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About the bee keys

About the keys

There are eight separate keys associated with this tool. We have not included a key to family level identification because the characters used to distinguish between bee families are difficult to use and often hidden from view. Michener (2007) notes that it is usually easier to identify bees to tribe or genus than it is to identify them to family using a key. Many people familiar with bees associate them to family simply because they are familiar with the other genera included in that family. This unfortunately does not help those who are just getting started with bee identification. In order to facilitate identification, we have provided a list of characters below to help determine which Lucid key should be used for each of the groups included in this tool.

The bees included in this tool all belong to the two families of “long-tongue” bees, Megachilidae and Apidae. For bees, “long-tongue” means that the first two segments of the labial palpi are elongate, flattened, and sheath-like (Michener 2007).

Apis belong to the Apidae subfamily Apinae, which are the corbiculate Apidae (Michener 2007). The presence of a corbicula on the hind tibia distinguishes Apis females from most other bee genera. (Bombus, however, is another common genus with corbicula on the hind tibia.) Features that can be used to separate Apis from the other Apinae genera are that they have hairy eyes, arolia are present between the tarsal claws, and they lack hind tibial spurs (Michener 2007). Apis also have three submarginal cells, the marginal cell is long, nearly four times as long as the distance from its apex to the wingtip, and the stigma is small, the prestigma almost as long or longer (Michener 2007).

Ceratina also belong to Apidae and belong to the subfamily Xylocopinae. Ceratina are generally small to medium-sized, somewhat cylindrical-shaped bees. Features that can be used to separate Ceratina from other genera include their antenna with F1 shorter than the length of F1 and F2 combined, forewings with three submarginal cells, jugal lobe of hind wing over one-third as long as the vannal lobe, and the pygidial plate is absent. Females also have a labrum that is broader than long, without basal elevated area, and their scopa is also greatly reduced, or absent, not forming a corbicula on the tibia.

A majority of the Megachilidae genera can be separated from the other families of bees because the labrum is longer than broad, with no apical process, and they have two submarginal cells on the wing (except for Fideliini, which have three). Most females can be readily identified by the presence of scopa on the ventral side of the abdomen, apart from cleptoparasitic genera (that lack pollen-collecting hairs) and Pararhophites (Michener 2007).

Megachile s.l. represents an enormous group of bees that includes over 1,100 species (Michener 2007). Over the years it has been separated in a number of ways. Michener (2007) treated them as a single genus but separated them into three groups. Since a good deal of change has happened in this group since 2007, and there is likely more change to come, in the Lucid key to the Megachilidae genera we included a majority of the genera and subgenera that Michener included under Megachile under the name Megachile s.l. and provided an additional key to the subgenera and genera in that group. This allows the Lucid keys to remain somewhat stable as generic and subgeneric changes continue to be made.

Bees in the genus Anthidium can be determined using the Megachilidae genera of the world key. The Anthidium subgenus key can be used to determine if you have a subgenus that is exotic to the U.S. Anthidium (Anthidium) is the only subgenus native to the western hemisphere. For species that belong to this subgenus, the Anthidium (Anthidium) species of North America key can be used to differentiate between species native to the U.S. and species that occur in Mexico and Central America, which is where most U.S. port of entry bee interceptions have been recorded from.

Bees in the genus Osmia can be determined using the Megachilidae genera of the world key. This guide currently includes keys to differentiate between the Osmia subgenera and determine species within the Osmia (Osmia) subgenus. We have chosen to include a species level identification guide for the O. (Osmia) because bees in this subgenus are commercially used around the world, and multiple species of O. (Osmia) have been introduced outside of their native range both intentionally and accidentally.

Select one of the keys below to begin: