17 Types of Bees in Wisconsin (with Pictures)

Bees in Wisconsin

All of us are familiar with the term “Busy bee”, which we use for people who just can’t stop working. But do you ever wonder why these people are compared to the bees? It is because these little flying insects are probably one of the most hardworking and diligent members of the animal kingdom.

They have well-organized colonies wherein the work of every individual bee is assigned meticulously. Seems like we have a lot to learn from these little bees.

Did you know that there are over 20,000 recognized bee species in the world? These bees are further categorized into families, subfamilies, tribes, and genera. In this article, we are going to take a look at 17 bee species that are commonly found in the state of Wisconsin.



The Bumblebees are a family of over 250 bee species that have a rounded body covered in soft hair, which makes them appear fuzzy. There are four bumblebee species that are found in Wisconsin.


American Bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus)

American Bumblebee

Genus – Bombus
Family – Apidae
Body length – 1.3-2.6 centimeters
Conservation status – vulnerable

Endemic to North America, the American Bumblebees are species of bumblebees that were earlier found in abundance in the eastern United States but are steadily declining now, vulnerable to extinction.

These bumblebees have yellow upperparts with three black and white tergal segments on them and a black posterior. Their body is covered with short, soft hair throughout. They are somewhat similar in appearance to their close relatives, the Golden Northern Bumblebee.

These bees are also considered to be long-tongued. They prefer to inhabit farmlands and open fields and feed on a variety of flowers, although clovers and sunflowers are their favorite.


Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens)

Common Eastern Bumblebee

Genus – Bombus
Family – Apidae
Body length – 0.8-2.3 centimeters
Conservation status – least concern

Just as their name suggests, the Common Eastern Bumblebees are the most widespread bumblebee species across the eastern parts of North America.

These bees are highly adaptable in nature, which is why they are found in diverse habitats, such as the countryside, suburbs, and even urban areas. Because of their indispensable role in pollination, they are valuable to the greenhouse industry as well.

In appearance, the Common Eastern Bumblebees are similar to a number of other bumblebee species, such as the Sanderson Bumblebees, the Two-spotted Bumblebees, and the Half-black Bumblebees.

While their upper parts are covered in a thick coat of pale-yellow hairs, the posterior is black. The queen bee and worker bees look alike, except for the larger size of the former. However, the males appear slightly different, with a yellow face.


Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus)

Golden Northern Bumblebee

Genus – Bombus
Subgenus – Thoracobombus
Family – Apidae
Body length – 1.3-1.6 centimeters
Conservation status – vulnerable

Often referred to as simply “Yellow bumblebee”, the Golden Northern Bumblebees are another vulnerable bumblebee species that are endemic to North America. In the United States, these bees mostly populate the north-eastern parts of the country and are rarely found in the southern regions.

Although all the Golden Northern Bumblebees look alike at first glance, there are subtle differences in the appearance of the queen, worker, and drone that can only be noticed upon closer examination.

The queens are obviously the largest of all three, but the most brightly-colored members are the males. Because they possess a long tongue, these bees mostly go after flowers with long corolla.


Tricolored Bumblebee (Bombus ternarius)

Tricolored Bumblebee

Genus – Bombus
Subgenus – Pyrobombus
Family – Apidae
Body length – 0.8-1.9 centimeters
Conservation status – least concern

Often referred to as the “Orange-belted bumblebee”, the Tricolored Bumblebees are highly social bees that nest on the ground.

Among the other bumblebees, these bees are fairly smaller in size with a slender body. Both the queen and the worker bees have a black head with a few occasional pale-yellow hairs. The segments of their body are colored in orange and yellow.

The only distinguishing factor between the two is a large amount of fat deposited on the queen bee’s body, making them larger and heavier than the workers.

On the other hand, the drone bees have a yellow head with a few strands of black hair, while the rest of their body is similar to the queen and worker bees. The fur on their body is also longer and thicker than that of their female counterparts.


Sweat Bees

Named after their tendency of being attracted towards perspiration (sweat), the family of the Sweat Bees is the second-largest among all the Anthophila bees, consisting of four separate subfamilies (Halictinae, Nomiinae, Nomioidinae, Rophitinae). Out of all the Sweat Bees that you can find in Wisconsin, the following are most common and widespread.


Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus)

Green Sweat Bee

Genus – Agapostemon
Family – Halictidae
Body length – 0.6-1.2 centimeters
Conservation status – unknown

The Green Sweat Bees are a ground-nesting bee species found in North America. These bees vary greatly in color with a change in their geographical location. As their name suggests, they are mostly green in color.

They display sexual dimorphism, wherein the males are colored more distinctly and are, thus, more easily identifiable than their female counterparts.

They have a metallic-green thorax, while on their abdomen are typically black and yellow bands. Although these bees are not aggressive in nature, they can sting in self-defense if they feel threatened.


Pure Gold-Green Sweat Bee (Augochlora pura)

Pure Gold-Green Sweat Bee

Genus – Augochlora
Family – Halictidae
Body length – 0.6-1.2 centimeters
Conservation status – least concern

The Pure Gold-Green Sweat Bees do not have a common name. Instead, their scientific name, “Augochlora pura”, translated in English, is commonly used as their name. These bees are primarily found in the eastern parts of the United States.

They mostly nest in rotting or decaying logs and are known to forage on a variety of plants. Both sexes of the Pure Gold-Green Sweat Bees are similar in size but differ slightly in appearance. They have a shiny, bright green body, with the males appearing more bluish and having a dark mandible.


Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

Cuckoo Bee

Genus – Sphecodes
Family – Halictidae
Body length – 0.4-1.5 centimeters (0.1-0.5 inches)

The Cuckoo Bees are named so because of their invading nature; these bees get inside the nests of other bees in their absence and switch the eggs with their own.

The unsuspecting inhabitant of the nest keeps feeding the larvae of the Cuckoo Bees. In this manner, the adults get rid of their parenting responsibilities.

The body color of the Cuckoo Bees can vary greatly, from red and yellow to black. Some bees possess color bands on their back, while others have a comparatively plainer body. Because they are not highly concerned about collecting pollen grains, these bees have fewer hair on their body and, thus, resemble the wasps in appearance.


Other Bees

Long-Horned Bee (Melissodes spp.)

Long-Horned Bee

Genus – Melissodes
Family – Apidae
Body length – 0.6-1.2 centimeters

The Long-Horned Bees are not individual bees but a diverse tribe of bees consisting of 32 different genera. These bees have been named “long-horned” because of the considerably long antennae attached to their relatively small body.

The antennae of the males are longer than their female counterparts, which acts as a distinguishing factor between the two.

These bees are solitary in nature and build their nests on the ground. You can easily find them in late summer or fall. They only feed on sunflowers and the flowers of the aster family.


Leaf-Cutter Bee (Megachile spp.)

Leaf-Cutter Bee

Genus – Megachile
Family – Megachilidae
Body length – 0.6-1.2 centimeters

The Leaf-cutter bees are one of the largest genera of bees, consisting of about 50 subgenera and 1500 species. These bees have a pair of large mandibles, which are used by them as scissors to cut leaves and petals.

They then use these pieces of petals and leaves to line the cells inside their nests. They often inhabit the pre-existing nests of other insects or hollowed logs.

The Wallace’s Giant Bees, which are the largest bees of the world, belong to the subgenus of Chalicodoma, a subgenus of the Leaf-cutter Bees.

The Leaf-cutter Bees have a mostly dark-colored body with a bright-yellow posterior. They have a black colored head, a pair of small, black antennae, black bands on their lower body, and yellow legs.

Although they have a small body, they are highly active and carry pollen grains on their abdomen, unlike other bees that carry them on their legs.


Mason Bee (Osmia spp.)

Mason Bee

Genus – Osmia
Family – Megachilidae
Superfamily – Apoidea
Body length – 0.6-1.9 centimeters

All the 300 members of the genus “Osmia” are referred to as Mason Bees. These bees get their name because of their use of mud and other masonry products to build their nest. However, if they can find pre-constructed holes or hollows in wood, they don’t hesitate to inhabit them.

The body color of their genera varies greatly, ranging from blue, green, red, and black, with a metallic gloss on it. These bees have an arthropod leg between their claws, which sets them apart from the similar-looking Leaf-cutter and Carder Bees.

The Mason Bees are solitary in nature and lack the worker bees. All the females of their genus are fertile and capable of building a nest for themselves. They don’t produce honey or beeswax.


Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Honey Bee

Genus – Apis
Family – Apidae
Body length – about 1.2 centimeters

The Honey Bees are a genus of eusocial bees that consist of 8 extant subspecies (further divided into 43 subspecies).

As their name suggests, these bees are popular for the production and storage of honey, which is consumed by us on a large scale.

Apart from honey production, they also play a vital role in pollination. Although the Honey Bees were endemic to Eurasia, they were introduced to the other continents deliberately and can be found in most parts of the world today.

The Honey Bees have a medium-sized body that is usually brownish in color, with several pale bands of hair growing on their abdominal region.

They have a black colored head, two moderate-sized antennae, and a rounded bottom. Their social behavior is quite remarkable; they live in large colonies, consisting of about thousands of bees, all year long.


Carder Bee (Anthidium spp.)

Carder Bee

Genus – Anthidium
Family – Megachilidae
Body length – 1.2-1.8 centimeters

Also known as the “Potter bees” or the “Wool carder bees”, the Carder Bees are a large genus of bees that are known for their comb-like mandibles using which they collect thin, hair-like particles from the plants to line the cells in the nest. This activity is done exclusively by female bees.

They belong to the family of Megachilidae, in which most bee species carry the pollen grains in scopa present on the lower side of their abdomen instead of their hind legs.

The small, black, and yellow body of the Carder Bees give them a wasp-like appearance. They are sexually dimorphic, with the males being larger and more territorial than their female counterparts. They also possess three thorns located on their abdominal apex, which they use as a weapon to defend their territory when required.


Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa)

Squash Bee

Genus – Peponapis
Family – Apidae
Body length – 1.1-1.4 centimeters

Belonging to the same family as the Long-horned Bees, the Squash Bees are also referred to as the “Eastern Cucurbit Bees” sometimes. They are named “squash” because of their heavy dependence on the squash plants, such as pumpkins, melons, etc., for their nutrition, especially in the wild.

As far as their color and size are concerned, these bees closely resemble the Honey Bees. Only they possess a hairier thorax than the latter.


Cellophane Bee (Colletes spp.)

Cellophane Bee

Genus – Colletes
Subfamily – Colletinae
Family – Colletidae
Body length – 0.6-1.9 centimeters

Also referred to as “Plasterer bees”, the Cellophane Bees are a genus of large bees consisting of about 700 different species, out of which 469 species have been described. They are primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere.

These bees have earned their name because their nest is lined with a glue-like substance that provides them with a thin plastic-like membrane; they are also known by the nickname of “Polyester bees”.

The Cellophane bees are instinctively solitary in nature and make their nest underground. You will rarely find them nesting close to one another. They have a dark body covered all over with pale hairs and yellow bands on their abdomen.

While some of them are highly active in the spring seasons, the others are not seen until late summer or fall. These bees are quite selective while feeding and only visit certain kinds of flowering plants.


Masked Bee (Hylaeus spp.)

Masked Bee

Genus – Hylaeus
Subfamily – Hylaeinae
Family – Colletidae
Body length – about 0.6 centimeters

The Masked Bees are a diverse genus of bees, consisting of over 500 species, belonging to the family of the Plasterer Bees. Just like the Carder Bees, they also appear more like wasps than bees, and the absence of scopa in their body further contributes to it.

Instead of scopa, these bees have a thin, expanded tract inside their body, known as “crop”, in which they store the pollen grains, carrying it all the way back to their nests to use it as food for their larvae.

They have weak mandibles that do not help them in building nests, which is why they nest in dead twigs or stems of a plant, but can also inhabit natural or pre-made hollows in rocks or woods.


Mining Bee (Andrena spp.)

Mining Bee

Genus – Andrena
Subfamily – Andreninae
Family – Andrenidae
Body length – 1-1.5 centimeters

The Mining Bees are the largest genus in their family (Andrenidae), consisting of over 1,300 species that are distributed all over the world. These bees receive their name due to their habit of building tunnel-like nests in the ground. Their nests often resemble the anthills.

The bees in this genus are mostly brown or black in color, but can also have metallic blue or green bodies. They have pale, whitish hair growing all over their body.

They display sexual dimorphism, wherein the males are smaller than their female counterparts and have a slenderer body. The females also possess a black triangle on their abdominal apex, which is absent in males. The Mining Bees are gentle in nature and do not sting humans.


Small Carpenter Bee (Ceratina spp)

Small Carpenter Bee

Genus – Ceratina
Family – Apidae
Body length – 1-1.2 centimeters (0.3-0.4 inches)

The Small Carpenter Bees are a genus of cosmopolitan bees that are closely related to the more popular Carpenter Bees. Their genera consist of about 200 recognized bee species.

True to their name, the Small Carpenter Bees are so small that they often appear like ants having wings. Despite their size, these bees are one of the most industrious bee species, working throughout the spring and summer.

They have a dark, metallic body and are sexually dimorphic, with the males possessing a bold white patch between the eyes, which is absent in their female counterparts. These bees mostly inhabit forests and woodlands but are drawn to flowers just like the other bee species.


Types of bees in Wisconsin (final thoughts)

The family of the Bees is quite large and diverse. You can find a variety of bees in Wisconsin, both hairy and hairless ones, with their body being dull or having a metallic gloss. The next time you encounter a bee in your garden, you can easily recognize it with the help of the descriptions we have provided in the article.