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Local animals in this group:

halictid bees, sweat bees



The family Halictidae, commonly known as sweat bees, are one of the largest and most common 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. Sweat bees have shiny and non-shiny colorings. (Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

What do they look like?

Sweat bees are small to medium-sized bees. They are most often brownish or black, but some species have shiny green, blue, and purple colors. Bees in this family can look very different from each other. This family can be told apart from others by their curved bottom wing veins. Females are normally larger than males. The bees of this family have short tongues. (Borror and White, 1970)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger

Where do they live?

Sweat bees are found almost everywhere around the world. They are found on six of the seven continents. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

What kind of habitat do they need?

They are most common 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. They can live in many different kinds of habitats. (Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

How do they grow?

Like other bees, sweat bees go through metamorphosis. (Bartlett, 2004)

How do they reproduce?

Species of this family use different mating systems. In one species, one male and one female mate. In others, one male mates with multiple females or one female mates with multiple males. Some species even have one to several females that mate, while all the others do not. (Bartlett, 2004; Eaton and Kaufman, 2007)

Some sweat bees lay eggs in multiple batches. They utilize seasonal breeding. They use sexual reproduction and internal fertilization. Female sweat bees lay eggs. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

Female bees take care of the young. 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)

How do they behave?

Sweat bees are able to fly. Some subfamilies are active during the day and others are active at night. They are able to move around but like to stay in one general area. Some species are social, others prefer to be alone, and some live in colonies. Many defend their territory. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

How do they communicate with each other?

Sweat bees use vision, touch, sound, and chemicals to communicate. They also use pheromones, scent marks, and vibrations. They can see in infrared and ultraviolet light. They use touch, sound, vibrations, and chemicals for perception. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

What do they eat?

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

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Some kinds of sweat bees are parasites. They most often parasitize other bees in their family or bees of about the same size. Some parasitic sweat bees are blood bees, micro blood bees, and some species of base-banded furrow bees. (Buckley, et al., 2011)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

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

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Do they cause problems?

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans

How do they interact with us?

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

Are they endangered?

Many species of Halictidae are declining.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Bartlett, T. 2004. "Family Halictidae - Sweat, Furrow, Nomiine, and Shortface Bees" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 17, 2020 at

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

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.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Hauze, D. 2021. "Halictidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 15, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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