blood bees

(Sphecodes spp.)

blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)
Photo by Babette Kis

Sphecodes is a very large genus of small bees known as blood bees. There are 319 valid described Sphecodes species worldwide as of 2015, 72 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 23 species in Minnesota.

Blood bees are found on every continent except Antarctica. They occur in every state in the United States and in every province in Canada except for the Northwest Territories.

Like other cuckoo bees, blood bees do not construct nests. They are kleptoparasitic, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other ground-nesting bees in the family Halictidae, especially in the genera Lasioglossum, Halictus, Augochlora, Augochlorella, and Augochloropsis.


The female enters a host nest, kills the host’s eggs, and lays one of her own. In some species the female resides in the nest of the host, living alongside the host, and possibly taking over the role of queen.

Adult blood bees feed on flower nectar. They do not collect pollen because the young feed on the pollen collected by the host species.


Blood bees resemble wasps in appearance and behavior. They have no pollen-collecting hairs (scopa), and their bodies are relatively hairless. Like wasps, they hover low over the ground searching for hosts nests.

Blood bees are 532 to (4 to 15 mm) in length. The body is strongly and deeply pitted (punctate). Almost all have a bright blood red abdomen. This is the feature that gives the genus its common name. On some the abdomen is only partly red. Rarely the abdomen is entirely black. All have a black head and a shiny black thorax. The tongue is short and pointed. The antennae have 12 segments on the female, 13 segments on the male. There is just a single line-like groove extending downward from the base of each antenna (subantennal suture).

There are branched hairs on the pronotal lobe, but this cannot be seen without a microscope.

The legs are slender, even spindly, and have no pollen collecting hairs.

On the forewing, the basal vein is strongly curved, like a sideways J. On the hind wing, the lobe at the base (jugal lobe) is longer than the submedian cell.


Distribution Map



4, 24, 27, 29, 30, 72, 82, 83.







Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (narrow-waisted wasps, ants, and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees, and stinging wasps)  


Apoidea (bees and apoid wasps)  
  Epifamily Anthophila (bees)  


Halictidae (sweat bees)  


Halictinae (sweat and furrow bees)  



Subordinate Taxa


Atlantic cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes atlantis)

bilobed cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes confertus)

black-tipped cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes prosphorus)

blood bee (Sphecodes antennariae)

blood bee (Sphecodes banksii)

blood bee (Sphecodes carolinus)

blood bee (Sphecodes fattigi)

buttercup blood bee (Sphecodes ranunculi)

capped cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes galerus)

clematis blood bee (Sphecodes clematidis)

Cresson’s cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes cressonii)

crowned cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes coronus)

cyclops blood bee (Sphecodes heraclei)

Davis’s cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes davisii)

deadly cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes stygius)

eastern cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes pimpinellae)

Illinois cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes illinoensis)

Johnson’s cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes johnsonii)

minor cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes minor)

nimble cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes levis)

red-toothed cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes mandibularis)

scalloped cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes dichrous)

shiny-faced cuckoo sweat bee (Sphecodes solonis)






Common Names


blood bees














Jugal lobe

In Hymenoptera: The rear lobe at the base of the hindwing.



A brush-like tuft of hairs on the legs or underside of the abdomen of a bee used to collect pollen.





Visitor Photos

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Babette Kis


Sphecodes sp. Blood bee

Sphecodes sp., blood bee, on goldenrod flowers, Barnes Prairie, Racine Co., WI. Photographed October 6, 2022.

  blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)  
    blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)   blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)  
    blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)      

Alfredo Colon

    blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)      





Lloyd Davies


Iyptala's Garden



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Sphecodes Sp. Bee [Nutfield Marshes - 2020]
Michael Jones

Jun 22, 2020

Sphecodes sp. bee removing Lasioglossum sp bees from nest hole [Nutfield Marshes - June 2020]

  Blood bee Genus Sphecodes
Bugging You From San Juan Island

Mar 31, 2022




Visitor Sightings

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  Babette Kis

Location: Barnes Prairie, Racine Co., WI

Sphecodes sp., blood bee, on goldenrod flowers, Barnes Prairie, Racine Co., WI. Photographed October 6, 2022.

blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

blood bee (Sphecodes sp.)  






Created: 12/9/2022

Last Updated:

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