blue bee on milkweed
Osmia bucephala in flight
Bombus griseocollis hovering by yellowwood flowers
Osmia collinsiae on flower

The Bees of Blandy Experimental Farm, Boyce, Virginia, USA. This is a list of all the bee species that have been identified at the field station and the natural history of some of them. The record of Bombus affinis (rusty patched bumble bee) is from the 1980s. The species no longer occurs here.  

circle of bees of different species
Bees come in many sizes and colors

leafcutter bee cutting leaf
Sunflower leafcutter bee (Megachile pugnata) cutting a leaf to separate brood cells in her nest

picture of Osmia bucephala taking off
Bufflehead mason bee (Osmia bucephala) taking off from Baptisia flower

two spotted bumble bee on geranium flower
Two spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus) on geranium flower

bombus fervidus photo
Yellow bumble bee (Bombus fervidus) on bleeding hearts flower. Photo by Rosemary Malfi

Learn About Some of Our Bees

Click a photo below to learn about each.

Squash Bee
male and female squash bee in flower

Squash bees (Eucera pruinosa) like squash. The females collect pollen only from squash, pumpkins and gourds. The males spend the day looking for females in flowers and then crawl into the flowers as they close near midday to spend the night. Females nest in the ground, often right under the squash plants. They are excellent pollinators of squash in backyard gardens and often the predominant pollinator of squash and pumpkin in agriculture, but are not managed for pollination --they just show up on their own. A good motto for squash bees: "Will Work for Food." Learn more.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Photo: Rich Hatfield, Xerces Society)
photo of rusty patched bumble bee on flower

The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) used to be one of the most common bumble bee species in eastern North America. It underwent a precipitous decline from the 1980s through today and became the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be put on the endangered species list. The main cause of its decline is uncertain, but the clearest source evidence is infection by a fungal disease, Nosema bombi, which spread quickly across bumble bee populations from the 1980s to today and is associated with preciipitous declines in several other bumble bee species. The photo below is of a bee found in Sky Meadows State Park, Fauquier County, Virginia in 2014 and was the first capture of the species in Virginia since the 1990s. Extensive searching has located populations in the mountainous border of Virginia and West Virginia. Currently, the species is only found in the upper midwest (mainly Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa) as well as this mountainous band of Virginia and West Virginia. It has disappeared from its former range in the northeatern U.S. and adjacent Canada.

photo of rusty patched bumble bee

Sunflower Leafcutter Bee
Megachile pugnata in nest

Sunflower leafcutter bees (Megachile pugnata) collect pollen from sunflowers and other plants in the composite family, including thistle, to feed their offspring. They nest above ground in linear cavities and separate each offspring with a leaf partition. In our area they often use evening primrose and smartweed leaves. Below, a bee caps her finished nest with leaf pieces and pebbles while another cuts a leaf to bring back to her nest.

Megachile pugnata capping nestphoto of Megachile pugnata cutting a leaf

Bufflehead Mason Bee (larva on pollen)
Osmia bucephala larva on red pollen

The bufflehead mason bee (Osmia bucephala) is a cavity nesting bee active April-June. After the larva eats all the food its mother provides, it turns into an adult by late summer. It will stay in the nest until the following spring then emerge to forage on its favorite host plants and start its own nest. It collects leaf material to create separate chambers for each of its offspring. Watch this video to see how it collects leaf material.

Osmia bucephala on Baptisia

Osmia bucephala on Baptisia 

Groundcherry Bee

The groundcherry bee (Colletes latitarsis) is a specialist of groundcherries. Females collect pollen only from groundcherries and the males search the flowers looking for females. Bees in the genus Colletes are called polyester bees because they line their nests in the ground with a thin water-repellent secretion similar in feel to plastic.

ground cherry bee on groundcherry flower

Black and Gold Bumble Bee
photo of Bombus auricomus on Penstemon

The black and gold bumble bee is the largest of the bumble bees in the Mid Atlantic United States. It is a 'long tongued' bumble bee that relies on flowers with long floral tubes, like penstemon and bee balm, for its nectar supply.

Cuckoo Bees
pictures of 3 cuckoo bees

Cuckoo bees lay their eggs in the nests of other bees. A female sneaks into the nest of a solitary bee when she is out foraging and lays an egg in an open brood cell. When the egg hatches into a larva it kills the host larva and eats its food. 

Invasive Bees
pictures of 3 invasive bees

Some bee species get transported to new areas either intentionally for agriculture or accidentally in shipping containers and then thrive in the new area, potentially at the expense of native bees.

picture of Megachile sculpturalis

The Asian giant resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis) pictured above is widespread in the eastern United States. It often nests in carpenter bee burrows and will use plant resin not only to line its nests but also as a weapon, covering carpenter bees with it until they cannot fly and dragging them out of their nests and leaving them on the ground, where they will likely die. Pictured below is a carpenter bee covered in resin.

carpenter bee covered in resin

The European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) shown below is now widespread in the United States.

picture of female Anthidium manicatum in flower

Females are commonly seen scraping the hairs off lambs ear (Stachys byzantina) leaves. They use the hairs to help construct their nest, either in a cavity or a partially sheltered overhang. The males (see below) patrol aerial territories that contain flower patches favored by the females (often mint family plants). The males are extremely aggressive toward other insects, colliding with them in flight or dragging them out of flowers. They even attack bumble bees, which are much larger than they are. By eliminating competition from other insects for the floral nectar, female wool carder bees repeatedly return to the patch where nectar is plentiful and the males then try to mate with them.

hovering male anthidium manicatum

The mason bee Osmia taurus was first recorded in the U.S. in 2002 in West Virginia and Maryland and is spreading rapidly through the eastern states. It is photo of Osmia taurus with mud in its mandibles
now the most commonly collected mason bee species in the mid Atlantic region, even though there are over 20 native mason bee species in the area. Recent work shows that while this species has spread at an extraordinary rate, many native bee species are declining rapidly.

Life Cycle of a Leaf Cutter Bee
alfalfa leafcutter bee in nest

The alfalfa leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, is managed for pollination of alfalfa. Upon emergence in early summer, it searches for a cavity to start its nest.,leafcutter bee collecting pollen and leaf Once it has a nest, it collects pollen and nectar to feed its offspring and pieces of leaves to separate its offspring in separate chambers.

row of leafcutter bee brood cells

The finished nest is a long row of leaf capsules. Inside the leaf capsules is a single offspiring eating its food and progressing from egg to larva, pupa and adult while eating the food its mother provided but never seeing her. They overwinter in a late larval stage (middle photo below) and emerge as an adult the next year or, in some cases, later the same year.

immature stages of leafcutter bee

The Bees of Blandy

Key To Metallic Green Halictidae of Blandy (Gretchen Allen)

All photos, unless otherwise noted, by T'ai Roulston.

Questions about this page should be directed to T'ai Roulston [email protected]