Plant-Insect Interaction: Sweat bee on a New England aster

Sweat bee (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) on a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Asteraceae). Photographed 10/14/2012 at Side Cut Metropark near Maumee, Ohio.

Although we’ve experienced several frosts and freezes here in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, a number of plants and insects are still alive and kicking. The other day I found a dutiful sweat bee (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) collecting the late-season nectar and pollen of a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Asteraceae).

Sweat bee (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) on a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Asteraceae). Photographed 10/14/2012 at Side Cut Metropark near Maumee, Ohio.

Most sweat bee species feed on a wide variety of plants, and this seems like a great strategy for the bees. With few species of plants still flowering this late in the year, the bees can extend their season by not being particular about their food.

Sweat bee (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) on a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Asteraceae). Photographed 10/14/2012 at Side Cut Metropark near Maumee, Ohio.

Although the autumn leaves are past peak and nature is returning to its winter dreariness, these two organisms provided a welcome splash of color.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Organism Interactions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Plant-Insect Interaction: Sweat bee on a New England aster

  1. These photographs are helpful for those of us (like me) who want to i.d. the sweat bee in their own yards. Thank you. . .

    Here in Duluth, MN the asters are still blooming, as are the obedient plants. It’s odd to see flowers here in mid-October.

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  2. James Hanley says:

    Jeremy, those are some outstanding photographs. Really cool.

    And are sweat bees really green? I think those things I’ve been calling sweat bees all my life really aren’t. Dr. M. tries to teach me, but I’m still bad with bug ID.

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  3. Jeremy Sell says:

    Some but not all sweat bee species are metallic green. Many other species look more bee-like…yellow/black coloration, hairier, etc. The features they have in common relate to wing venation, antenna and leg segmentation, and other minute details. Metallic green sweat bees superficially resemble cuckoo wasps (Chrysididae), so for a positive family ID it’s important to look at these other features and not just the general appearance. There are also metallic green flies, but I think it would be hard to confuse them.

    I think what a lot of people call “sweat bees” are actually hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae). Some are attracted to sweat, and also bear the black/yellow coloration of bees.

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