Tips for using the bee keys
The Exotic Bee ID keys can simplify and expedite bee identification, allowing you to select diagnostic characters and generate a list of species that possess those features. Consult 'Help' from the Lucid interactive key menu at any time.
Choosing characters and states
- Select the characters (called "features" in Lucid) that are most obvious or the most simple to interpret. Although features are listed in a certain manner, you may choose them in the order you wish.
- It is best to skip a feature if you do not understand it or if it is not visible on your specimen. State illustrations and the glossary may help you interpret characters. If you continue to find it difficult to interpret features or find features unhelpful after initially selecting easy characters, we recommend perusing the images or fact sheets of the taxa in Entities Remaining, paying special attention to arrows, which point to diagnostic features.
- Bee morphology and associated anatomical names can be complex. We have spent time creating a comprehensive glossary for this purpose. The glossary will give you a better idea of the different structures of the bee used in the keys and includes diagrams (hand drawn or photographs) of many of these features.
- Once you have narrowed your list down using the features that you are able to locate, you can always look over the fact sheets provided for the Entities Remaining. The fact sheets include distribution maps, pictures, nesting information, host associations, and diagnostic features known for each entity that may help you identify your bee.
- Lucid allows you to choose multiple states of a feature. If you cannot decide between two states of a feature you can choose both.
- Click on the "Prune Redundants" button after you have chosen several states; it will "clean up" the list of features by removing any redundant features. Be careful, however, when using this feature. When “redundant” characters are removed, the program removes the characters that will no longer narrow down your remaining entities list when selected. This means that if your options prior to pruning were yellow and brown, and all of the remaining genera could be brown but only one could be yellow, brown will be removed as an option since it will not narrow down the remaining entities. This can cause confusion if you have a brown bee and do not know why you cannot select that as an option.
- Use the “best” button at any point to have Lucid direct you to the character that will narrow down your list of entities most quickly.
- The keys are structured so that not all features are displayed at the beginning; you may see features appear after you choose states and certain entities remain.
Determining if you have found the correct identification
The associated keys were designed to help those unfamiliar with bee taxonomy quickly distinguish between different types of bees. Using relatively easy characters, the keys can lead you to a matching bee species or genus.
After choosing features and states, you may or may not end up with a single result under Entities Remaining. In either case, you can compare your specimen with the key's entity images and with the fact sheets (see icon next to taxon name), which contain and illustrate all diagnostic characters, allowing for complete identification. We suggest that you confirm identifications, if possible, with a bee expert.
Because the taxa covered in this tool represent disparate genera, and because bees in certain groups look extremely similar and are very difficult to differentiate, arriving at one taxon remaining does not necessarily mean that your bee belongs to that taxon. Rather, it may indicate that your bee is one that looks very similar to that taxon. You may then be able to continue your identification further by consulting fact sheet pages and references from specialized literature that are particular to that group. The book Bees of the World by Michener (2007) is the best source to identify bees to generic level, but it uses dichotomous keys and requires previous knowledge of the terminology associated with bee morphology.
For more tips on navigating and using Lucid keys, see Best Practices.
Learn more about bees
Browsing fact sheets and the gallery is a good way to become familiar with the bee species and genera covered by this tool. You can browse fact sheets alphabetically (use the "previous" or "next" buttons), or you can use the search function to browse a subset of genera (e.g., "Anthidiini"). To learn about bees in general, consult the bee morphology and biology and behavior pages. Further, other sites on the web have additional images and information about bees in general. For example, Bees of the United States has hundreds of images of bees currently known for the United States and was created by USDA APHIS PPQ.