The blueberry digger bee (Habropoda laboriosa) is a common and economically-significant visitor to blueberry throughout the southeast. While its primary natural habitat of pine barrens is threatened by development and fire suppression, H. laboriosa appears to be flexible in its habitat preferences and frequently occurs in suburban and semi-urban parks, yards, and power line cuts. This species sometimes turns up well away from blueberry, where it may instead be found visiting redbud trees (Cercis).
One generation per year, active from April through June.
Southern latitudes, from Virginia as far north as Massachusetts, particularly along the Atlantic coast. (Though some historic records reach as far north as Minnesota and Quebec).
Size > honey bee
Females: dark head; thorax with pale hairs above and some darker hairs lower on sides; first segment of abdomen pale, with remaining segments dark
Males: overall color pattern like the female, but with characteristic pale face – both the clypeus and adjacent triangular patches in the paraocular areas (between the clypeus and the eyes)
- Bombus impatiens has a smaller head relative to the size of its body and workers carry pollen in corbicula.
- Anthophora abrupta typically lacks a clear band of pale hairs on the first segment of the abdomen.
- Anthophora bomboides has pale hairs on the second segment of the abdomen and male has only very limited pale area on the face outside of the clypeus.
Females may construct their underground nests concealed beneath leaf litter or in more open bare areas, often in sandy soil. Many females may nest in the same area, forming a small aggregation.
Frequently associated with blueberry (Vaccinium), bearberry (Arcostaphylos), and other ericaceous shrubs in sandy pine barrens and power lines, but not a strict specialist – also appears in a variety of less-sandy suburban locations, often on redbud (Cercis).
The extremely rare Melecta pacifica atlantica is a cleptoparasite of digger bees (Anthophorini) and has been suggested as a possible parasite of Habropoda laboriosa, although the relationship is unconfirmed.
Cane, J.H. and Payne, J.A. 1988. Foraging ecology of the bee Habropoda laboriosa (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae), an oligolege of blueberries (Ericaceae: Vaccinium) in the southeastern United States. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 81: 419-427.
Page last updated:
January 17, 2023