cellophanes bees

(Colletes spp.)

cellophane bee (Colletes sp.)
Photo by Mike Poeppe

Colletes is a genus of ground-nesting bees known as cellophane bees and sometimes plasterer bees or polyester bees. The common names refer to their applying a thin, transparent, glue-like or cellophane-like lining to the walls of their nests. There are 469 described Colletes species worldwide, 98 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 25 species in Minnesota.

Cellophanes bees are solitary, though they tend to nest in congregations. They are found in all habitats, including grasslands, forests, swamps, and back yards. In the south they are active from March through September, but in the north, including in Minnesota, they are most likely to be seen in the fall. Many are plant specialists, collecting pollen from one or more plant families, or even from a single genus. Some will collect pollen from a single species for each egg laid.


Cellophanes bees are robust, brownish, hairy, and medium to large sized. They are similar in size and shape to honey bees, and are much harrier than most bees.

The head and thorax are densely covered with long hairs. The abdomen is convex above, flattened below, and pointed at the end. There is a band of pale hairs on each segment. Most ground nesting bees have a structure (pygidial plate) surrounded by hairs that they use for sculpting dirt when they build their nests. Cellophanes bees lack both the pygidial plate and surrounding hairs.

Below the base of each antenna there is a single line-like groove (suture). The tongue is short and split into two lobes at the tip. The compound eyes are angled outward.

On the forewing there are three submarginal cells. The second and third submarginal cells are about the same size. The basal vein is slightly curved, and the second recurrent vein is strongly S-shaped. The lobe at the base of the hindwing (jugal lobe) is longer than the submedian cell.

The female has a dense tuft of hairs on the third segment (femur) of the hind leg that acts as a pollen brush.


Distribution Map



24, 27, 29, 30, 82.



Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  


Apoidea (apoid wasps, bees, sphecoid wasps)  


Colletidae (cellophane or plasterer, masked, and fork-tongued bees)  



Subordinate Taxa


aberrant cellophane bee (Colletes aberrans)

American cellophane bee (Colletes americanus)

Andrew’s cellophane bee (Colletes andrewsi)

aster cellophane bee (Colletes compactus)

beach dune cellophane bee (Colletes speculiferus)

blueberry cellophane bee (Colletes validus)

broad-footed cellophane bee (Colletes latitarsis)

cellophane bee (Colletes eulophi)

goldenrod cellophane bee (Colletes solidaginis)

hyaline cellophane bee (Colletes hyalinus)

impunctate cellophane bee (Colletes impunctatus)

Kincaid’s cellophane bee (Colletes kincaidii)

kindred cellophane bee (Colletes consors)

mandibular cellophane bee (Colletes mandibularis)

red-belted plasterer bee cellophane bee (Colletes rufocinctus)

Robertson’s plasterer bee (Colletes robertsonii)

scorpionweed plasterer bee (Colletes phaceliae)

short-horned cellophane bee (Colletes brevicornis)

spine-shouldered cellophane bee (Colletes simulans)

sumac cellophane bee (Colletes nudud)

Susanna’s cellophane bee (Colletes susannae)

unequal cellophane bee (Colletes inaequalis)

white cellophane bee (Colletes albescens)

Wilmatte’s plasterer bee (Colletes wilmattae)

Williston’s cellophane bee (Colletes willistoni)






Common Names


cellophane bees

plasterer bees

polyester bees














On insects and arachnids, the third, largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. On humans, the thigh bone.


Jugal lobe

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






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Mike Poeppe

    cellophane bee (Colletes sp.)   cellophane bee (Colletes sp.)  
    cellophane bee (Colletes sp.)      
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Lloyd Davies

Colletes sp




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Plasterer Bee (Colletidae: Colletes) on Wall
Carl Barrentine

May 12, 2010

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (12 May 2010).

  Buzz pollination by a Polyester bee (Colletes)
The Bees In Your Backyard

Feb 6, 2018

A Polyester bee (Colletes) buzz pollinating my tomatillos

  Colletes inaequalis nesting aggregation, mating ball

Apr 25, 2021

4 Apr 2021
St Paul MN

  Colletes Nesting
Karl Foord

Sep 27, 2014

Music in this video
Learn more
Listen ad-free with YouTube Premium
Song Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331: II. Menuetto
Artist Lili Kraus
Album Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 19 and 20 & Piano Sonatas Nos. 11 and 12
Licensed to YouTube by Naxos Digital Services US, Inc (on behalf of Vox Legends); Public Domain Compositions, and 6 Music Rights Societies

  Colletes Foraging B
Karl Foord

Sep 28, 2014

Music in this video
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Song GiuseppeLoris Music - SA 13 07 2019 Mozart Serenata in Sol maggiore
Artist Spring




Visitor Sightings

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  Mike Poeppe

Location: Houston County, MN

cellophane bee (Colletes sp.)

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Created: 8/30/2021

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