About The Nomad Bee

Updated: 28th April 2020

Gooden's Nomad Bee - Nomada goodeniana could easily be mistaken for a wasp.Gooden's Nomad Bee - Nomada goodeniana could easily be mistaken for a wasp.

An Introduction To Nomad Bees


Nomad bees (Nomada sp.) can easily be mistaken for small wasps.  Most feature yellow and black waspish markings, or have brick-red/brown-red and black bodies and heads.  They are a 'cleptoparasite' (cuckoo) species.  

Cleptoparasites are organisms that take over the nest or nest cell of the target host species.  The cleptoparasite's offspring then feed off the food supplies intended for that of the host.  

Nomada lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, especially Andrena (mining) species.  Some species have very specific hosts, whilst others have several target host species.

Gooden's nomad bee just leaving the host nest.Gooden's nomad bee just leaving the host nest.


Firstly, a female nomad species locates a suitable host nests, and lands nearby, facing the entrance of the nest.  At some point, she enters
the host nest where she lays an egg in a cell wall, then leaves. 

The host bee will continue to provision the nest cell with food and then seal up the cell.  The larvae that hatch from the egg of Nomada have large mandibles (jaws), which they use to destroy the grub of the host bee, and eat the food supplied by its parent.

I know from experience that some readers may take an instant and understandable dislike to this species, it being a cleptoparasite, but at the very least I am cheered to think that its very existence depends upon a healthy population of the host species.  

Keeping a look out for nomad bees


Firstly, nomad bees have a slow, almost gliding flight, with legs splayed outward to the sides.

Panzer's NomadBee - Nomada panzerei female in flight.Panzer's NomadBee - Nomada panzerei female in flight.


They are quite easy to spot, lurking around the nests of host species, which will often be a dry mud, sandy or grassy bank, or around crevices in logs, tree stumps, walls and rocks - i.e. the locations of solitary bee nests.  They might also be found foraging on patches of flowers nearby.

Flavous Nomad Bee - Nomada flava - female, lurks outside the nest of a potential target host.Flavous Nomad Bee - Nomada flava - female, lurks outside the nest of a potential target host.


Upon identifying a target host nest, the females nomad bee lands and waits, typically facing the entrance of a potential host.  This provides an opportunity to have a good look at the particular species of nomad bee, although they are easily disturbed and may fly off.


Nomada worldwide

The Nomada, genus is one of the largest in the entire Apidae bee family, and the largest genus of cleptoparasitic "cuckoo bees."

Some authors assert the number of species is more than 700 species worldwide (Wilson & Messinger Carril), whilst others state that there area about 850 described species (Falk).  From them we can glean that:

  • Nearly 300 can be found in the US, fewer than 40 in Canada  (Wilson & Messinger Carril)
  • There are 34 known Nomada species in the British Isles (Falk).

Not to be confused with wasps!

A number of wasps - especially solitary wasps such as the field digger wasp below, are similar in appearance to nomad bee species.  Indeed, bees are related to wasps.  You can read more about this subject here.

Field digger wasp foraging on knapweed.Field digger wasp foraging on knapweed.


You might like these

  • Nomada panzeri - Panzer's Nomad Bee

    Nomada panzeri - Panzer's Nomad Bee - a cleptoparasitic bee species more commonly associated with wooded areas than other Nomada bee species.

  • Gooden's Nomad Bee - Nomada goodeniana

    Gooden's Nomad Bee - Nomada goodeniana - a wasp-like cleptoparasite bee: photographs, habitat, foraging preferences,

  • Marsham's Nomad Bee - Nomada marshamella

    The Marsham's Nomad Bee: Description and photographs, including host species. How to tell the difference between Marsham's nomad bee and Gooden's nomad bee.

  • Flavous Nomad Bee - Nomada flava

    Flavous Nomad Bee - Nomada flava - Images, habitat and behaviours. Cleptoparasite of various Andrena bee species, such as Andrena scotica.

  • Six-Banded Nomad Bee - Nomada sexfasciata

    Six-Banded Nomad Bee - Nomada sexfasciata:Cleptoparasite of the long horned bee. Images, habitat and behavious of this cleptoparasitic bee species.

  • Solitary Bees

    Most bees, are Solitary Bees. Information about this group of bees, including Mason, Carpenter, Leafcutter and Mining Bees.















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