Category Archives: Hylaeus

Masked Bees in the Parsley

After two good years of harvest, my parsley plants have finally started producing sprays of tiny white flowers (fly for scale):

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In addition to attracting flies, the tiny flowers have been teeming with tiny bees as well, Hylaeus, the masked or yellow-faced bees.

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Can you guess where the name comes from?

A female masked bee, with two vertical yellow stripes on her face.

A female masked bee, with two vertical yellow stripes on her face.

Masked bees are often mistaken for flies, because of their small size, or wasps, because of their shape and color. But these diminutive bees add up to 700 species worldwide, 14 of which can be found in North America.

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Like other bees, masked bees carry pollen and nectar from flowers to their nests, where they feed their young. Unlike other bees, which collect pollen on the outside of their bodies, masked bees carry pollen by eating it and storing it in their digestive tract. I found it entertaining to watch females try to stuff as much pollen in their mouths as possible before flying away.

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As unprofessional as it sounds, I must admit that I’ve always found masked bees very endearing. Thank you for letting me share a bit about them with you!

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