A good beginning is Halictidae the battle

This Halictidae bee on a mountain mint flower is a Augochlorella aurata. Taken on July 21, 2019. ©Erik Brown

One of my bee goals for the year was to understand native bee species a bit better. I’m not sure how well I’ve done overall, though I have taken a bunch of pictures. In a small attempt to rectify this, allow me to discuss one scientific family of bees, the family Halictidae.

I discussed bee classification in general two years ago, in post Endless bees most beautiful and most wonderful. I am still quite happy with that post, especially the title: a play on the last sentence of Darwin’s famous book On the Origin of Species. As mentioned in that post, the largest family of bee species (over 5,700) is found in the family Apidae. The second largest family is Halictidae.

While the family Apidae represents the somewhat well-known carpenter, bumble, honey, and other bees, the family Halictidae (pronounced ha-lick-ta-dee, I believe) represents sweat bees. These mostly small bees occur throughout the world, often metallic in appearance, and exhibit a broad range of social behaviors from solitary to communal to semi-social (for a great resource on social classifications, see this NC State link).

According to the University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department, as well as bugguide.net, the family Halictidae is distinguished by the arcuate (strongly curved) basal vein in the wing. I’m not exactly sure what this means, though here is a picture from the University of Florida site that clearly illustrates this feature.

Halictidae basal wing

A strongly curved basal wing vein, characteristic of a Halictidae bee.

My small plot of Mountain Mint, or Pycnanthemum muticum for the purists, attracted a huge diversity of bees this July and August, including honey bees. The first three images I posted to bugguide.net for identification were in the family Halictidae.

For the scientifically inclined, the family Halictidea is represented by four subfamilies: Rophitinae, Nomiinae, Nomioidinae, and Halictinae. My three identified bees are in the subfamily Halictinae (presumably pronounced ha-lick-ta-nee), the largest and most diverse of the four. The three genus I photographed, along with the five tribes in the subfamily, are shown in the following diagram.

The first genus, Augochlorella, is shown at the top of this post. The other two, Augochloropsis and Halictus, appear in the subsequent images. Enjoy.


A bee in the genus Augochloropsis of the family Halictidae on a mountain mint flower. Taken on July 3, 2019. ©Erik Brown

Halictus confusus

A larger example of the family Halictidae, this Halictus confusus bee was taken near my Virginia home on July 21, 2019. ©Erik Brown

A good beginning is half the battle

As captured in this proverb, just starting a task is often enough to see it through to the end. The idiom half the battle, in fact, is derived from this larger saying. According to my favorite proverbs book, this was first recorded in Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer, first performed in 1773. You can see a complete Internet version of this play on gutenberg.org, where the character Hastings says “I fancy, Charles, you’re right: the first blow is half the battle.” The sentiment it expresses, according to my proverbs book, is of much early origin.

As a case in point, I have had these pictures since July, and here it is two months later in September. I started writing this morning, and here we are in the afternoon and the post is done. A good beginning is, indeed, half the battle.

May you prosper and find honey.

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