Orchid Bees (Euglossini)


Orchid Bees, scientifically known as Euglossini, are a unique tribe of bees renowned for their iridescent colors and their mutualistic relationships with orchids. These bees are primarily found in the tropical regions of Central and South America, exhibiting behaviors and physical traits that are both fascinating and ecologically essential.

  • Nesting: Orchid bees nest in small cavities such as hollow twigs or abandoned insect nests. Females line these cavities with resins and other plant materials. Single or multiple cells are constructed within the cavity, each containing an egg and a food provision of nectar and pollen. Entrances are typically narrow to reduce predation and parasitism risks.
  • Pollen Carrying Method: Abdominal Collection
  • Foraging: Orchid Bees (Euglossini) are primarily **polylectic**, meaning they forage from a wide variety of flowering plants.
  • Size: Medium, 10-24 mm.
  • Average Length: 15 mm
  • Body Type: Euceriform
  • Coloring: Metallic green, metallic blue, metallic purple, metallic red, metallic yellow, metallic bronze, metallic gold, metallic black
  • Pattern: Varies; often metallic.
  • Sociality: Solitary, Communal
  • Wings: Iridescent, fast, efficient, strong, translucent
  • Eyes: Large, compound, well-developed.
  • Mandibles: Elongated, specialized for collecting.
  • Sting: Sting, pain: moderate, aggression: low
  • Tarsal Claws: Specialized for gripping surfaces
  • Abdomen: Metallic, colorful, elongate, segmented, versatile.
  • Antennae: Long
  • Hair: Dense, iridescent, pollen-carrying, specialized.
  • Colorado Native: false
Additional Notes: – Vibrant metallic colors. – Key pollinators for certain orchid species. – Males collect aromatic compounds. – Found primarily in Neotropical regions. – Highly efficient in long-distance flight. – Known for mutualistic relationships with orchids. – Contribute to the diversity of tropical forests. – Possess corbiculae, or pollen baskets. – Unique among bees for their scent-gathering behavior. – Exhibit sexual dimorphism.

Identification Tips: – Metallic, often iridescent exoskeleton with colors ranging from green, blue, to gold. – Males have larger hind legs used for collecting fragrances. – Typically robust-bodied and medium to large sized. – Long proboscis adapted for nectar feeding. – Characteristic buzzing flight pattern.


The name “Euglossini” is derived from Greek, with “Eu” meaning “good” or “well” and “glossa” meaning “tongue.” This name is reflective of their specialized long tongues, which are well-adapted for accessing nectar deep within flowers, particularly orchids.

Physical Characteristics

Orchid Bees are distinguished by their brightly colored, metallic bodies. These bees exhibit a range of colors including metallic greens, blues, and sometimes reds. They are known for their graceful and agile flight, facilitated by their powerful wings.

Identifiable Traits

Orchid Bees exhibit distinct traits that make them easily identifiable among other bee species:

  • **Body Shape**: Bombiform – robust and somewhat bumblebee-like
  • **Coloring**: Predominantly metallic colors such as green, blue, or gold
  • **Antennae**: Typically medium length
  • **Hair**: Most species have a hairy thorax and hairy legs
  • **Abdomen**: Often solid in color without significant striping
  • **Size**: These bees range from small to medium (approximately 8-20mm in length)
  • **Wings**: Powerful and capable of sustained hovering, aiding in floral nectar extraction
  • **Pollen Carrying Structures and Methods**: Males are known to collect aromatic compounds rather than pollen, using specialized structures on their hind legs

Ecological Significance

Orchid Bees play a vital role in pollination, particularly for orchids. These bees are attracted to the flowers not just for nectar, but also for the flowers’ unique fragrances. The males collect these scents, which are pivotal in attracting potential mates. This mutualistic relationship significantly benefits orchids, which rely on bees for pollination.


Orchid Bees are predominantly found in the neotropical regions of Central and South America. They inhabit rainforest ecosystems, where the diversity of flora provides ample resources for nectar and fragrance collection.

Social Behavior

Unlike many other bee species, Orchid Bees exhibit largely solitary behavior. Males are particularly known for their solitary fragrance-collecting activities. Although they do not form colonies, individual bees can often be seen visiting the same flowers concurrently.

Nesting Practices

Orchid Bees are solitary nesters. Female bees typically create nests in sheltered locations such as rotten wood, crevices, or abandoned burrows. They construct linear cells within their nests, provisioning each with a combination of nectar and pollen for their larvae.

Floral Specialization

Orchid Bees exhibit a remarkable specialization for orchid flowers. The male bees collect fragrant oils from these flowers, with each species often showing preferences for specific orchids. This specialized interaction is critical for the reproductive success of many orchid species.

Interesting Facts

Here are some fascinating tidbits about Orchid Bees:

  • The iridescent colors of Orchid Bees are due to structural coloration, rather than pigmentation.
  • Males use specialized brush-like hairs on their front legs to collect and store fragrances.
  • The longest bee tongue belongs to an Orchid Bee species, measuring nearly as long as its entire body. This adaptation allows it to access nectar from deep tubular flowers.
  • Orchid Bees can be important indicators of biodiversity and environmental health in tropical forests.

Legend of Definitions

  • Bombiform: Resembling the body shape of bumblebees, often robust and stout.
  • Metallic: Reflective, shiny appearance in colors such as green, blue, and gold.
  • Hairy thorax: Abundance of hair on the midsection of the bee.
  • Solid abdomen: Uniform color without bands or stripes.

Orchid Bees

  • Name: Euglossini
  • Rank: tribe

The tribe Euglossini, in the subfamily Apinae, commonly known as orchid bees or Euglossine bees, are the only group of corbiculate bees whose non-parasitic members do not all possess eusocial behavior.

ID: 416582

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