Photo By: Jon Sullivan / CC0

A Bee with a metallic appearance

Have you ever noticed the unique color of a Sweat Bee that lives in our state of Tennessee and most of the United States? Most of us group all small bees of this sort into sweat bees; however there are about 1,000 species of sweat bees. The Agapostemon or Green Metallic Sweat Bee is small, and therefore is difficult to get a good look at the beautiful color they display. If you are able to get a close look, their head and thorax are colored a metallic green or blue with most males displaying a typical yellow and black striped abdomen we associate with most bees. The shades of green or blue can vary depending on the light. But as you can see from the picture, it can be quite brilliant.

These small bees mate, then survive through winter by going underground with the females gathering a layer of fat that keeps them insulated through the cold temperatures. Many times nests are close together with multiple females sharing a common dirt burrow. Even though they share the same common area, each female creates their own tunnel where they are alone and can have their own specific area for laying eggs. When Spring comes, the fertilized females emerge and lay eggs in the underground nests. They use their inborn instinct to gather pollen grains to place in the nests for the expected larvae to feed on, once born. The fall spring generation of the year are almost all female, with the summer generation containing both male and female. This allows for the continued life cycle; for males to fertilize the females that will make it through winter and spawn the next fall spring generation.

The Green Metallic Sweat Bee is only ¼” to ½” in length and has a very short tongue. The overall size of the bee allows it to forage among a wider range of flowers, including very small clusters of blooms. However their small tongue limits them to favored plants in the Sunflower and Buckwheat family. They also prefer to visit composite flowers such as Daisies, Dandelions, Asters and Goldenrods. Spring and Summer are peak times of activity.

There are about 40 species of Green Metallic Sweat Beas and are considered very important in the pollination process.

Although Sweat Bees are drawn to human perspiration they really only want a drink. They like the salty liquid that we produce through perspiration and due to their size and weight many times we do not even notice that they have landed on our body. But resist swatting the bee against your body. They don’t prefer to sting, however if provoked or pressure is applied they will sting in self defense. Even though a sweat bee sting is not generally as painful as a bumble bee or wasp, make sure to remove the bee or stinger as quick as you can. To alleviate any pain or swelling, it is suggested to apply ice, use over-the-counter pain relievers and making a paste of baking soda or meat tenderizer.