Jason Gibbs from York University in Toronto discovered 19 new bee species in his study of 84 bee species.† One of the species was found in Toronto on his commute to the university. The bees under his study, known as sweat bees, are very similar to one another, and consequently difficult to distinguish as separate species. DNA bar coding and morphological analysis were two methods employed during his research. Gibbs studied about 10,000 individual bees over four years during his work. He said, “Itís important to identify these species, because if we donít know what bees we have, we canít know what bees weíre losing.” (Source: York University)
Sweat bees visit many plants and pollinate them just like other bees do. They can be smaller than 4mm in length. Sweat bees get their name from the fact they are attracted to the salt in perspiration. Their stings are almost painless, but they can still cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
On his webpage, Gibbs notes metallic sweat bees can be, “Solitary, communal, semisocial, eusocial and socially parasitic.” For his dissertation about sweat bees, he was awarded a prize from York. This fall he will be doing research at Cornell University and focusing on bees from the Eastern United States, and Mexico.
Image Credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC-Davis