucky! I never get tired of watching or photographing metallic green bees. Sometimes, that’s all I get done.

  • I was at an ultimate frisbee tournament in Martinsville, Virginia and one of these green beauties landed on my leg. I got a few good pics that I would love to share. Thanks Rusty for all you are doing for the bees.

  • Rusty,
    We just moved into a new house in SW Florida. There is an orchid tree in our back yard that is currently in full bloom. Went out this morning to our garden and found a bunch of little holes in the sand – also noticing a green metallic bee going in one. I assume this is the orchid bee that you speak of? Very pretty!

  • Wow, what a wonderful site for bees & bee info!! I’m a 11 yr Western NC resident& began seeing metallic solid blue-green bees approx. 4 years ago. Initially I couldn’t find ANY info about what I stumbled upon. To come here& find out about not just ONE but TWO (or more!!?) different species of these absolutely beautiful solitary creatures. From time to time one will find its way into my home& despite its elusiveness I feel I must seek it out & catch it in order to release it outside… I’m not 100% sure exact WHICH species this bee is but it’s beautiful nonetheless! Thank you for sharing this educational& (imo) extremely interesting& fascinating. Info!??????

  • I had one of these in a beehive once. I thought it very strange. It was a little smaller than a honeybee, but not by much. I was totally baffled. Never saw it happen again, and I’ve never seen one again.

  • Never knew sweat bees collected pollen. Got some nice pics on my Facebook page of one with huge pollen legs on a sunflower. FB name is Chris Poky Poklemba if yinz wanna see em.

    • Christopher,

      The larval stage of all bees eat pollen, so bees either collect it or steal it from other bees. In general, sweat bees carry enormous pollen loads.

  • I saw a metallic green bee on an evening primrose flower in Redlands, CA today. I had never seen or heard of such a bee. I took several photos on my cell phone and the last one shows him flying horizontally with the yellow evening primrose behind him. SO COOL!!

  • I just saw maybe a dozen in my swimming pool in western wisconsin. At first I thought they were yellowjackets. Very cool to know what they are.

  • We just discovered this beautiful metallic green bee (thought it was a fly) on our sunflowers this morning!
    Thank you for all the information you post about bees as we are learning a lot more everyday and would also like to know what it is we can do to help the bees.

    Thanks again,

  • I plant small wildflowers every year in a planter on my deck just to attract green sweat bees. I see them every summer up here in Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

  • I think I have one of these hanging out poolside. It won’t leave. It can float for hours in water and does not seem to drown. It had gone under on the skimmer for quite some time. It’s sort of scary,

  • I have one of these beautiful creatures I see a few times in my backyard plants in SWFL. I have a slow-motion video for ?his or her.

  • I have a large lush flower garden and have an abundance of honey and bumble bees with some mason bees. Today is the first day it was visited by the shiny green bees. They are all tame like the other bees.

    I have great pictures and videos of all the bees. It seems Victoria Blue salvia is the flower of choice they all prefer.

  • I saw one today doing great business on a lively bunch of irises behind our backyard fence. We live in southern Alberta, and in all my 43 years, I’ve never seen one before! She was a beauty, and was indeed very camera shy. I did get a sorta grainy shot with my cellphone, but it really doesn’t do this little critter any justice. Your web page was more useful for successful identification than many of the other resources I encountered. I know this is an old post, but thank goodness it’s still up! Cheers!

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