About the bees

Sweat bees (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) are a powerful model for studying the factors shaping variation in social behavior.

Sweat bees (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) encompass a wide range of social behaviors, from solitary individuals that live and reproduce independently to eusocial colonies with overlapping generations and a non-reproductive worker caste. Some species are capable of producing both social and solitary nests, often depending on environmental context.

Within the sweat bees, there have been two independent gains and a dozen losses of eusociality. These replicated gains and losses of social behavior enable a comparative approach to identify the core factors that shape the emergence and breakdown of eusociality and provide insights into the most costly aspects of social life.

Through genomic comparisons, we can ask if selection has acted on the same or similar molecular pathways to shape social traits in this group.

Unless otherwise attributed, all photos by Sam Droege, USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program