What are Sweat bees?

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One of the most common bees in the world is the sweat bees and they are called so because they get attracted to the salt in human perspiration. These bees are widespread and especially found in huge numbers in Northern parts of America. Since the sweat bees are very small, they are almost inconspicuous but at times hundreds of sweat bees swarm over the flowers in meadows and gardens. All types of bees along with the sweat bees are extremely vital to our eco-system. They play a crucial role in the sustenance of myriad plant species by carrying out pollination amongst vegetations scattered over large distances. There are many people who specifically strive to keep these bees alive so that the vegetation and crops in their region show abundant growth. Lately people have become more aware of the loss of bee population and are striving to keep their species alive.



What are the characteristics of Sweat bees?

Sweat bees belong to the Hymenoptera family of insects which is one of the biggest insect families and  includes some of the common insects ants, bees, sawflies and wasps in its group. Evolved from the Halictidae group of family, these bees are commonly found in Australia and Southeast Asia. Sweat bees range from 4mm-8mm in size and are black, brown, green, metallic to red in color. One of the features of sweat bees is their prominent yellow face. These bees have long hairy hind legs,which are easily mistaken for bumblebees. The long extended hairy legs are instrumental in transferring of pollen and nectar from the flowers to the beehive.



Why do Sweat bees sting?

The male sweat bees do not sting. What we think as a sting is actually a pinch or bite by the sweat bees. Its the female bees that sting when we try to shoo them away from our skin. These bees attack our skin because they are attracted to the salt in our perspiration and pollen that  gets lodged in our skin during the dispersion. These bees belong to Apidae class of bees and hence their sting is almost painless. According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the sting intensity of sweat bees is 1.0  which is low to minor pain.



How do Sweat bees nest?

Sweat bees differ from other types of bees in their ways of nesting. Their hives are usually found inside the hollow trunk or wood or underground. Their nests are made for holding one female at one time, but sometimes the hives contain several female queen bees that live in the same hive but in different cells. Although each female bee has a separate hive, they stay very close to each other so much so that their whole lot looks like living in a group in one single hive nestled alongside shrubbery roots. These hives have couple of exits as well as entrances well guarded by the guard bees. Sweat bees build their hives in April and are later joined by female bees who have not built their nests. These added bees stay as workers but do not lay eggs. At the onset of summer there is only one egg laying bee who continues to produce offspring as long as she is fertile till the next winter.



What do Sweat bees eat?

Since more often the nests of sweat bees are under the ground, these bees store nectar and pollen and some parts of flowers as food. The larvae  survive by eating the nectar and pollen mass that is made available when the eggs are being laid. Just as athletes need electrolytes  for enhancing their energy and power, similarly, sweat bees need supplements of salts! They try to get this supplement from the perspiration of humans. In case sweat bees have made their nests in your garden or home ground and if you are feeling threatened you can destroy their nests by sprinkling Diazinon or liquid detergent during the night as during night these bees are almost inactive. Always be sure to cover yourself with thick clothes, face mask and boots while carrying out this activity.

  • Do you know: Sweat bees are also known as kleptoparasites (klepto meaning stealing) because some of these bees eat the eggs of the owner of the nest and lay its own eggs surviving on the food provided by the host.


To read more on Bees, click below: 

Different Types of Bees

Why are bees vanishing

Learn about the Colony Collapse Disorder

Birds falling from the Sky


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