|Halictid Bees - Family Halictidae |
Order Hymenoptera / Suborder Apocrita / Infraorder Aculeata / Family Halictidae
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Live adult Halictid bees photographed in the wild at various North American locations.
There are some 500 species of Halictidae in North America . Many are easily recognizable due to their beautiful, iridescent green or golden colors, making them favorites of many insect photography hobbyists. Most are pollen feeders and important pollinators, especially in light of the worldwide decline of the domestic honeybee. However, continuing destruction of their habitat due to human encroachment and modern agriculture's unfortunate love affair with vast monocultures of self-pollinating crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, rice are exacerbating the general decline in viable populations of wild hymenoptera .
Halictid Bee - Agapostemon splendens - shown with New England Aster - Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Fruit and seed crops that depend on insect pollinators (apples, almonds, broccoli, chili peppers, cantaloupe, carrots, strawberries, grapes, among many others) produce relatively little food per acre compared to the crops that provide our staple carbohydrates. The expansion of farmland to produce these crops is a double-edged sword; it destroys wild bees' nesting sites, and it destroys the wildflower stock the bees depend on when the fruit trees are not in flower .
Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands have found that the diversity of wild bee species in those countries has declined since 1980 .
Identifying characteristics for the family Halictidae include:
There are approximately 280 species in the large genus Lasioglossum. Closely related to Halictus and Agapostemon, these tiny bees are often the most numerous of all bees in a habitat. The genus is so cosmopolitan, it spans the range of social behaviors including solitary, communal, and social habits.
Most Halictids nest in the ground. Some species line their tunnels with a cellophane-like glandular secretion composed of chemicals called lactones. Each individual bee has its own unique chemical signature, helping workers return to the nest .
Hymenoptera (Latin for membrane wing) is a vast assemblage of insects second only to Coleoptera (beetles) in the number of described species. Hymenoptera number some 115,000 species - of which 18,000 live in North America. Hymenopterans inhabit a wide variety of habitats, and show an incredible diversity in size, behavior, structure and color.
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