wild bees and native bees

Tiny bee loses her pollen

You think pollen collecting is simple, right? But no, like everything else in life it has discouraging moments. Here a little Lasioglossum bee decides to take a rest. She alights on a flat leaf and promptly loses her load. Bummer.

Apparently, collecting pollen from a slippery leaf isn’t as easy as rubbing it from a flower’s anthers. After cleaning her antennae, she circled the little pile then flew away, leaving her groceries behind. I think I heard a sigh . . .


Lasioglossum bee loses her pollen load. © Rusty Burlew.


    • Kellie,

      You wouldn’t want to know how many hours I spend on my hands and knees crawling around in the underbrush . . .

  • Rusty, again, if it weren’t for you and your gentle lessons and observations, I would still think that if something isn’t a honeybee or bumblebee, it must be a wasp or hornet. Your photos are always amazing – thanks so much for sharing them with us.

  • I second what Mary said… to me before finding this website there were mostly honeybees, bumblebees and everything else fell into a vast category of wasp/hornet.

    The subtlety is so intriguing. Love your photos and they have really encouraged me to stop and take a closer look at the insects around me. Oh and the website itself is hugely helpful with beekeeping and I recommend it to everyone. (As in, don’t ask me… go to honeybeesuite)

    • Well Brynn, you just made my day. Any time I can get one person to notice a wild bee—or to care about them—I feel like a success. And they are so cute . . .

  • What a great picture of the little bee losing her pollen on the leaf. You have a great sense of humor. I thought it was so funny for the comment “bummer” and then the little sigh as she flew away without her load. I consider your site the most informative and interesting of all the sites with honey bee information. We put out one of those flower pot looking bait hives and had a swarm in it within a week. Now we will see what it involves to get the “free bees” moved into a new hive box along with their neighbors (2 other hives).

    • Myrna,

      I’m glad the traps are working for you. I manage to make up any winter losses with those traps every year. So cool.

  • Enjoy reading your observations so much. I think the other species of bees are starting to come into their own. The University of New Hampshire recently hired a bee specialist to be part of their faculty and she is already attracting lots of attention for her “bee hotel” and talks on all varieties of bees.

  • Did she collect the pollen back up?

    I am thinking she wouldn’t because it isn’t in their nature to collect up a pile of pollen off a leaf….but I could be wrong.

  • I wish I could get people around me to stop and notice the wild bees gently and diligently pollinating their flowers. They can’t help themselves but to go and spray round-up on their beautiful lawn flowers during mid-day when my bees are attempting to do their job. It always makes me sad when I see someone zipping around on their mower, or strolling through their yard with those weed killers right in the middle of the afternoon while all the community bees are at work!

    • David,

      I agree. So sad. People try to create an image of perfection, and it is dead wrong (pun intended). Future generations will hate us for what we did to their environment.

  • Maybe the social bees rose to where they are because they have pollen baskets — they can get all the groceries inside without spilling and making a mess between the store and the front door.

    • Glen,

      And humans rose to where they are because of plastic shopping bags . . . oh wait, we don’t have those anymore. And yes, I have made a mess between the store and the front door. I think you’re on to something.

  • Well, I didn’t get a picture – not of the bees anyway. But on my recent, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, hike of the Grand Canyon, at the damp shady upper end of the Bright Angel trail, there were fragrant yellow-flowered bushes in profusion, and the unmistakable chorus of foragers.
    All the other hikers indulgently veered around the older woman cooing with delight to find that the bees – about the size of honey bees – were in fact a wild species, with furred faces and a shovel-like pygidium – very similar to the Andrena bees you posted about here, not two weeks before my trip!
    Imagine setting out to marvel at towering cliffs of Paleozoic rock, and finding such a tiny marvel on a pathside shrub.

  • Dear Rusty,

    Me too, I love your blog. On the subject of pollen, I have noticed that quite a bit of pollen falls through the mesh floor of my hive. It is a bit heart breaking considering the amount of work required to collect it and bring it back. I am wondering if this is a problem for the bees. This year, some balls of pollen are enormous and it is sad to see them on the floor.

    • Chantal,

      It is normal for the honey bees to lose some of their pollen pellets, so I wouldn’t worry about it. But I agree . . . I hate to see them do all that work for nothing.

    • I had tons of pollen on the ground under one hive and it took me the longest time to figure out the problem. I had to be in my beesuit with my smoker and REMEMBER the problem, and lie down on the ground and look up at the screened bottom (and then struggle up and struggle down under a coupla other hives for comparison purposes) to see that this hive had a larger sized screen and the bees were using the entire bottom board as their main entrance.

      That certainly explained why I always had a cloud of bees around me when I was just checking the feeder or something, and not crossing around front where I’d EXPECT that much company.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I see the comments here are a bit older. A couple of years ago, I was puttering around the yard and looking for bees. I noticed that a little bee was going from flower to flower. I hadn’t noticed these before and thought it was strange because these little girls were about half the size of a normal honey bee.

    I tried getting some pictures, but my cell phone camera can be a bit temperamental. I got great pictures of the ground behind these bees, the flowers next to these bees, and the UFO flying through the heavens. But there was no way that stupid phone was taking that bee’s picture.

    They appeared to be miniature honey bees. They were darker than my feral girls, but the size difference was very noticeable. I was reading one of your other threads, and you talked about tiny bees. That jogged my memory about the little bees.

    Of course, I thought about little bees having little hives with little comb, etc. Just miniaturized feral hives somewhere. So, I’ll keep my eyes open and watch for them. Maybe I can dash in and get the real camera, and get a decent picture.


    • Al,

      You describe perfectly how most people think of other bees: smaller versions doing basically the same things as honey bees, but nothing could be further from the truth. Honey bees are unique in the bee world. They are the ones that are different.

      I can think of many bees that look like small honey bees. Even now, I can get them confused from a distance. Andrena bees and Anthophora bees are two genera that can look very similar to honey bees.

      Honey bees are also large as far as bees are concerned. They’re not as large as some bumbles, of course, but they are larger than your average bee. Some wild bees are not as long as a honey bee antennae and about the same width. Without magnification, they may look like little splinters.

      Anyway, I hope you get a picture!

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