In the previous instalment of the #PolliNationSA series, we looked at the diversity of short-tongued bees. If you haven't read it yet, you can dig in here:
Halictidae, being short-tongued, are often found on flowers where the pollen and nectar are easy to reach, like in daisies. Although the diversity of species in Halictidae is similar to that of the other two large bee families (Megachilidae and Apidae - both long-tongued bees) they tend to be more common than any other group of bees in South Africa.
There are 16 halictid genera and some are very small!
(spiral-horned bees) carry their pollen down the sides of their abdomens and their antennae are on the bottom half of the face, which is wasp-like. They visit only Ipomea
Thrinchostoma (long-faced bees) have their faces elongated below the eyes, which enables them to have mouthparts that reach far into flowers even though they are short-tongued bees. Also, the hairs on their abdomens are directed sideways. The tiny little black and yellow bees (about 2mm long) belong to the Nomioidini (petiole-steppe bees, opaque-steppe bees, clear-steppe bees); you’ll need a microscope and key to identify them.
This leaves two groups of halictid bees (tribes Halictini and Nomini). The former has the second and third submarginal cells shorter than the first. The Nomini has the middle submarginal cell distinctly shorter than the first and second, which are similar in length. They also have a little hairless strip surrounded by inward-directed hairs at the end of the abdomen – this is unique to Halictini.
Tribe | Halictini
Metallic halictines are Seladonia (golden-furrowed bees), non-metallic halictines with more weakly developed veins at the ends of their wings are Lasioglossum (weak-veins sweat bees). When all the veins in the forewing are equally well developed they are Patellapis (comb sweat bees). But these veins are hard to see. Therefore, mostly if there are velvety bands at the bases of the abdominal segments they are Lasioglossum and without these bands they are Patellapis. If they do not have a scopa, and are black with a red abdomen they are Sphecodes (blood cuckoo bees).
Weak-veined sweat bee full of pollen. Photo by Vida van der Walt.
Tribe | Nomini
Nomini with two submarginal cells are Stegonomus (capped winged ground bees) and they often have large wing caps (tegulae), three submarginal cells and large tegulae are Pseudapis (earwing ground bees). Yellow, blue or white abdominal bands on the integument, i.e., not hairbands, are Nomia (Opalescentgroundbees). When the integument is black or blackish they are Lipotriches (grass ground bees).**
Earwing ground bee, showing very large wing caps. Photo by Peter Webb.
Learn more about the wonderful life of bees in our #PolliNationSA series in Discover!