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Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Cuckoo Bee

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Image Credit: Dave J., taken in Starbuck, MN
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The Cuckoo Bee, like its avian counterpart the Cuckoo Bird, wins the award for laziest, yet perhaps most clever parenting strategy.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Cuckoo Bee, a type of Sweat bee, gets its name from its parasitic behavior. Female Cuckoo Bees enter another species' nest and change out the eggs of the resident Sweat bees for their own small bee eggs. They cover their tracks as they leave, pushing loose soil back over the nest's opening. Unwitting Sweat bees are easily duped and feed the young interlopers. Cuckoo Bee parents are subsequently released from the responsibility of rearing and providing for their own young.

Cuckoo Bee species vary in color. Some are yellow and black, others are red and black. Some have bands of color, others lack them. None of the adults have pollen baskets on their legs since they do not need to collect grains for offspring. They are not completely fuzzy like other bees. Instead, they look more like wasps. Adults are active in spring and summer and can be found in parks, gardens, meadows and other open habitats. They are known to be good pollinators of flowers, making them a beneficial insect in the garden and on the farm.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Insect stinger icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Halictidae
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          Genus: Sphecodes
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphecodes spp.
Other Name(s): Sweat Bee, Halictid Bee
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 4mm to 15mm (0.15" to 0.59")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; red
Descriptors: fuzzy; buzz; flying; stinging; beneficial

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 4mm (0.2in) and 15mm (0.6in)
Lo: 4mm
Md: 9.5mm
Hi: 15mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Cuckoo Bee may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Cuckoo Bee. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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