- Habitat: Widespread especially in flower-rich areas and woodland margins
- Range: Worldwide
- Size: 4 - 5mm (5/32 - 3/16 inch)
- Species: 3,500
- Family: Halictidae
Despite their name, most species of the Sweat bee is not attracted to sweat, only a few are. For those which are it is the salt in human sweat that the bees are attracted to. In Africa and Southeast Asia they are referred to as Stingless bees for obvious reasons.
Most Sweat bees are brown and black although some have a blue or green metallic sheen to them. The body is pitted and dimpled with a few hairs growing from it. It is easy to confuse Sweat bees with the Mining bees. The main difference is that the Sweat bee's body is strongly curved whereas the Mining bee has a straight body. The tip of the abdomen on the female Sweat bees are hairless whereas the Mining bee females are completely covered in hair. Also the abdomen of the Sweat bee is less flattened.
Many of the species live on their own but some are social and work with others. The solitary Sweat bee builds its nests in rotten wood or in damp soil where it will build many tunnels leading to various cells. In some of the cells, the Sweat bee will lay it's eggs. The cells have a waterproof wall created by a substance made by the Sweat bee which is secreted from their abdomen. As well as preventing leaks, the protected wall stops fungus growing inside the cell keeping it clean for the larvae to grow into. After building their nests and laying their eggs, the female Sweat bee climbs out their burrow and guards it. Females usually over winter and reproduce during spring.
The sub social species of Sweat bees have a queen who will live the normal life of a solitary Sweat bee as described above. She lays several eggs in several cells and the bees that emerge are all worker females. As the queen guards the nests, the female work hard to create more cells for the queen to lay her eggs in. This second batch of eggs produce male and female sweat bees. They mate with each other and after that the females hibernate over winter in their old nests.
The larvae of the Sweat bee has bumps on the upper surface towards the head. The larvae also have small spines protruding from their body. They are fed on honey and pollen.
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Sweat Bees: Halictidae: discover the fascinating lives of the various types of bees and wasps in the world.