The Melittidae Bees: Exploring the World of Melittid Bees

  • Nesting: Melittid bees primarily nest underground. They prefer sandy or loose soils to excavate tunnels. Nests often consist of a single entrance leading to multiple brood cells. Each brood cell is provisioned with a mixture of nectar and pollen for the larvae. Females are solitary and responsible for constructing and provisioning nests.
  • Pollen Carrying Method: Scopa (Pollen Brushes)
  • Foraging: Melittid bees (Melittidae) generally exhibit oligolectic foraging habits, meaning they typically specialize in collecting pollen from a narrow range of plant species or a single plant family.
  • Size: Melittid bees (Melittidae): Small to medium, 5-15 mm.
  • Average Length: 8 mm
  • Body Type: Andreniform
  • Coloring: Black, yellow, brown, white, grey
  • Pattern: Stripes or banded patterns.
  • Sociality: Solitary, Communal
  • Wings: Two pairs, densely veined
  • Eyes: Large, compound, prominent ocelli.
  • Mandibles: Toothed, strongly developed mandibles.
  • Sting: Sting, pain: moderate, aggression: low
  • Tarsal Claws: Simple or bifid claws.
  • Abdomen: Segmented, often hairy.
  • Antennae: Medium
  • Hair: Dense, branched, pollen-collecting, plumose, electrostatic.
  • Colorado Native: false
Additional Notes: – Family of rare, solitary bees. – Primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere. – Associated with specific host plants. – Known for specialized pollen-gathering methods. – Engage in solitary nesting behavior. – Comprise around 14 genera. – Important pollinators, especially in temperate regions. – Early diverging lineage among bees. – Believed to be one of the more primitive families of bees. – Evidence of fossil representatives dating back to the Paleogene period.

Identification Tips: 1. Medium to small size bees with hairy bodies. 2. Often exhibit a black and yellow or brown coloration. 3. Front tibiae have a pronounced basal comb. 4. Glossae are short and pointed. 5. Females possess scopae on hind legs for pollen transport. 6. Typically found visiting specific host plants (floral specialists). 7. Forewings have two or three submarginal cells. 8. Antennae relatively short in both sexes.

Melittid bees (Melittidae): Exploring the World of Melittid Bees


Discover the fascinating world of Melittid bees (Melittidae), a diverse group of solitary bees that play a vital role in pollination. These bees are known for their unique physical characteristics, intriguing behaviors, and crucial ecological significance.


The name Melittidae is derived from the Greek word “melitta,” which means honeybee, reflecting the association of bees with their essential role in pollination and honey production.

Physical Characteristics

When it comes to physical characteristics, Melittid bees exhibit a wide range of traits that distinguish them from other bee families.

Identifiable Traits

  • Body Shape: Bombiform, Euceriform, Megachiliform, Apiform, Hylaeiform, Andreniform, Epeoliform
  • Coloring: yellow, black, white, red, orange, metallic, green, gold, dark brown, yellow and black, etc.
  • Antennae: short, medium, long
  • Hair: dense, short, hairy thorax, hairy legs, hairy abdomen, hairless, furry, long hair
  • Abdomen: striped, solid
  • Size, Wings, Eyes, Mandibles, Sting, Pollen Carrying Structures, Tarsal Claws

Ecological Significance

Melittid bees are crucial pollinators that contribute to the reproduction of various plant species. Their foraging activities help maintain biodiversity and ecosystem stability by facilitating seed production and fruit formation.


These bees can be found in various habitats across different regions, from temperate forests to tropical grasslands. They are versatile in their adaptability to diverse environments.

Social Behavior

Unlike honeybees, Melittid bees are solitary insects that do not form large colonies. Each female bee constructs and provisions her own nest, laying eggs and providing food for her offspring independently.

Nesting Practices

Female Melittid bees create nests in various locations, such as underground burrows, hollow plant stems, or natural cavities. They meticulously collect pollen and nectar to construct provisions for their larvae.

Floral Specialization

Some Melittid bees exhibit floral specialization, preferring specific plant species for foraging. This close relationship benefits both the bees and the plants, ensuring efficient pollination and resource availability.

Natural Predators

Common predators of Melittid bees include birds, spiders, and certain insect species. These bees have developed defensive mechanisms to protect themselves from predation.

Conservation Status

Due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change, several species of Melittid bees are facing population declines. Conservation efforts are essential to safeguard these important pollinators.

Human Impact

Human activities, such as agriculture and urbanization, can have a significant impact on Melittid bees by reducing their available foraging resources and nesting sites. Increasing awareness and implementing sustainable practices are crucial to protect these bees.

Interesting Facts

– Melittidae bees are among the most ancient bee lineages, with a history dating back millions of years.
– Some species of Melittid bees exhibit unique behaviors, such as vibrating their bodies to release pollen from flowers.
– The delicate intricacy of Melittid bees’ nests is a testament to their exceptional architectural skills.


For more information on Melittid bees, you can explore scientific studies such as:
Pollination ecology of Melittid bees
Diversity and distribution of Melittidae
Role of Melittid bees in plant reproduction

melittid bees

  • Name: Melittidae
  • Rank: family
  • Melittidae is a small bee family, with over 200 described species in three subfamilies. The family has a limited distribution, with all described species restricted to Africa and the northern temperate zone.

    ID: 154651

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