Halictidaehalictid bees, sweat bees


The family Halictidae, commonly known as sweat bees, are one of the largest and most abundant families of bees. They are one of the six families of bees in the order Hymenoptera. The family of sweat bees contains the subfamilies Rophitinae, Nomiinae, Nomioidinae, and Halictinae. A very diverse group, sweat bees have metallic and non-metallic colorings. (Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

Geographic Range

Sweat bees are cosmopolitan in distribution. They are found on six of the seven continents. (Buckley, et al., 2011)


They are most abundant in temperate regions but are also found in tropical climates. Sweat bees are most commonly found in the ground, in habitats like clay soil and the banks of streams. (Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

Physical Description

Sweat bees are small to medium-sized bees. They are most often brownish or black, but some species have metallic green, blue, and purple colors. Bees in this family may vary widely in appearance. They have short tongues. This family is differentiated from others by their curved basal wing veins. Females in this family are typically larger than males. (Borror and White, 1970)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger


Like other bees, sweat bees undergo metamorphosis. (Bartlett, 2004)


Species of this family utilize different mating systems. Some species are monogamous, polygynous, polygynandrous, and some are eusocial. (Bartlett, 2004; Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

Some genera of sweat bees are iteroparous. They utilize seasonal breeding. They use sexual reproduction and internal fertilization. Female sweat bees lay eggs. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

Bees in this family utilize female parental care. Fertilized queens build nests during the spring. The queens deposit their eggs and feed the larvae once they hatch. The first group of offspring builds and protects the nest, gathers food, and tends to the new larvae. (Buckley, et al., 2011; Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)


Sweat bees are able to fly. Some subfamilies are diurnal and nocturnal. They are able to move around but tend to stay in one general area. Some species are social, others are solitary, and some are colonial. Many are territorial. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

Communication and Perception

Sweat bees use visual, tactile, acoustic, and chemical methods of communication. They also use pheromones, scent marks, and vibrations. They use visual perception in infrared and ultraviolet ranges. They use tactile, acoustic, vibrations, and chemical methods of perception. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

Food Habits

Sweat bees feed primarily on nectar and pollen. They get their name from their tendency to drink sweat from humans. (Bartlett, 2004; Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)


Sweat bees contain genera of social parasites and cleptoparasitic bees. They most often parasitize other bees in their family or bees of similar size. Some parasitic sweat bees are blood bees, micro blood bees, and some species of base-banded furrow bees. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

Ecosystem Roles

Sweat bees are significant pollinators for many wildflowers and crops. They pollinate plants like stone fruits, pomme fruits, alfalfa, and sunflowers. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some types of sweat bees pollinate crops. (Buckley, et al., 2011; Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Sweat bees sting to defend themselves and their nests. Their stings are venomous and painful to humans. (Bartlett, 2004)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Many species of Halictidae are declining.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.


having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


the condition in which individuals in a group display each of the following three traits: cooperative care of young; some individuals in the group give up reproduction and specialize in care of young; overlap of at least two generations of life stages capable of contributing to colony labor

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


(as keyword in perception channel section) This animal has a special ability to detect heat from other organisms in its environment.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Bartlett, T. 2004. "Family Halictidae - Sweat, Furrow, Nomiine, and Shortface Bees" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 17, 2020 at https://bugguide.net/node/view/128.

Borror, D., R. White. 1970. A field guide to the insects of America north of Mexico. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Buckley, K., C. Zettel Nalen, J. Ellis. 2011. "Sweat bees, halictid bees; scientific name: Halictidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Halictidae)" (On-line). Featured Creatures Entomology & Nematology. Accessed August 17, 2020 at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/halictid_bees.htm.

Eaton, E., K. Kaufman. 2007. Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Resh, V., R. Cardè. 2009. Encyclopedia of Insects, Second Edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.