Bees of Utah

Variety of bees found in Utah

When one ponders about bees in Utah, the most prominent name that comes in mind is ‘Bumble bee’. The reason is that this state shelters more than twelve species of this type of bee. All of these Bumble bees are of the genus ‘Bombus’. In Greek, ‘Bombus’ means ‘buzzing’. The bodies of these bees have yellow, black and orange markings.  Utah State University has identified the many varying patterns Bumble bees display in Utah.  The site for this information can be visited here.

On the advent of spring, Bumble bees are one of the first to fly in Utah and probably the most energetic. During this season, these bees perform ‘nest searching’. This implies that the huge queen bees fly close to the Earth and probe holes in the ground or buildings. In this manner, they finalize an appropriate nest site and store nectar and pollen for their next generation.

A brief listing of the bees found in Utah is as follows:

BIOLOGICAL NAME GENERAL NAME
Andrena pronorum Mining bee
Andrena pronorum Mining bee
Anthidium manicatum Wood Carder bee/Leaf-cutting bee
Anthophora urbana Digger bee
Apis mellifera Honey bee – genus that includes African bees
Bombus centralis Bumble bee
Bombus huntii Bumble bee
Bombus morrisoni Bumble bee
Bombus sonorus Sonoran bumble bee
Colletes Cellophane bee
Diadasia enavata Digger bee
Dianthidium Resin bee
Epeolus Cuckoo bee
Eucerini Long-horned bee – image on the right on my main page
Halictus ligatus Sweat bee
Lasioglossum zephyrum Sweat bee
Megachile (genus) Leaf-cutting bee/Resin bee 
Megachile inermis Leaf-cutting bee
Nomada (genus) Cuckoo bee

Some of the above mentioned bees have been briefed below.

Honey bees

  • Brown/Golden/Black color with black bands.
  • Abdomen has gold/black rings.
  • Legs are of black/dark brown color.
  • Males (referred to as drones) are 15-17 mm in length on attaining maturity. Their life span is maximum 4 to 8 weeks.
  • Females are of two types as follows.
    • Fertile queens: 18-20 mm in length, generally live for 2 to 3 years and rarely 5 years.
    • Sterile workers: 10-15 mm in length, usually live for a few weeks and in winter a few months.
  • These bees generally search for food up to a 3 kilometers radius from their hive. However, if the situation demands they can travel 8 to 13 kilometers to procure food/water.
  • African bees are bred by effected drones fertilizing a virgin Queen bee.  Queens can be inseminated by up to 13 to 14 drones.
  • Varieties of honey bees used here in Utah by beekeepers include:
    • Italian – a number of hybrids are included in this grouping, Minnesota being one of them.
    • Carniolan – a number of hybrids are included in this grouping, Midnight being one of them.
    • Russian
    • Cordovan

Mining bees

  • They are a small version of honey bees, but certainly have a darker color.
  • Their eyes are of a tear-drop or oval shape.
  • Have a hairy thorax and a rather non-hairy abdomen.
  • They build nests on the ground.
  • Females often construct their nests close to one another. This results in the formation of large bee colonies.

Digger bees

  • Some are as tiny as a honey bee while the size of some can be compared to a bumble bee.
  • The males have exceptionally long antennae. Hence, they are also termed as long horned bees.
  • Some digger bees don’t construct their nests and are parasites of other bees. On the other hand, some other build nests in wood.
  • They display a non-aggressive demeanor and usually don’t sting unless they are trapped in clothing.

Sweat bees

  • Size is up to 10 millimeters.
  • Have a red abdomen and have an iridescent green or black color.
  • Have an affinity for perspiring humans.
  • Display a strong defensive behavior when they smell Pseudomethoca frigida, a mutillid parasite.
  • Are capable of stinging. However, due to their small size, their stingers can’t pierce human skin.

Leaf-cutting bees

  • The average length is 10 to 20 millimeters.
  • Have a dark color and an elongated tongue, which helps them to reach nectar in flowers.
  • Females: 6 abdominal tergites, 12 antennal segments.
  • Males: 7 abdominal tergites, 13 antennal segments.
  • Have a solitary nature and consequently not much is known about them.
  • They damage leaves to construct their nests.