Sweat Bees (Halictidae)

Sweat Bees

  • Name: Halictidae
  • Rank: family
  • Parent ID: 630955

The Halictidae is the second largest family of Apoidea bees. Halictid species occur all over the world and are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance. Several species are all or partly green and a few are red; a number of them have yellow markings, especially the males, which commonly possess yellow faces, a pattern widespread among the various families of bees.


ID: 49707

The Enigmatic World of Sweat Bees (Halictidae)

Sweat bees, belonging to the family Halictidae, are among the most common and diverse groups of bees. They’re named ‘sweat bees’ because they’re often attracted to human sweat, from which they obtain essential salts. However, these little creatures are much more than their peculiar namesake suggests. Let’s dive into the intriguing world of sweat bees.

Identifying Physical Characteristics

The Halictidae family is quite diverse, which means the appearance of sweat bees can vary widely. Here are some general characteristics:

  1. Size: These bees are typically small, often measuring between 3mm to 10mm in length.
  2. Color: They range in color from metallic green or blue to bronze, or even just black. Some also have stripes.
  3. Wings: Their wings are often clear or tinted, with a second submarginal cell in the wing venation—a key trait for identification.
  4. Antennae: Sweat bees, like other bees, possess antennae which are crucial for sensing their environment.

Nesting Practices

Sweat bees have a fascinating range of nesting behaviors:

  1. Nest Sites: Most sweat bees are ground-nesters, excavating nests in soil. Some prefer sandy or bare soils while others are found in lawns or garden beds.
  2. Nest Structure: The nests usually consist of a main tunnel with several branches, each ending in a single brood cell.
  3. Solitary to Social: Some species are solitary, with each female building and provisioning her nest. Others display communal behavior where multiple females share a nest. There are also eusocial species where a division of labor occurs, with only one female (the queen) laying eggs while others act as workers.

Floral Specialization

Sweat bees play an integral role in pollination. They have a broad diet, but some species show floral specialization:

  1. Generalists: Many sweat bees are generalists and will visit a variety of flowers for pollen and nectar.
  2. Specialists: Some species specialize in certain flowers. This specialization can be based on the flower’s shape, color, or the chemical composition of its nectar or pollen.

Size and Region Locality

Sweat bees are found worldwide, from deserts to rainforests, and from coastal areas to alpine meadows:

  1. Size: As mentioned, they’re generally small bees, but their size can be quite variable depending on the species.
  2. Regions: They’re widely distributed across North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Their adaptability allows them to occupy a myriad of habitats.


Sweat bees, while often overlooked due to their small size, play a critical role in our ecosystems. They are crucial pollinators, ensuring the reproduction of many plants. Their attraction to sweat, while a quirky behavior, reminds us of the many intricate relationships and behaviors in the natural world that often go unnoticed. The next time you spot a little bee buzzing around you on a hot day, spare a moment to appreciate the tiny, shimmering world of the sweat bee.