Orange-tipped wood-digger bee (Anthophora terminalis) is a distinctive, fast-flying solitary bee of backyards and gardens. From a distance, it resembles a bumble bee worker, but is smaller and grayer, and frequently hovers in front of tubular flowers. Its namesake orange-tipped abdomen can be hard to get a good look at—your best chance to glimpse it is when a female is engulfed in a tubular flower.
Usually just one generation per year from mid-June through August. Overwinters as prepupae.
Widespread within region. Ranges across northern latitudes, but scarce south of New Jersey.
Size < honey bee
Males: often golden-haired, green eyes, protruding, pale-yellow clypeus, very fuzzy thorax and abdomen
Females: green eyes, fuzzy white-cream thorax, with broken white bands on abdomen, and distinctive orange tip on abdomen
- Osmia bucephala has similar yellow-black color pattern, visits tubular flowers and overlaps phenologically, but females carry pollen beneath abdomen.
- Bumble bee workers (Bombus impatiens, B. bimaculatus, B. griseocollis) are similar at first glance but have flattened corbicula, do not have a yellow clypeus (male A. terminalis only), and have a slower, more laboring flight pattern.
Nests occur in in woodlands, wetlands near forests, and human-occupied areas like suburban and urban gardens. Excavates nests above ground in wood, including fall pine trees, sumac stems, and driftwood, and even in solid wood bee hotels/trap-nests. Nests consist of sawdust and chewed wood-pulp, unique to the subgenus Clisodon, of which A. terminalis is the only representative in North America.
Can be found on a variety of flowers, but with preference for tubular flowers like wood-mints (Blephilia spp.), American germander (Teucrium canadense), jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium), penstemons (Penstemon spp.), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum), and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata).
No known parasites associated with A. terminalis, despite dozens of nests collected and examined for study.
Medler, J.T. 1964. Anthophora (Clisodon) terminalis Cresson in Trap-nests in Wisconsin (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae). Canad. Ent. 96: 1332-1336.
Page last updated:
January 17, 2023