This website is about the bees found living in Florida, USA. It is designed to facilitate their identification by serving as a virtual reference collection and to point out the key features used in identifying bees to family, genus, and species. It is organized taxonomically - bees are grouped by family, subfamily, genus, subgenus, and species. The links at the top of each page go to the pages within each group and up one level. Because of the many images of the bees, a high speed internet connection is highly recommended (cable modem, dsl, or higher speed).
The bees of Florida include members of six families, the
Colletidae (26 taxa),
Melittidae (2 taxa),
Andrenidae (63 taxa),
Halictidae (66 taxa),
Megachilidae (72 taxa), and
Apidae (87 taxa)
for a total of 316 taxa. Bees are likely the most important
pollinators of native plants in Florida, although many other organisms (e.g., butterflies, moths, beetles, and birds) contribute to pollination services. In addition to ensuring the reproductive success of native plants, many of our crop plants depend on bees and wild pollinators for fruit set. Invasive plant species may also exploit native pollinators for ensuring fruit set.
Because the technical literature on bees is quite complex, important elements of this literature are summarized as they apply to Florida. In addition to a literature review, the collections at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods were used to obtain county records, dates of flight in Florida or over the entire range, plants visited in Florida from label records and polylecty (collecting pollen from many species) vs. oligolecty (collecting pollen from one or a few closely related species). A county map showing the distribution of vouchered specimens of the species in Florida is provided for each species. Collecting in Florida continues to be inadequate to provide full county by county documentation. Additional species are likely to be found in many counties.
Keys taken from the literature (Michener 2000, 2007; Mitchell 1960, 1962; others listed in text) are provided for identification of families of bees, genera, and
species (both males and females). These keys are abbreviated versions drawn from complete keys to all Eastern species or from a full revision of the group by other scientists. Full descriptions are not provided, but references are listed for species where full descriptions can be found.
Digitized photographs of many of the species
are provided, with highlights pointing out key characters used in the keys. Some taxa do not yet have photos and others have photos of only one sex. As additional specimens are collected or obtained on loan, photographs will be added.
The website Discover Life - Apoidea is very useful for bee identification based on selected combinations of characters rather than on dichotomous keys. Each approach has advantages and complements the other.
Biogeography and Conservation of Bees in Florida
The vast majority of bees found in Florida are species that have more extensive distributions to the north of the state. Some are widespread across the United States while others are restricted to sandy areas of the Southeastern Coastal plain (e.g., Perdita species in the Andrenidae). Florida has a relatively large number of endemic species and subspecies. Many of these are color variants such as Anthidiellum notatum rufimaculatum versus the more northern Anthidiellum notatum notatum. Many of our endemic subspecies have darker red coloration that usually is yellow further north and often the coloration is more widespread in Florida. Another color difference is seen in the three genera of sweat bees that are very common in Florida (Augochlora, Augochlorella, and Augochloropsis). In most of Florida, these bees are a bright green in color. In the southern most counties such as Miami-Dade, these species are bright blue. Causes of these color differences may be related to soil temperatures encountered by the larvae during pupation although they have not been well studied. Several endemic species have been described on the basis of a single or a few specimens. The status of these species and their conservation is unknown for most of them.
Relatively few species are shared with the Caribbean islands of the Bahamas and Cuba. Three to four exotic species of bees are found, three restricted to South Florida, with Apis mellifera (the honey bee) found throughout Florida. Distributions outside of Florida are sometimes mentioned in the species references. If not, full ranges can be found in the key references cited for each genus. Florida has a relatively large number of species that are also found in the desert southwest and that extend their ranges eastward primarily along the sandy outer coastal plain of the Gulf states. A few species are disjunct in their distribution, with populations in Florida and elsewhere only in Texas or the Southwest.
The conservation of bees requires that bees have the appropriate soil or vegetation conditions for nesting, that host plants have flowers present during the period of flight, that bees that have specific pollen requirements have flowers available during the period of flight, and that adult bees are not exposed to excessive mortality agents during flight (insecticides, fire, hurricanes, predators (spiders, beeflies, etc.)). Many species of bees have natural parasites, including other bee species that may periodically limit bee populations.
It is likely that most of our species of bees in Florida have viable populations, both in protected natural areas and in areas heavily modified by humans, including cities and agricultural areas. Relatively few surveys of bee communities have been conducted in Florida.
Surveys of southern Florida include Graenicher
(Ann. Entomol. Soc. America 23: 153-174, 1930)
and Pascarella et al. (J. Kansas Entomol. Soc. 72: 32-45, 1999. To obtain the full text with this link, an internet connection from a subscribing institution, or through a VPN, is required).
Deyrup et al. published results of systematic surveys at Archbold Biological Station in central Florida (Insecta Mundi 16: 87-120, 2002).
Hall and Ascher recently conducted surveys in natural areas and organic farms of Alachua County in North-Central Florida
(Florida Entomologist 93: 609-629, 2010;
94: 539-552, 2011).
Further work by Pascarella, Buchmann, and Donovan in forest ecosystems of North Central Florida and the Florida panhandle revealed considerable differences in bee community structure from the southern wetlands of the Everglades.
Key References Mentioned in this website
Michener, C. D. 2000, Second Edition 2007. Bees of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA. 913 p. Second Edition 992 p.
Mitchell, T.B. 1960, 1962. Bees of the Eastern United States, 1: 1-538 (1960); 2:1-557 (1962). North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 141, 152. Downloadable PDF file for each bee family
Digital photographs of preserved specimens were taken using a JVC GC-QX5HD digital still camera mounted on a Leica GZ6 stereo dissecting microscope. Images were modified using Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Limited Edition image editing software. Images and text were created using Microsoft Front Page 2000 web authoring software. County distribution maps were created using ESRI ArcView GIS 3.2 and exported as bitmaps which were then saved as GIF or JPEG images. Most images are in JPEG format although a few are in GIF format.
More recent photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 7D digital SLR camera mounted on a Leica M165 stereo microscope with a motorized focus column. Some photographs are combined focal plane images using Helicon Focus software. Illumination was with an overhead Leica LED ring light or with a dome light constructed according to Kerr et al. (American Entomologist 54: 198-200, 2008). Other photographs were taken through macro lenses on either a Canon EOS 7D or a Nikon D50 digital SLR camera.
The photographs on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Funding for the development of this site was provided by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation "Bring Back the Natives" to the Bee Works, Inc.
and Valdosta State University and from a Faculty Research Grant to JBP from the Graduate School of Valdosta State University. Thanks to Cecil Smith of the University of Georgia and James Wiley and Lionel Stange of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods for loans of some specimens featured in this website. Currently, this site is supported by the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.