Updated: 23rd February 2021
From March onwards, look out for this charming little bee, Halictus rubicundus, (commonly known as the orange-legged furrow bee). Males (pictured below), can be seen from June (the photographs on this page were taken in July).
You may spot this species foraging on knapweed and thistles along wildflower banks and verges such as the one featured above.
Other flowers favoured by these bees include umbellifers, such as wild parsnip, though various flowering shrubs and trees may also be visited - they are generalists, and as such, they are important pollinators both in the wild and in gardens. They pollinate onions, sunflowers and some carrot plants.
For garden flowers, various composites and asters are popular.
Males and females can be seen through to October if there are sufficient food sources available.
This species is found across the United States and Canada, Europe, and northern Asia.
From the family HALICTIDAE, the orange-legged furrow bee can measure upto 10mm in length. Various Lassioglossum species appear similar from photographs, but are smaller bees than Halictus rubicundus.
In the males, the body, is proportionately longer and thinner than is the case with the female Halictus rubicundus and some other solitary bee species.
A few things to note:
These bees, like bumble bees and honey bees, are eusocial. Females nest in light soils, often in groups, but sometimes singly. Individual nests are founded by a mated female (or 'queen') in the spring. She will lay eggs, and raise a colony of workers, who will then forage for nectar and pollen for new males and females (the next colony foundresses, or 'queens').
In The Bees In Your Backyard, the authors highlight research that suggested nests may have multiple entrance and exit holes. They also note that a worker can leave a nest and establish a separate colony, and that if a 'queen' dies, any worker can take her place. Females are maintained in a 'subordinate' worker role by feeding on less pollen, resulting in smaller bees that are also less likely to survive the winter.
Halictus, along with Laslioglossum are sometimes known as 'sweat bees' - in the US at least, because they are known to sometimes sip sweat from humans!
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