As the name implies, Loosestrife Bees are not going to be found far from Loosestrife flowers, which are yellow-flowered forbs common around wetlands and in shrubby areas. Not all the Lysimachia species in Vermont are useful for these bees. So far all of the recent VT records have been off Fringed Loosestrife (L. ciliata), though Whorled Loosestrife (L. quadrifolia) and Swamp Candles (L. terrestris) may also be used. It is unclear if the non-native Lysimachia species are of any value to these bees – the often maligned Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is in a different family and ignored by Loosestrife Bees. Males occasionally visit other flowers in the area, particuarly Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium).
Though its a small sample size, at least 3 of the 4 recent VT records are from large patches of native Loosestrife along moderate size meandering rivers with steep banks (where they are thought to nest).
The two Loosestrife Bee species that have so far been found in the state are our only representatives of the Family Melittidae, though several Blunt-horn Bees (Genus Melitta) are among our most wanted.
There is another, even rarer bee, that is an obligate kleptoparasite of Loosestrife bees and is so rare it was once thought to be globally extinct. It has since been re-found in several New England states. See Macropis Cuckoo Bee below.
Genus level ID
These bees are unlikely to be found away from blooming loosestrifes (June – August), however, most bees encountered on loosestrifes will not be Macropis. Look for a larger bee (slightly smaller than a honey bee) that is moderately hairy. Females look like they are wearing bell-bottoms, while males have yellow marks on their face.
Unless otherwise specified, photos are courtesy of Margarita Miklasevskaja at PCYU with funding from NSERC-CANPOLIN.
A good key to the three New England species can be found here. Some, but probably not all, will be identifiable from photos. The hard part is finding the bees – take lots of photos if find one!
Melitta americana – Cranberry
Melitta eickworti – Deerberry
Melitta melittoides – Lyonia
Nomada rodecki –
This map is displaying both Macropis records and records for the three species of Loosestrife (Genus Lysimachia) that the bees are likely to visit. Clearly the host plant is much more common than the bee!
Please note that many of our datasets have not been published yet, so the maps are incomplete.