There are six 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.
Apis are “long-tongue” bees, which means the first two segments of the labial palpi are elongate, flattened, and sheath-like (Michener 2007), They 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).
Megachilidae are also “long-tongue” bees. 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).
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: