Salty Bees Fueling for Winter

November 18, 2020

Sweet bee

Photographer: Rob Sheridan
Summary Author: Rob Sheridan

Sweat Bees are so nicknamed for their attraction to salt, including, annoyingly at times, human perspiration. Belonging to the bee subfamily Halictidae (hinting of their salt attraction), sweat bees are generally small (10-14 mm) solitary animals widely distributed across the world, forming nests in the ground or sometimes rotting wood. Family members are variously colored, but many species have an iridescent metallic sheen. Important natural pollinators, multiple sweat bee generations live and die through the summer growing season in temperate climates. All males die before winter, but fall generation fertilized female sweat bees will overwinter in their burrows, producing the spring generation before passing on themselves, continuing the species though winter. This photograph shows a small metallic green sweat bee (probably a female Agapostemon sericeus) feeding on nectar and inadvertently collecting pollen on a New England blue aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). It was taken on a warm fall day when New England asters are at the peak of their bloom and these tiny pollinators are fueling up for a long cold winter underground.