The other day I was checking out some white trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum, Liliaceae) in a hardwood forest here in southeast Michigan. I was looking for insect pollinators, and found this little bee (superfamily Apoidea) hard at work collecting pollen.
In the photo above you can see the bee sticking out its long “tongue,” a proboscis made up of many mouthparts. I suspect it wasn’t eating the pollen, but rather using its mouth to help collect it for its young larvae. Bees attach pollen to their scopae, pollen-transporting features which are composed of bristly hairs (setae). In the photo below you can see the bee was covered in pollen, and seemed to be using its hind legs to attach more. As the bee collected pollen from different trilliums, it probably spread some of the pollen from flower to flower. By unwittingly helping to pollinate the trilliums, it was playing a vital role in their reproduction.
Most people are probably familiar with European honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumble bees (Bombus sp.). Both are in the family Apidae, but there are several other bee families. I’m not sure which family the individual shown here belongs to. I neglected to collect a specimen, and these photos don’t show enough detail to positively identify the family.