Do you notice native bees?

Everyone knows honey bees, but what about the rest? There are over 20,000 known bee species in the world. They range from Perdita minima to Wallace’s Giant Bee.

On your next walk, stop and check the flowers! There are less than 2,000 observation of small miner bees (Panurgini) on iNat. Here’s one of my favorites, 6-8 mm long


I often notice tiny pollinators moving among the flowers, but mostly can’t tell if they are bees or other flying insects, and most move far too fast and are too flighty for identifiable photographs given my equipment, skill, and time. Is there a simple non-destructive (I work in a California State Park and collecting is prohibited) way to get good photos of the smaller native bees? Thank you.


Can you use a net and vial, catch and release? Most of my observations are just from waiting at flowers (they typically pause long enough while collecting pollen for a quick shot). California has ~1600 species of bees, so they probably are bees!

Sounds nice to work in a state park :grinning:


The native bees can be very timid! If you only have a smartphone, the macro lenses available require getting very close up. If you have an interchangeable lens camera then reversing rings and extension tubes are pretty inexpensive and can give decent results. But getting a close up photo of a critter that moves so fast is never simple! Some people have good luck finding them when they’re asleep - the males often sleep on plant stems. I’ve never had luck with that myself.

For me, I do my photography when the bees are awake and visiting the flowers, and what I do is either sit a couple feet from some flowers (the bees will go away and then start to return) or walk slowly between patches. Most individuals are nervous but every now and then one will be friendlier. I take my first photo from almost too far away, and then move just a little closer before taking another. That helps to keep me from moving too fast and scaring the bee, and it also means I have at least SOME sort of photo to remember the experience, until I can get a better one next time.

I find that the bees are scared away if I breathe on them. I used to hold my breath when taking a sequence of pictures. These days I find that the bees will let me get closer if I’m wearing my mask!


Honeybees are native here and it’s quite weird everywhere on forum they’re used as the opposite of being native, but yeah, many users are trying to record bee diversity!
2000 observations for such group is a lot btw.


I apologize for my American-centric bias when it comes to honey bees. Interestingly, they are also introduced to Australia, where iNat shows observations of 335 bee species out of ~1700 native to that continent. 32.5% of bee observations in Australia are Apis mellifera!!

Maybe a better statistic for observer bias is 972 observations of Perdita for 600+ species?

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Some of the smaller bees cooperate. This picture was with iPhone, no special equipment.

A real macro lens makes a difference, of course

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Yes, all small-sized organism are hugely underpresented on iNat! They can be both extremely common and having no observations at all, but with each year we’re getting more and more insect observations, which is extremely cool imo.


Some of these bees are incredibly fast! Not just fast, but active, hardly ever stopping. It’s a nightmare to try to photograph, especially if it’s hot and you have to stand in the sun.
These little cuties were particularly bad. Constantly moving, only pausing for half a second at a time, with no evident pattern to their motions.

While I’m at it, anybody recognize these? They were about half as difficult to photograph, which was still pretty tricky, and I’m curious what they are.


I rarely see the non-native honey bees. When I do they’re usually flying amongst flowering white clover patches, and even then they’re outnumbered by Bombus sp. Vast majority of bees I see are bumble bees and solitary bee species.


Many of the Australian native bees spend most of their time high up in Eucalyptus trees. The smaller ones are also among the highly active ones, especially hylaeines and euryglossines. I’ve gotten photos of a few on shrubs, but mostly the same few groups like Rhodohylaeus.


Well, I do not find this too surprising. Apis mellifera is rather large, easily recognizable (and ID-able here on the plattform!) and due to the fact that they are kept often close to humans they also can be observed more frequently then some wild species living more remotely.

In Germany (relatively densely populated) about half of the native bee species are documented on iNat. I bet there is an additional quite large proportion of species that are hanging out here but are just too difficult or impossible to ID by pictures (at least I alone have quite some that are only IDed to genus). So yes, I think its not too bad. Of course that might be understandably different for less evenly populated countries such as Australia (as you mentioned it ;-))

Of course, the smaller the species get, the less likely to get seen and/or photographed and uploaded… partly due to technical reasons I bet.
I personally always look for the so-called wild or solitary bees or actually everything wild-hymenoptera. I even try to capture the very tiny ones of just 2-3 mm … it just often happens to be wasps rather than bees. Also understandable given the large diversity of the wasps.



I’m happy to have started this thread just for the wonderful pictures people are sharing. I hadn’t thought about how wasps are probably more poorly represented than bees here and the challenges of species or sometimes genus-level identification of hymenoptera clearly impact the data quality and number of species displayed on iNat. Hopefully by improving awareness, we can eventually improve the pool of identifiers.


Oh, I do try and take pictures of all impollinators, and of course every bee, wasp or fly I lay my eyes on. I am also trying very hard to create/maintain a natural environment for impollinators (I am no fan of tended lawns, they’re pretty lifeless and artificial). I seem to be particularly bad at capturing solitary wild bees. Most of my bees are Apis mellifera likely because they’re just more numerous, especially when there is an apiary right next-door.
Funnily, one of my trailcams was repeatedly triggered by a flying insect. Very blurred, of course, yet I am pretty sure it’s a carpenter bee. Likely the only bee capable of triggering a trailcam! :-)


Yes, the native bees… and then don’t forget the wasps… the hoverflies …and other flies…and all the other pollinators :) I realised last week even snails can be pollinators

As @melodi_96 said, 2000 isn’t so low compared to most insects of that size I think…
I’d guess most fly and wasp tribes have less than 2000 observations.

In the UK there are around 170 of the 270 bee species recorded on iNat but only 720 of the entire 7700 known hymenoptera species. There are only 1200 of the 7000 fly species recorded so far.

Bees are a great gateway group for recording the wonders of winged insects as a whole though.


Of course another issue is how many of these smaller species almost impossible to ID even with good photos if you don’t get exactly the right field marks in the photo. There’s a Bee project on iNat that has 325 records for Subgenus Zadontomerus but only 9 of those are to species (and only 2 species out of more than half a dozen possible), because those are the only ones that A, have the appropriate field marks visible, AND B, someone who knows what the proper field marks are saw it. So there are probably a lot more species represented than we realize on here, we just need to learn more about how to ID them (and pray better photos in some cases).

I’m on a personal project in my county trying to get the county list to 100 species of Bees, so far I’m at 57 as low as can be, and 50 at species level.


I suppose that is one good thing about living in this part of Arkansas, few honey bees, I to, rarely see Honey bees here. Loads of Bombus and Xylocopa though and many small native bee species. Unless it is being eaten by something or doing something otherwise interesting a honey bee won’t knowingly get digital space on my camera.

I do notice native bees. and I try to photograph as many of them as I can.

I use an iPhone X, so it is not very easy, but I do the best I can.

And the nice people who know how to ID bees help me with all the ID-ing.


I have taken more notice of non-Apis mellifera spp. this spring summer. I don’t have a resource for identifying them, however. Winnipeg, Canada. Any help in that regard would be appreciated.
BTW, I started out using macro extensions, but found (like others) that small insects would fly away as I got close. I got a 55-250 zoom lens, mainly for birds, and use that almost exclusively now. It lets me stand back a meter or so, and take a decent close up. With cropping, I get a pretty good image to post.
I also do not know what field marks are important.


Oh, while we are on bees, do wild roses do something to bumblebees? All the ones I see on those flowers seem like they are frantic!