No trip to the beach would be complete without spotting brown-winged striped-sweat bees (Agapostemon splendens) on asters in the dunes. The largest of eastern Agapostemon, this species is strongly associated with sand, and both males and females are distinctive in the field.
Active from late spring through fall, typically producing just one generation per year. In southern parts of its range, A. splendens can complete more than one generation in a year.
Widespread, but more easily located in sandy deposits near the coast. Occasionally occurs inland.
Size ≈ honey bee
Males: larger than other Agapostemon males in the area, with green thorax and yellow-and-black abdomen, brown tea-colored wings and a highly-enlarged, “muscular-looking” hind femur
Females: metallic green-blue with tea-colored wings, sometimes held out at 45˚ angle while foraging; fine-textured thorax; abdomen is metallic green with subtle dark banding
- males of other Agapostemon in our area have clearer wings and none have the hind femur enlarged to the same extent as A. splendens
- A. sericeus females have clear wings, silvery (not dark) abdominal bands, and thorax with unevenly rough texture.
- A. texanus females are smaller, with clear wings and a shining smooth thorax.
A. splendens nests in sandy soils, including coasts, pine barrens, old sand mines, and dunes. Seems to prefer nesting in the clean face of sand on cliff, dunes, or mining “blow-outs” Where residential areas are built on sandy soils, as in southern New Jersey, this bee can become “suburbanized” and will occur in gardens, backyards, and cities. Nests are solitary.
Preference for Asteraceae near sandy habitats such as blanket-flower (Gaillardia), knapweed (Centaurea), thistles (Cirsium), goldenrods (Solidago), sunflowers (Helianthus), and false sunflower (Heliopsis). Other favorite non-asters include prickly pear (Opuntia), wild roses (Rosa), sumac (Rhus), and cat-mints (Nepeta) for nectar..
Nomada rubicunda and N. vegana are likely brood parasites, though unconfirmed.
Eickwort, G.C. 1981 Aspects of the nesting biology of five nearctic species of Agapostemon (Hymenoptera: Halictidae). J. Kans. Ento. Soc. 54: 337-351.
LaBerge, W.E. and Ribble, D.W. 1966. The nests and larvae of two species of Agapostemon (Hymenoptera: Halictidae). J. Kans. Entomol. Soc. 39: 467-472.
Text last updated:
February 22, 2023