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Those of you who visit this blog regularly know that I am addicted to photographing bees and wasps. I find these insects to be beautiful but I also find their lifestyles to be fascinating. Many of them perform extraordinarily valuable services for humans, albeit unintentionally, as they go about their lives.
The other day I was able to successfully photograph a sweat bee in flight as it hovered momentarily in front of a flower of the Penstemon family. I was elated with my image. Sweat bees are very difficult to photograph because they rarely stay still for more than a couple of seconds. I got lucky with this shot.
Sweat bees are surprisingly common. They are true bees, with over 4000 species worldwide. Yes, they can sting, although the sting inflicted by one of them is so mild as to be barely noticeable. They tend to be very small and inconspicuous. The one that I photographed is a brilliant metallic green but it is also tiny, not even 1/4 inch in length.
The lifestyles of sweat bees are as varied and complex as any group of creatures on earth. Some species are solitary, living and raising their offspring on their own. Others live in loose colonies in which individual members maintain their individual lifestyles. Still others are social, forming hives. All sweat bees are ground nesters, meaning they dig tunnels in soil in which they lay their eggs and raise their young. These bees, aside from being very pretty, are important as plant pollinators. When we think of pollinating bees we tend to think only of honeybees or, perhaps, bumblebees. But the myriad of other species out there actually do the lion’s share of the pollinating. The industrious little sweat bee is a major contributor. Indeed, honeybees are an introduced species in the western hemisphere. Turn the clock back a few hundred years and all of the pollination done by bees in this part of the world was accomplished by species like this sweat bee.
Sweat bees get their name from their supposed affinity for human perspiration. That may be true of some species but not of most of them.
Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 mm f3.5L macro lens+1.4x telextender, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and supported by monopod, M setting, ISO 160, f13 @ 1/160.