April 11 – Identification progress and spring bees emerging!

Hello everyone!

We have been busy in the lab preparing for spring field season. Many people are reporting their first bees of the year, with many seeing mason bees (Genus Osmia), mining bees (Genus Andrena), and a small number of sweat bees (Genus Lasioglossum). Another side project in the lab is creating stem nests, which we have finally completed, with 60 nests ready to go!

Behold our hoard of stem nests that we hope to use to trap cavity nesting bees.

We have also been carving away at the many Lasioglossum specimens from the bee bowl project and specialist bee project. We identified over 800 specimens last week, which is a good rate of progress!

Here are a few of the Lasioglossum that we have been working through.

One of our most common species is Lasioglossum hitchensi. For our ID blog 2 weeks ago, we described it as follows:
“scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 fan COMPLETE, mesepisternum ruglose (not punctate), Clypeus with distal margin WIDE (rectangular!!) = mitchelli –> now hitchensi ! Dirt common bee”

I tried to get better photos of the clypeus margin and acarinial fan.

The angle on the head can be hard to see as it is often obscured by hair. I often find myself moving them just right under the light to see the structure better.

Another important (albeit sometimes variable as hairs rub off), character is the complete acarinial fan on the first abdominal segment. The hairs create a bridge that is rarely interrupted. The integument also typically has slight microsculpture that makes it seem slightly dull in this area compared to most other Dialictus bees.

Lasioglossum pectinatum – Specialist Lasiglossum on Physalis? 

Another cool find  from our specialist bee project was 2 specimens of Lasioglossum pectinatum, which are thought to maybe be specialist bees on ground cherries and related plants. One of our specimens was caught on Physalis, but the other was caught on Helianthus (but at a site known to have a lot of Physalis). If you are familiar with tomatillos, you have seen Physalis.

This is one of the black Lasioglossum bees that lacks any metallic reflections. It has a distinctly long face and the inner tibial spur has many tiny teeth (compared to most of the other black Lasioglossum which typically only have 4-5 teeth on the inner tibial spur).

Look at this long face! Not many Lasioglossum have a clypeus extending that low below the face, so this is quite striking!

Note the many short teeth on the inner tibial spur.

Strepsiptera mystery!

These little bulges sticking out of the abdomen are female strepsiptera. It is not common to find strepsiptera in Lasioglossum.

Another challenge we have run into is a weird Lasioglossum that has been parasitized by strepsiptera. These parasites often munch on gonads, which cause the host bee to look not quite female and not quite male. This makes identifying the specimen to species challenging as many of the identification characteristics are different between males and females.

The scutum on our host bee is very shiny, which is unusual for our most common Lasioglossum females.

As an example, the scutum (large plate on back of bee) is often dulled with microsculpture in most female Lasioglossum, but often very shiny in males of the same species. But there are some species of Lasioglossum that have females with shiny scutums, although they are not as common. So is our parasitzed bee just a weird looking form of a common species (I’m betting L. versatum), or is it a less common species that just happens to have been parasitized? We aren’t sure yet. We might need to use DNA instead to officially find out the answer. In the meantime, we will hold onto it and try to get a few other experts to take a look at it.

All for now,



March 28th – Lab updates and Lasioglossum Workshop Updates!

Hello everyone!

It has been a busy past several weeks as the graduate students prepare for field work this spring. Bees have started to emerge in southern Ohio (at least on the warmer days). Some of our collectors have even gotten to start collecting for the specialist bee project since enough stuff has started to emerge!

Amber is looking at specialist bees and their nesting habitats. Cheyenne is looking at bumble bees and the impacts of spring floral resources. Lee is the third graduate student in the lab who is finishing up her thesis and will be defending soon!

The Denman Forum:

On March 8th, our undergraduate student Eleanor competed in the Denman Forum at OSU. She presented on the cool hover flies that were bycatch in the bee bowl project and ended up winning first place in the Animal and Insect Sciences category! A copy of the poster can be found here: OhioSyrphidaeBycatch_DenmanForum2021

Dr. Goodell (left), MaLisa (middle-ish), and Eleanor (right)


I was particularly excited to see all of our bee bowl sample sites mapped on the poster. You can see how wide our coverage of the state was for the project, so thank you again to everyone who got their kits turned in to us! We will make a similar map for our bee project eventually.

Lasioglossum workshop:

We had a small amount of grant funds devoted to identification services, so we paid Rob Jean to visit our lab to give our lab a small workshop on some of the harder Lasioglossum bees. Rob brought reference specimens of over 50 species of Lasioglossum bees and had us key them out to try to guess the correct identifications. When we would run into a confusing couplet he would explain his interpretation of that character as some of the identification characters are somewhat ambiguous. We all found the workshop rather helpful and will use this new knowledge to get through the many remaining Lasioglossum specimens from the bowl survey. A majority of my time over the last few weeks has been practicing with these keys and trying to gain more confidence in this rather frustrating group. We expect to find somewhere over 50 species of Lasioglossum in Ohio, so we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Below I will throw some images with some of the microscopic characters of some of the species that we covered. This will mostly be a resource for those in our lab who plan to go back and identify our specimens here, but I figured others might appreciate seeing the level of detail we need for this rather tricky group. Below is going to be a bit messy and somewhat un-annotated, and probably some typos, so feel free to stop here if you don’t plan on getting into identification of this hard group.

All for now,


Lasioglossum workshop images and notes:

We used the Gibbs keys, mostly sorting stuff out with the 2011 Revision of the metallic Lasioglossum (Dialictus) of eastern North America (Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Halictini) and also taking into account a few of the more recent changes (mitchelli to hitchensi, clarifications of the tegulare group, etc)
Note the below notes are not comprehensive of all possible species, but at least cover a few of the characters of some of the species we might expect. I also didn’t take notes on every single species that we went over, so some of the workshop species are missing from the below notes.

versans – lack acarainial fan (no photo, but this is really distinct)

disparile – distinct additional band of hairs on abdomen, looks like someone kissed it and left a lip stain

disparile disparile

illinoiense – distinct procoxa and also propodeum sculpturing (procoxa looks like a scone to me) (did not photograph)

foveolatum – very distinct supraclypael area that is darker in the center and bulging, also parapsidal line thick and indented

parapsidal lines larger than normal, deeply indented

anomalum – 2 submarginal cells (smallish, acarinial fan complete)


Be sure to check the other characters in addition to submarginal cell number, as sometimes specimens that should have 3 cells will spontaneously lose a vein on one wing and thus look like it only has 2 cells

anomalum anomalum

imitatum – distinct hairs on last abdominal segments, body size small


This specimen is a bit gunky, but the small body size and distinct hairs on the last two segments help identify it.

Orange Butt group: select species
vierecki – orange butt, dense scutal hairs

pictum – orange butt, dark clypeus, mesepisternum punctate, postgena polished

postgena polished and reflective

arantium – orange butt, dark clypeus, mesepisternum rugose-punctate, postgena DULL due to microsculpture

arantium arantium arantium

tegulare group – Annoying to ID to species, but the group is defined by having a distinctly bean shaped tegula (similar to Augochloropsis) – (did not photograph)
mesepisternum shining – ellisiae – very hard to see tbh….
mesepisternum DULL, inner hind tibial spur with 3 branches, and paraoculare area with sparse tomentum – tegulare (but supposedly Gibbs will say everything in OH is ellisiae)
other tegulare group species unlikely in our area

Coarsely scupltured propodeum group
bruneri  – Hypostomal carina widely divergent and protrochanter with anterior surface excavated. hypostoma carinae produced (did not photograph, but we have several specimens)
reticulatum – Hypostomal carina divergent, but NOT produced. protrochanter not excavated  (did not photograph)

Hypostomal carina PARALLEL, mesoscutum COARSLY rugose laterally (also thorax dark bluish) = hartii – wetland associate


hypostomal carina parallel


Hypostomal carina parallel, mesoscutum punctate laterally, transverse NOT interrupted medially, tegula punctate (but hard to see imo), mesosoma bluish = nymphaearum –> Now called oceanicum!!

oceanicum oceanicum oceanicum
Hypostomal carina PARALLEL, mesoscutum punctate laterally, transverse propodeal carina interrupted and wings veins pale, mesosoma bluish = albipenne (did not photograph, but we get a lot of these)
Hypostomal carina parallel, mesoscutum punctate laterally, transverse propodeal carina interrupted, wing veins DARK, pitting on scutum denser than albipenne =cressonii (did not photograph, but we get a lot of these)

scutum SPARSE lateral of parapsidal lines; mesepisternum SMOOTH with distinct punctures; larger overall size, minimal hair on abdomen and dark black, and a nice coarse propodeal carina = nigroviride (forest associate) (did not photograph, but we have a few of these)

scutum SPARSE lateral of parapsidal lines; mesepisternum SMOOTH with distinct punctures; smaller compare to nigroviride, small amount of hair on abdomen, propodeal carina very small and only at the base = obscurum (also forest associate) (did not photograph, but we have a few of these)

Scutum sparse (but could go either way in key since so hard to see); frons punctures dense, size small, LONG head; scutum TESSELATE (v distinct), t1 acarinial fan dense = coreopsis. Note that longifrons has a longer head and supposedly a sparser t1 fan, but longifrons is southern


acarinial fan complete


Body size relatively small


Scutum distinctly tessellate

scutum sparse lateral of parapsidal lines, head normal, scutum normal, frons punctures dense, clypeus weekly protruding below suborbital line, propodeal dorsolateral slope imbricate (vs rugose) = lineatulum

linealtulum linealtulum linealtulum

body entirely blue, t1 fan complete, scutum dense punctures laterally and sparse internally, mesepisternum without punctures, = coeruleum

coeruleum coeruleum coeruleum coeruleum

Thorax bluish (or can be the normal green, so be careful), abdomen brown, scutal punctures dense laterally and sparse internally, minimal hairs on abdomen (but there ARE hairs, just not thick patches), head short, mesoscutal punctures relatively coarse, tegula dark reddish brown = oblongum

oblongum oblongum oblongum oblongum

oblongum oblongum

scutal punctures dense laterally and sparse internally, minimal hairs on abdomen (but there ARE hairs, just not thick patches), head short, mesosutum polished, t2 with relatively dense punctures in center and then limited punctures in apical area. as long as there are a few (albeit can look sparse and missing) on apical area then = subviridatum

subviridatum subviridatum

Scutum dense lateral of parapsidal lines, between lines still somewhat dense but considered sparse, (be careful otherwise they will go to pilosum group), face LONG (couplet 62 in 2011 key), and abdomen metallic and t3-4 with dense white hairs, wing veins milky and wing itself somewhat milky, color of thorax slightly bluish = pruinosum

pruinosum pruinosum pruinosum

scutal punctures dense laterally and sparse internally, minimal hairs on abdomen (but there ARE hairs, in my specimen a decent amount of hair on t4, but still can see about 1/2 of integument), scutum dull, face LONG!, t2 apical area impunctate, mesepisternum impunctate = planatum

planatum planatum planatum

scutal punctures dense laterally and sparse internally, minimal hairs on abdomen (but there ARE hairs, in my specimen a decent amount of hair on t4, but still can see about 1/2 of integument), scutum dull, face LONG!, t2 apical area punctate LATERALLY (but I don’t see them), mesepisternum obscurely punctate, metapostnotum WITHOUT medial carinal longer than submedial rugae = taylorae (did not photograph)

Scutum dense lateral of parapsidal lines and DENSE between. Head long, metapostnotal rugae high and distinct. lateral margins of clypeus subparallel distally and pubescense yellowish = pilosum

pilosum pilosum pilosum

Scutum dense lateral of parapsidal lines and DENSE between. head long, metapostnotal rugae high and distinct (higher and more distinct than pilosum). lateral margins of clypeus convergent distally and pubescense white to yellowish, wing vein milky to honeyish = leucocomum

leucocomum leucocomum

scutum dense lateral of parapsidal lines and dense between, head long, metapostnotal rugae not particularly high and distinct, shorter and smaller, metasomal terga brownish (but with some metallic reflections), key says wings dusky but they look normal to me, key says pterostigma brown but looks tanish to me, supraclypaeual area relatively flat and DULL, t2 apical impressed area with distinct punctures, clypeus margin dark = raleighense

raleighense raleighense raleighense raleighense

Scutum dense lateral of parapsidal lines and DENSE between. head WIDE; t3 with dense tomentum on most of the segment, postgena and mesoscutum polished = perpunctatum

perpunctatum perpunctatum perpunctatum perpunctatum

head quadrate (but seems mildly elongate to me because inner margin of eyes are practically subparallel), acarinial fan supposed to be INCOMPLETE (but my ref specimen looks complete), HYPOSTOMAL CARINA DIVERGENT towards mandibles; head wider than thorax = heterognathum (rare-ish)


acarinial fan variable, normally open and not complete like this

heterognathum heterognathum heterognathum heterognathum

scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, scutum shining (rules out versatum), tegulae pale yellow, mandible narrowed in center, protrochanter broad when viewed from side,t1 shiny = callidum


distinctly curved mandible



protrochantor broad


scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 fan COMPLETE, mesepisternum punctate, tibia and femora brown, metapostnotum rugae more than 2/3 distance to posterior margin, t2 apical impressed area with punctures sparse/absent, body small, 3 submarginal cells, head and mesosoma golden green = cattellae

cattellae cattellae cattellae cattellae cattellae cattellae

scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 shiny, metapostnotum with rugae very short, and abdomen metallic = zephyrus

zephyrus zephyrus zephyrus zephyrus

scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 fan COMPLETE, mesepisternum ruglose (not punctate), mesoscutal punctures relatively sparse, propodeum with distinct carina (so you might think this would go with the coarse propodeal group but the mesepisternum not rugose enough), propodeum with dorsolateral slope rugose and lots of hair on t3-5 = timothyi

timothyi timothyi timothyi timothyi timothyi

scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 fan COMPLETE, mesepisternum ruglose (not punctate), Clypeus with distal margin WIDE (rectangular!!) = mitchelli –> now hitchensi ! Dirt common bee

hitchensi hitchensi hitchensi

VERSATUM GROUP – these SUCK, but are also some of our most common specimens (did not photograph)
scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, hairs present on t2-4, t1 shiny, t2 apical impressed area with distinct punctures, mesoscutum dull posteriorly due to microsculpture and clypeus protruding below suborbital = versatum

scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, hairs present on t2-4, t1 shiny, t2 apical impressed area with distinct punctures, mesoscutum shining ever so slightly (hard to see this character), pale straw tegula, clypeus not protruding much below suborbital line = trigeminum??

admirandum –> Rob Jean says t2 can have very obscure punctures, see key for details. similar to versatum, but smaller in general.

sagax/ephialtum/sablense –> complex not easily differentiated??

Parasitic species: typically lack pollen collecting hairs and have excessively long mandibles
gena wider than eye, metapostnotum rugose, mandible without preapical tooth, mesepisternum rugulose, mandible wide and convergent near apex, labrum with strong basal tubercule = platyparium (did not photograph, but we have several of these)

gena wider than eye, metapostnotum rugose, mandible without preapical tooth and no tubercule = rozeni

rozeni rozeni rozeni rozeni

gena wider than eye, metapostnotum SMOOTH, size small = lionotum (did not photograph)

gena wider than eye, metapostnotum with some rugae, mandible with distinct preapical tooth, mesepisternum vertically carinulate, impunctate, = michiganense

michiganense michiganense michiganense

black integument group: (many more species than those listed here, we just covered a few)
Use the following key for most of the black integument species (noting that Leuchalictus and Lasioglossum subgenera are missing from this key) 2013. Revision and reclassification of Lasioglossum (Evylaeus), L.(Hemihalictus) and L.(Sphecodogastra) in eastern North America (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Halictidae).

scutum punctate and dull, mesepisternum not coarsely rugose, pronotum with SHARP angle, inner metatibial spur pectinate, dorsolateral ridge of pronotum with carina ending before oblique sulcus = swenki

swenki swenki swenki swenki swenki


Note abdomen color variable, so some have this orange/reddish abdomen

swenki swenki

birkmani – mesepisternum weakly punctate, pronotum rounded, head short (did not photograph)

truncatum – forgot to write characters down, see Gibbs key


distinct propodeal carina

truncatum truncatum

texanum – forgot to write characters down, but check out those distinctly enlarged occelli that look like blisters. See Gibbs key for characters

texanum texanum texanum

lustrans – forgot to write characters down, see Gibbs key.

lustrans lustrans lustrans lustrans

Fin. – MaLisa

March 7 – Spring bees incoming!

Hi Everyone,

Hopefully you got out this past weekend to enjoy the warm weather. Soon the spring flowers will be emerging and with them, the spring bees! I know daffodils have started to sprout and my neighbors silver maple tree is already in bloom!

Mystery object:

We had a few guesses on the mystery structure from the last blog, though none were correct.

Example image of mystery object here.

The correct answer is a scale from a moth or butterfly! Scales on insects Lepidoptera can be variable and sometimes come in these ornate shapes. Scales in a single individual butterfly vary across their entire body, so scales on the head are a different shape from scales on the wing or abdomen. You can actually see a couple more scales on the image above in addition to the hand shaped scale.

These scales likely got on the bee by contamination when collecting. Oftentimes, butterflies get caught in nets, but get released. When the butterflies get caught, some of their scales rub off and get stuck in the netting, and then rub off on the next thing that touches the net.

Here is another weird scale that was found on the same bee.

This particular carpenter bee had a menagerie of scales stuck to it.

Preparing for spring sampling:

The graduate students are busy getting permits and organizing supplies for the spring season. We also have people ramping up to be ready for the specialist bee project. We did our training webinar last week, but there is still time to help out with the specialist bee project here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

Trap nesting bees:

Another mini-project in the lab is creating tube stem nests to try to catch more of the spring mason bees in the genus Osmia. A volunteer in our lab, Brooks, has been trimming Phragmites reeds to use as stem nests for cavity bees.

Trimming Phragmites

Measuring Phragmites to be 6 inches from the node before trimming

The final result is a little over a thousand reeds ready to go

A fun surprise this morning was to find that some wasps had already emerged from the reeds that we had cut.

Can you see the wasp?

Here she is up close. She was having a fun time inspecting the reeds, but we caught her so that she didn’t keep flying around the lab.

Sorting Malaise trap samples:

We were given the bycatch from malaise traps set in 2021, so volunteers and students have been helping to pull out the bees, hover flies, and robber flies. Of course, we have also found some cool other insects while looking through those malaise trap samples. A malaise trap is like a weird tent that insects fly into and get caught. The trap gets left out for many months, with people replacing the trap canister weekly to document species changes over time.

We have found lots of cool hover flies in the traps, including dozens of ant parasite hover flies! We only had a couple of these ant parasites from our bowl traps and found more in a single sample event from the malaise traps than all the bee bowl traps combined. Or perhaps the malaise trap was just lucky and placed at the perfect spot.

Check out the antennae on this fly!

Zooming in on the face and forward facing eyes, I would not be surprised if they were a predatory fly. I think it is probably a predatory fungus gnat like this: https://bugguide.net/node/view/1370774

We have also spotted some other parasitic wasps. Does anyone recognize this wasp and know why those of us in the bee world might be concerned if we see it?

There have been lots of cute spiders, including this pink jumping spider.

This spider had a weird cephalothorax shape.

Another fun one, I believe this is a cleptoparasite of other parasitic spider wasps! I believe this is the genus Ceropales. See: https://bugguide.net/node/view/39892 and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1250619/bgpage

Since I am on a parasite kick, here is yet another parasitic wasp, in this case, a dryinid wasp that was attempting to emerge from it’s leafhopper host. Learn more about the weird pincer wasp lives here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/26938

Otherwise, we are busy in the lab going through the many thousand Lasioglossum specimens from 2020. We have been sorting them into different morpho-groups and then working on those individual groups. An example of a morpho-group would be the the Lasioglossum specimens with strong ridges on their propodeum and rough mesepisternums (Lasioglossum cressonii, L. albipenne, L. bruneri, etc). That group in particular is relatively easy to differentiate, but unfortunately a majority of our Lasioglossum bees are not in this group. We also have a group of Lasioglossum with long faces that are next up in my queue.

All for now,


Feb 21 – Lab updates, bee hitchhikers, and identifying black Lasioglossum.

Hello again!

We have been busy in the lab for the past few weeks.

I made it through the genus level IDs for the specialist bee project and sent those reports out to the respective collectors. To learn more about the specialist bee project, see: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/


Pollen ID guesses:
Several people were correct with their guesses on the last blog.

This is an early spring species that is relatively common!

Several people guessed correctly both the plant and the bee! The Spring Beauty miner (Andrena erigeniae) is common across most of Ohio and collects this lovely pale pink pollen from the Spring Beauty flower (Claytonia viriginca). Kudos to Laurie, Peter, and Bob for correctly guessing based on the limited information!

Bee hitchhikers:

Sometimes there are other insects or things stuck to the bees that we are identifying. Sometimes, those things actually end up being parasites of bees that are waiting for a ride back to the nest to eat the pollen or baby bees.

Blister beetles (Family Meloidae) are rather common across Ohio, and I believe this is a larvae of one of the blister beetles. The different species of blister beetle are host specific, but a subgroup of blister beetles parasitize bees. Learn more about blister beetles here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/181

Can you spot the hitchhikers on this Dialictus bee? Look closely at the wings!

These are what I believe to be wedge shaped beetle larvae that are clamped down on the wing of this sweat bee. Wedge shaped  beetles are really weird parasitic beetles. Learn more about them here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/4620

We also have several bees that have piles of mites clinging to the abdomen and the wings. They can be so tightly packed that they make the bee look like it has reptilian skin instead.

I also have a mystery for you. Who wants to guess what the mystery hand-like thing is that is highlighted on the image below? Bonus points if you can figure out what bee it is on too. Note that the bee was not washed.

What is the tiny thing indicated by the arrow? Do you have any guesses?

Identifying Black Lasioglossum:
We have a ton of Lasioglossum specimens from our bee bowl project that still need identified to species. The most challenging Lasioglossum bees to identify are in the subgenus Dialictus, which have a slight metallic tint to them. We expect to have over 70 species of Dialictus in Ohio.

This is an example shot of the metallic green Lasioglossum in the subgenus Dialictus. Photographed by Christian L. Munoz who was the sales rep for the fancy and expensive Hirox system.

The remaining Lasioglossum bees lack metallic reflections and consist of several other subgenera. We have 6 boxes of these diverse black Lasioglossum, so I started the process of creating ID guides to train others in our lab on pinned specimen identification. For starters, we have worked out the black Lasioglossum in the subgenus Lasioglossum sometimes referred to as Lasioglossum sensu strictu. I also made a guide for use in our lab for the Lasioglossum subgenus Leuchalictus. The characters for each is described in the guide in the event you want to try on your own specimens. These guides will be mostly relevant for the Midwestern United States.

Identifying Black Lasioglossum _ Leuchalictus <– click here for a guide to the Leuchalictus – only 2 species in our area

FemaleSensuStrictuBlackLasioglossumID <– click here for guide to the Lasioglossum sensu strictu

Example of one of the black Lasioglossum bees from our project.

All for now,

Feb 6th – snow days, ID updates, and attempting different imaging systems

Hello everyone!

We got snowed/iced out the last two days of last week, but that did not stop our progress. I made sure to take home a box of bees on Wednesday and crossed my fingers that I didn’t lose power. That seems to have worked, as we only had a slight flicker of the lights occasionally. Hopefully you all were able to stay warm and dry over those fun few days.

As for ID progress, I made it through most of the remaining Andrena with only about 150 hard specimens left. I briefly worked on the bees from the specialist bee project, which has a reasonable 1,700 specimens compared to the 53,000 from the bowl trap project. But we also had way fewer people contributing bees to the specialist bee project, so it is not surprising that we have fewer specimens. The species composition of things collected with nets versus things collected with bowls are very different, so both methods have been worthwhile. The hard to ID Lasioglossum bees make up under 10% of the netted specimens compared to almost 40% of the bowl trap specimens. But we definitely got some species that were only collected with one method and not the other.

If you are looking for a challenge for 2022, consider signing up to help with the specialist bee project, which involves more targeted sampling of bees directly from flowers and has been yielding interesting results. We will be hosting an online training for the specialist bee project on March 1st at 4pm over zoom, but it will be recorded for those who cannot make it. See more here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

This is a female Triepeolus specimen that I photographed years ago. The bees are often black with white hair bands and variable colored legs.

During the snow/ice storm, I focused on our pizza box full of Triepeolus specimens. These are parasitic bees that sneak into other bees nests to lay eggs into their pollen provisions. They can be very odd looking bees and are often about the same size as a honey bee, though some can be a bit larger depending on their host.

This is one of our better looking pinned specimens of Triepeolus. If you look closely, you can see the white coloration is actually appressed hairs instead of coloration on the integument. That also means that the hairs can rub off, which makes them harder to identify when the specimens are really worn.

Specialist bee project – pollen observations

Another fun difference between the bowl samples and the specialist bee samples is just how much pollen is still stuck to the bees collected with nets and vacuums. Because we did not have to wash the things collected with nets or vacuums, they have many more interesting things sticking to them, to the point where it gets kind of funny just how covered they are.

Also note that below are several photos of bees who are not specialist bees, but were visiting flowers that are hosts of specialist bees. We just collected any bee that was visiting the correct floral host, but that does not automatically make it a specialist.

Since we know what flowers the specialist bee samples were collected from, we can make some educated guesses about what the pollen might be on the bees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this Squash bee has some nice big pollen grains from squash stuck to it. They remind me of lemonhead candies, and look delicious if they were not so small.

This is one of the bigger pollen grains that is stuck to a Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), which looks similar to a coronavirus. These are actually Hibiscus pollen grains!

Honey bees are generalists, but might forage on one plant type per foraging trip, which might explain why most of this pollen looks the same. These pollen grains are much smaller in comparison to the squash and Hibiscus pollens. Another cool thing to note is the hairy eye trait that is present in only 2 groups of bees in Ohio – honey bees (Apis) and cuckoo leaf cutter bees (Coelioxys). I do not know why those are the only two groups that have really hairy eyes, but it probably makes their vision slightly harder when their eyes get covered in pollen.

Meanwhile, in direct comparison, this ligated sweat bee (Halictus ligatus) got absolutely covered in Asteraceae pollen, but thanks to the eyes lacking hairs, that is one of the few places on it’s body that remain mostly pollen-free.

Finally, the last pollen I want to show you is this pale pink pollen on this specialist bee. Anyone want to take a guess at the flower and bee pair? This is an early spring species that is relatively common.

Imaging system updates:

Most of the photography of pinned specimens on this blog is either taken with the Leica microscope camera or most of the recent images are taken with my cell phone through the microscope viewfinder (all of the pollen images above). This yields blog worth images, though perhaps not images that I would want to publish in a paper. Therefore, we are considering using different imaging systems to try to photograph at least one specimen of each species.

For those of you who remember back to one of our August updates, we got a preview of an automated image system that takes exceptional images. I left out that the lab down the hall has an older version of that system, which they have graciously allowed us access to. However, being the older version means that it has some technological limitations from almost 2 decades ago.

This is the older Hirox imaging system, which allows us to stack images together and hopefully make a clear, sharp image.

We tried a couple lighting adaptors to get a better view of the specimens. We had difficulty seeing things on the screen, so it was hard to pick the “best” option. This was an image taken with a variable light adaptor that put the light at an angle. It made the pitting on the scutum very obvious from a distance, but the reflectance was a bit glaring.

We also tried a few diffusers to make the lighting better, with this one having the long diffuser.

We played around with the settings a bit to get to this image and also swapped out for a shorter diffuser. I like this one the most as you can see the pitting on the thorax really well without too much glare.

The importance of light angle was most obvious in the face shots when placed right next to each other. The glare of the angled light makes it hard to see details in direct comparison.

I also wanted to compare how well my cell phone did through the microscope compared to the angled light. We don’t have a good way to diffuse the microscope light, so the scope versus angled light is probably the best comparison to see details.

So where does this all leave us? Well, I’m not sure yet.  The stacked shots from the old machine are not quite what I had hoped and also almost less detail than what I can do with my cell phone. Though my cell phone won’t stack images, but does get a similar amount of detail with a single image.

All for now,


Jan 24th – Andrena progress!

I made it through the majority of the ~2000 Andrena  specimens over the last few weeks, with about 300 specimens left to go. In the last blog post, I created a poll to see what people thought might be the most abundant species from our samples.

Opinion Poll Results

Many people thought that the non-native species, Andrena wilkella, would be the most abundant in our samples, but there were a few people betting on nasonii or literally any other species of Andrena.

I am happy to report that our most abundant species of Andrena in our samples is Andrena nasonii! Andrena violae and cressonii were also rather abundant. Andrena wilkella never stood a chance at being the most abundant in our bowl trap samples.

Andrena nasonii is a fun species of mining bee and one that forages on a wider variety of plant species. Most species of Andrena are considered specialists, so it is unusual for a species in this genus to forage on such a wide range of plants.

A lot of Andrena look superficially very similar, with dark brown bodies and typically light colored hairs. A key character to recognize bees in the genus Andrena from other brown bees is that they have a depression on their head with small inset hairs. These are typically referred to as facial fovea, but some people like to call them vertical eyebrows. These are not always easy to see in a photograph.

Andrena nasonii has a distinctively triangular hindleg. There are a couple other species that do have triangular legs like this, so we have to check other characters as well.

Andrena nasonii also has really wide facial fovea (vertical eyebrow patches between the compound and simple eyes at the top of the head). The ocelli (simple eyes – the 3 dots in center of head) are also really close to the edge of the top of the head. Another good character is a set of small bumps on the underside of the thorax, but I did not get a good photo of that yet. We are hoping to get an imaging system up and running soon so we can show you better photos. For now, we are stuck with images taken through the microscope with my cell phone.

Once I get through the Andrena, my goal is to take a few days to work on the specialist bee project and get those reports out too. If you are looking for a challenge for 2022, consider signing up to help with the specialist bee project, which involves more targeted sampling of bees directly from flowers. See more here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

Lab reading:
We have started more regular discussions of academic papers in the lab. Below are a few that we have read recently.

López-Uribe et al. 2016. Crop domestication facilitated rapid geographical expansion of a specialist pollinator, the squash bee Peponapis pruinosa.

Danforth, B. et al. 2013. The Impact of Molecular Data on Our Understanding of Bee Phylogeny and Evolution. Annual Review of Entomology. 58:57-78 https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-120811-153633

Larkin, L.L., Neff, J.L. & Simpson, B.B. The evolution of a pollen diet: Host choice and diet breadth of Andrena bees (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae). Apidologie 39, 133–145 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1051/apido:2007064.

McAulay, M.K., Killingsworth, S.Z. & Forrest, J.R.K. Understanding pollen specialization in mason bees: a case study of six species. Oecologia 195, 559–574 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-020-04786-7https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-020-04786-7

Spear, D., Silverman, S. and Forrest, J. 2020. Asteraceae Pollen Provisions Protect Osmia Mason Bees (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) from Brood Parasitism. The American Naturalist. 187:797-803.


All for now,


Jan 11th – Interim Reports Sent, Andrena progress, and a new xray machine

Everyone who sampled in 2020 should now have an email with their initial results of the bees identified to at least genus. If you did not receive your email, check your spam/junk box. If you cannot find an email from me, please email me ASAP and I will send it again. I ended up sending out 145 emails, so it took a whole day to send out everything.

For questions about your sampling results, please refer to the last blog post on December 20th or email MaLisa directly.

Progress updates:

Sending the reports only took about a day, so what have I been doing in the meantime? Identifying bees of course! There were also a few days off, but we otherwise made good progress organizing the lab, and identifying all the Eucera, Anthophora, Hoplitis, Pseudopanurgus, and Heriades.

I also started on the Andrena, but those will take a few weeks as we have almost 2,000 Andrena specimens. Andrena are solitary mining bees that are most abundant and diverse in the spring, but there are some cool fall species as well. Many species of Andrena are also specialists, meaning they use only a small number of plants for pollen. So Andrena eriginae will forage predominantly on spring beauties, whereas Andrena hirticincta is a fall aster specialist. To see what Andrena forage on what plant, check out the Ohio specialist bee guide and also the specialist bee website here: https://jarrodfowler.com/specialist_bees.html

I created a poll to see which species people thought would be most abundant. So I will extend that poll to our blog too! Of the Andrena, which species do you bet is most likely to be the most abundant across all of our sites from our 2020 bee bowl samples?

Andrena wilkella is a midseason Andrena and larger than a lot of other species. It has bright orange hairs on the end of the abdomen, so it has been deemed team orange butt.  The left image shows a different Andrena with an orange butt, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, the second most popular choice is Andrena nasonii, which is a smaller bee with somewhat triangular leg and thus deemed team triangle leg. Which species will actually be most abundant? Give me about 3 more weeks to find out.

Once I get through the Andrena, my goal is to take a few days to work on the specialist bee project and get those reports out too. If you are looking for a challenge for 2022, consider signing up to help with the specialist bee project, which involves more targeted sampling of bees directly from flowers. See more here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

Other lab updates:

Thanks to some additional funds from another project, the lab now has an x-ray machine for bee tube nests! We won’t be using it much on this project, but I thought I would mention it since it is a cool thing to see.

The x-ray machine shipped in this large box.

The actual x-ray machine (left) is barely larger than some of the older desktop computers. The rays are entirely contained and it will not shoot any rays unless the compartment door is fully shut and everything is sealed inside.

The field of view is pretty small, so it only x-rays pieces of tube nests about the size of our hands, but it allows us to zoom in and see any bees inside of tube nests without actually opening up the nests.

Here you can see that these stem nests are full of baby bees and their pollen provisions! The bright white lines are the mud or leaf caps that separate the bees into their own section.

I tried brining in my own pithy stems from my garden that had Ceratina nesting in them last year. It looks like the Ceratina left my nests, but they at least hollowed out the center.

The x-ray machine also works on small bones. Being invertebrates, bees lack bones, so we had to borrow a skull from another lab for this image. Any guesses on what organism it is? (If you squint, you will see the photo is actually labelled with the answer)

That is all of the updates I have for now.

Best wishes,


Dec 20 – Progress Updates and Interpreting Interim Reports!

Hello! Happy last blog of the year!

You might be excited to hear that we are almost finished with identifying things to genus, at which point, we will send out individual interim reports to the collectors.

Since they will be interim reports, the emails will be somewhat short and include a raw datafile of just that locations data. Collectors should expect an email sometime in January (assuming all goes well). I won’t be able to individualize the 145 interim reports, so I am going to detail in this blog how to interpret the data so people can find their own nuggets of fun.

Interpreting the data:

The key thing to remember is that the sample method detects presence, but not necessarily absence. We can only safely say that x species is found at that location, not that y species is not present. Thus, use the data with caution and to serve as a baseline for what you know is present. I guarantee that you have many more species present at each location, especially when it comes to bigger bees that more easily escape the bee bowls. The few big bees that we did catch were often old, ragged, and at the end of their life, which explains how they ended up getting stuck in the bowls. Meanwhile, most of the smaller (grain of rice sized) bees tended to be in much better shape.

The data will be shared via excel. Some people had a lot of bees in their samples, so in order to figure out what you had, it might be easier to make pivot tables in excel (or equivalent program) to more easily interpret the data.

Each column has a different type of information stored. Each row (beyond the first row that is the column header) is an individual bee. You will need to scroll to the right to see all the columns.

Each individual bee will have their own unique record number that should be in the format of OHBB-####. Who identified the specimen and ID notes are also recorded. The full identification that is available should be in the scientificName column.

To learn more about the individual bees that you collected, I recommend copying the full name from the scientificName column and using a search engine to learn more. You can also check to see if they are specialist bees by looking at Jarrod Fowler’s specialist bee website here: https://jarrodfowler.com/specialist_bees.html

If you have more than 100 specimens, you might find it useful to make pivot tables on a computer to more easily interpret the data. I will do a brief demo of making pivot tables here, but this information works for excel on a windows device. If you do not use excel or have a different device, there should be similar programs that allow you to do the same thing.

Making pivot tables in excel:

Scroll past this section if you have under 100 specimens or are happy with just looking at your data as individual rows. No need to stress over confusing computer wizardry if you don’t have to. 

First make a new tab in your excel sheet by clicking on the + sign on the bottom left side.

Click the + sign to make a new sheet. Then navigate back to sheet 1.

Once you are back to the main data page, use your keyboard to click on ctrl+a  at the same time to select all (or just highlight the entire dataset).

Once your data is highlighted, navigate to the insert tab at the top left of the screen, which should lead you to seeing a pivot table option on the top left.

Once you click on the pivot table tab, this should pop up. We already highlighted the data, so that should be good. Your range numbers will be different from this example, since this photo is pivoting the whole database. Under the choose where you want the pivot table, I typically choose existing worksheet and switch to the second tab to insert it there. Or you can make a new worksheet. That part doesn’t really matter as much. Click ok.

Once you click okay, you should be greeted with something like this. You can then drag and drop various characters into the rows and values column to quickly sort the data.

The combination you will most likely want is the scientific name in the rows section and then a count of the record number in the values section

Doing so should give you a table that looks similar to this one, showing all the genera and species that were reported from your site and also the number of individuals reported.

You can play around with the pivot tables to see tables of bees by month (month in rows section), bees by sample date (sample date in rows section), bees by sex (sex in rows section), who identified what (recordedBy in rows section), etc. You can even filter the different species so then you can see individual species flight peaks by month or however else you want to look at the data.  There are plenty of ways to look at the data, so have fun! If you end up making a cool graph with your data and want to share it on the blog, email MaLisa and she will share it.

Here is an example graph you can make with just a few clicks. There is a pretty obvious peak in August for Calliopsis, with the earliest specimen observed in June at Cedar Bog. Also note that playing around with the data makes errors and issues more obvious. You can see our lovely sample date where we could not determine the month. Check the notes column to see if there is an explanation for any weirdness.

Anticipated questions:

I found an error. Can you fix it? 

Yes! If you find an error (we mistyped the address, your name is spelled incorrectly, we said your bee was a giraffe, etc), please email MaLisa! We will work on fixing the error ASAP.  We try to double check everything, but some things slip through. So if you think you found an error, let us know.

What does Ceratina dupla/mikmaqi mean? Why not identify it as Ceratina dupla or Ceratina mikmaqi?

In some cases, we are not able to easily identify things all the way to species, but are able to rule out other species. The most common example where that happens is with the male Ceratina specimens with narrow femurs. We can rule them out to either dupla or mikmaqi, but often they end up glued to the pin along the edge of the femur and we cannot see the detail necessary to say more.  Sometimes legs with key characters are broken off, so some people will have Ceratina dupla/strenua females. When they are listed as Genus speciesx/speciesy, it just means that we are able to rule it down to those two species, but cannot say for sure based on the specimen.

When should I expect my final report?

It is going to be a while before we get to species. Getting to genus was speed identifying. We identified the easy species as we went. Now all that are left are the harder genera, which will take much more time. It is possible that I might take another year and a half to get through what is left, but the timeline is unclear at this point. I will keep you updated as we go.

How rare is this bee?

Assigning rarity is hard. For bigger bees, you can check the iNaturalist.org records, though some of the big species are still hard to identify. So just because you do not see many records on iNaturalist does not mean it is rare. It might just be really hard to identify.

If you got the following genera, then you can rest assured that you have an uncommon bee that few others collected: Anthophora, (only 25 total collected out of 53,000+), Chelostoma (only 12), Coelioxys (only 4), Eucera (only 90), Heriades (only 44), Melitoma (only 25 and it is a specialist of morning glory), Pseudopanurgus (only 37), Ptilothrix (only 20 and a specialist on Hibiscus), Stelis (only 10), etc. A few other rarer ones not listed will likely lead to a publication and to be announced later.

How do I get more species of bees present at my site?

First, it helps to figure out what species you have. The interim report should help with that. From there, you can start to look for what you are missing.

Floral resources: You can try to plant more floral resources for specialist bees. You are unlikely to get specialists at your site without the host plants, so cultivating the correct specialist hosts helps. For a list of specialist plants, look at Jarrod Fowler’s specialist bee website and our Guide to the Specialist Bees of Ohio.

Rotten wood: Do you have Augochlora pura in your list? These are conspicuous bright green bees that nest in old fallen logs that are practically mush. The type of logs that if you try to pick them up, they crumble in your hands and are already practically soil. If you have a wood lot, consider leaving a small log or two instead of using it all for firewood. If you just have a small backyard, consider saving a few of the larger branches from the next wind storm and pick a small obscure spot for the log to rot. It might take 4 years, but eventually the wood gets to the right state of decay that is perfect for Augochlora. Plus, other animals will also enjoy the decayed wood, from a host of salamanders, slugs, fungus beetles, and other important organisms.

Pithy stems: Do you have Ceratina in your list? These bees are stem nesters, and in particular like to nest in the stems of last years plants. The easiest way to get more Ceratina is to be a little bit more messy when gardening, leaving last years stems. It also helps to only trim down last years stems to no lower than 12 inches. That leaves plenty of pithy stem for them to nest.

Example of a pithy stem where the small carpenter bees in the genus Ceratina have excavated out the center of the dead stem. As far as I am aware, they only use old, dead stems and will not use fresh, living plants. That is why it is so important to leave about 12 inches of last years stem for them to nest.

Nesting resources: This part is much harder to fix. A majority of bees nest in the soil, so you are stuck with the soil type that you have. Allow bare patches of soil to persist instead of immediately reseeding with turf.

We do not currently advise people to use the store bought cavity nests that are now readily available, as they often lead to high parasite loads which might spillover into wild populations. The store bought cavity nests also tend to host more of the non-native bee species (Megachile rotundata, Osmia taurus and Osmia cornifrons) instead of our native species. I have tried using the cavity nests and also making my own, but have consistently gotten non-native bees and also high parasitism rates.

I got a lot of (non-native) bees at my cavity nests! The parasitic wasps took full advantage of the easy to find nests as well.

The parasites have long, drill-like ovipositors that they use to insert their eggs into the bee nest. It is pretty cool to watch, though unfortunate for your bees. My bee hotels ended up being parasite smorgasbords.

Wasp course:

Want to learn more about non-bee wasps? Well, there is a course covering all the other wasps that are not bees, starting in January! Also, did I mention that it is a fully remote course? There is a small fee ($60 for regular, $45 for students). See more about the course here: https://waspidcourse.wordpress.com/ 

All for now,


Dec 6 – Progress Updates, PBS Bee Doc, and other fun

Hi Everyone!

We are up to 44,000+ bees identified to at least genus! The last two weeks have been hectic with various days off, so progress has been slow. We are also down to the last few weeks of the semester, so students will be switching up how they are working with us. That potentially means graduate students putting in more hours, with undergraduate students logging fewer hours.

Our lovely pie chart of identification progress to genus level. There is still plenty left to go for species IDs


PBS Bee Documentary: My Garden of a Thousand Bees

I finally got around to watching the PBS bee documentary that a few people sent to me a few months ago. For those who haven’t seen it, the documentary is about a wildlife videographer in the UK who spent his lockdown filming the bees in his small backyard. He got some fun video and even though it is not in Ohio, many of the bee genera are the same. See more about the fun film here: https://www.pbs.org/video/my-garden-of-a-thousand-bees-trjhzt/

Fun Bycatch Wasp:

Occasionally, a few non bee wasps ended up getting pinned by accident. The square headed wasp was staring me down as I went through the IDs last week.

My, what big eyes you have!

These are cavity nesting predatory wasps, though what they forage on depends on the wasp species. They can also regularly be found visiting flowers.

Wasp course:

Want to learn more about non-bee wasps? Well, there is a course covering all the other wasps that are not bees, starting in January! Also, did I mention that it is a fully remote course? There is a small fee ($60 for regular, $45 for students). See more about the course here: https://waspidcourse.wordpress.com/ 

All for now,


Nov 22 – Survey Updates, Ceratina ID, and Wasp Course

Hi Everyone!

We have made it above 41,000 bees identified to at least genus, with half of those identified to species! Slowly but surely has been the mantra in the lab.

Small Carpenter Bee (Ceratina) species level identification:

Face of a male carpenter bee peeking out of at pithy stem nest. These bees are common at most sites, moreso at sites with plenty of pithy stemmed plants. We have 4 species in Ohio, with many sites having 3/4 of the species.

I had originally written up a whole blog on species level identification of Ceratina, but I ended up refining it into a presentation using powerpoint instead, and then saved it as a pdf. It is not a perfect guide, and applies mostly to Ohio (so if you are in a southern state, you will need additional resources). This is the guide that I have been training people with in the lab to help us get through our abundance of Ceratina.

The most helpful part of the guide is probably the summary slides, which give you the key characters you need to go through, depending on the sex.

The most helpful part of the guide is probably the summary slides, which give you the key characters you need to go through, depending on the sex.

See guide here: Ohio Ceratina ID

See also, Sam Droege’s presentation on Ceratina identification here (video 13): http://bio2.elmira.edu/fieldbio/beemovies/index.html 

Wasp course:

Want to learn more about non-bee wasps? Well, there is a course covering all the other wasps that are not bees, starting in January! Also, did I mention that it is a fully remote course? There is a small fee ($60 for regular, $45 for students). See more about the course here: https://waspidcourse.wordpress.com/ 

All for now,