13 Types of Bees in Iowa (With Pictures)

Types of Bees in Iowa
Photo by Damien TUPINIER on Unsplash

Iowa is home to various types of bees, and it can be difficult to identify them all.

Knowing which bees are present in Iowa and how to differentiate between them is essential for anyone interested in beekeeping or curious about these amazing insects.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the different types of bees in Iowa and offer tips on identifying them.

1 . Polyester Bees

Polyester Bees
by tgpotterfield is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One lesser-known type of bee in Iowa is the Polyester bee. These small bees, with black and yellow stripes, are often mistaken for sweat bees.

However, they have distinct facial features, short antennae, and a slender body shape. 

Polyester bees are solitary and build their nests in underground burrows or other hidden crevices.

These bees in Iowa are important pollinators, particularly for crops like alfalfa and clover. They are active from mid-summer to early fall and are attracted to flowers with blue and purple hues. 

Like many other types of bees, their populations have declined due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease.

Encouraging natural habitats with diverse plant life and reducing pesticide exposure can help support the survival of Polyester bees and other important pollinators.

2. Cuckoo Bees

Cuckoo Bees
by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cuckoo bees are a type of parasitic bee found in Iowa. They are aptly named because, like the bird species, they lay their eggs in other bees’ nests, where their young will feed on the host bee’s eggs or larvae.

Cuckoo bees can be difficult to identify because they don’t have the typical “bee-like” appearance. 

They are generally dark in color and have a slim and elongated body shape. They also lack the distinctive pollen baskets found on the legs of many other bees.

One interesting fact about cuckoo bees is that they have lost the ability to collect pollen and nectar, as they rely entirely on other bees for survival. 

This means they don’t have the hairy bodies and other adaptations that allow other bees to collect pollen and distribute it between flowers.

Despite their parasitic behavior, cuckoo bees play an important role in the ecosystem by helping control other bee populations.

Without cuckoo bees, some bee species could potentially overpopulate and cause imbalances in the local ecosystem. 

If you spot a cuckoo bee in your yard or garden, it’s important to remember that they are harmless to humans and don’t pose a threat.

However, it’s also important to ensure that your yard provides a healthy habitat for bees of all species, as they are crucial pollinators and important for maintaining the balance of the local ecosystem.

3. Leaf Cutter Bees

Leaf Cutter Bees
by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Leaf Cutter Bees are a unique type of bee found in Iowa that are easily identifiable due to their behavior of cutting small circles out of leaves to build their nests.

These types of bees in Iowa are solitary, meaning they don’t live in hives or colonies like other bees, such as honeybees or bumblebees. Instead, they build individual nests for themselves.

Leaf Cutter Bees can range in size from 1/4 to 3/4 inch long, and they have shiny black bodies with light-colored bands on their abdomens.

They also have long, thin antennae and wings that fold neatly over their backs at rest.

These bees are important pollinators of many plant species in Iowa, especially for alfalfa, a major crop in the state. 

Farmers who grow alfalfa often see an increase in yield when Leaf Cutter Bees are present. Plant flowering plants and trees from spring to fall to attract Leaf Cutter Bees to your garden.

These bees prefer plants in the legume family, such as beans, peas, and clover.

Nesting materials such as hollow reeds or bamboo can encourage them to reside in your yard. Leaf Cutter Bees are a fascinating and important part of Iowa’s ecosystem.

By learning to identify them and providing a welcoming environment for them, we can help ensure their continued presence and the health of our environment as a whole.

4. Squash Bees

Squash bees Different Types of Bees

As the name suggests, squash bees are important pollinators of squash and pumpkins. These bees are relatively small, about the size of a honeybee.

They are usually solitary bees, but sometimes they form small colonies. Squash bees are commonly found in Iowa from June to August.

  • Identification: Squash bees are easily recognizable with their shiny, metallic green body and hairless abdomen. Females have a slightly larger head and longer antennae than males.
  • Behavior: Squash bees are early risers and active when flowers are open in the morning. They visit squash and pumpkin flowers to collect nectar and pollen, which they carry on their hind legs. Female squash bees will also collect pollen to feed their young.
  • Habitat: Squash bees prefer to nest in the ground near the base of their host plant. They will often nest in loose soil or sandy areas.
  • Conservation: Like other bees, squash bees face many threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. You can help conserve squash bees and other pollinators by providing habitat in your yard and avoiding the use of pesticides.

In summary, squash bees are an important pollinator of squash and pumpkin crops in Iowa. With their unique appearance and behavior, they are easily identifiable.

By protecting and conserving squash bees, we can help ensure the health and survival of these vital pollinators.

5. Miner Bees

Miner Bees
by Paul Albertella is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Another type of bee that is common in Iowa is the miner bee. These bees are named for their habit of burrowing into the ground to create their nests.

Their black and yellow stripes can identify them, and they are often mistaken for honeybees. 

However, miner bees are smaller and less hairy than honeybees and do not produce honey. Like other types of bees, miner bees play an important role in pollinating plants.

They are especially important pollinators of early-blooming wildflowers and shrubs, such as redbud and spicebush. 

Miner bees are active early in the spring when the weather is still cool.

They often emerge from their nests when the temperature is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and they can be seen flying low to the ground in search of nectar and pollen.

There is no need to be alarmed if you see miner bees in your yard or garden. 

These types of bees in Iowa are not aggressive, and they do not pose a threat to humans or pets. They are often considered beneficial insects because of their role in pollination.

To attract miner bees to your yard, you can provide them a nesting habitat by leaving bare, sandy areas to burrow in. 

You can also plant early-blooming wildflowers and shrubs to provide a source of nectar and pollen.

You can create a welcoming environment for these important pollinators with a little effort.

6. Carder Bees

Carder Bees
by Frank.Vassen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Carder bees are solitary bees found in Iowa from April to September. They are small, fuzzy bees that are often confused with bumblebees.

However, carder bees have shorter and more slender bodies than bumblebees and distinct markings on their abdomen.

Carder bees are named after their behavior of “carding” plant fibers, which involves collecting fine hairs from plants to line their nests.

They can often be found on low-growing plants such as clover, thistle, and goldenrod.

Unlike honeybees and bumblebees, carder bees are not aggressive and do not have a stinger. They are important pollinators for a variety of plants and crops in Iowa.

If you spot a small, fuzzy bee with distinct markings on its abdomen collecting plant fibers, it’s likely a carder bee.

Remember to appreciate these important pollinators and their role in maintaining the diversity of Iowa’s flora.

7. Bumblebees


Bumblebees are one of the most common types of bees in Iowa and are easily recognizable due to their plump, furry bodies and bright yellow and black stripes.

They are larger than honeybees and have a distinct buzzing sound when they fly.

Bumblebees are important pollinators for many crops and plants, including blueberries and tomatoes. 

They are also known for their ability to fly in cooler temperatures, making them a valuable asset to Iowa’s ecosystem.

While bumblebees may look intimidating, they are generally docile and sting only if provoked.

If you spot a bumblebee in your garden, observe it from a safe distance and enjoy the pollination benefits it provides.

8. Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees - Different Types of Bees

Another common type of bee found in Iowa is the carpenter bee. These bees are usually larger than others and have shiny black bodies.

They get their name from their ability to drill holes in wood, which they use to create nests for their offspring. 

While carpenter bees can benefit gardens and crops by pollinating flowers, they can also cause damage to wooden structures if their nests are not properly managed.

It’s important to distinguish carpenter bees from bumblebees, as they can be mistaken for each other due to their similar size and coloring. 

However, carpenter bees have a hairless, shiny abdomen, while bumblebees have a fuzzy one.

If you notice carpenter bees drilling holes in wood on your property, it’s best to seek professional help to remove them and prevent damage to your structures safely.

9. Wasps Bees

Wasps Bees
by Radu P is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In addition to the various types of bees found in Iowa, there are also several types of wasps that you may come across.

Unlike bees, wasps are generally known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings.

However, they are also important pollinators and can be beneficial in controlling pests such as caterpillars and flies.

Some common types of wasps found in Iowa include paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. Paper wasps are slender with long bodies and are typically black or brown with yellow markings.

They build papery nests that look like upside-down umbrellas and can be found hanging from eaves, branches, or other sheltered areas.

Yellow jackets are one of the most aggressive types of wasps and are often confused with bees due to their yellow and black markings.

They build their nests in the ground or protected areas such as attics or walls. Hornets are larger than yellow jackets and have a black-and-white striped pattern. 

They build their nests high in trees or other elevated areas. If you encounter a wasp, it is best to avoid disturbing it or its nest, as this may provoke an attack.

However, it is best to contact a professional pest control service if you need to remove a nest or control a wasp infestation.

While wasps may not be as beloved as bees, they are still an important part of the ecosystem and play a valuable role in pollination and pest control.

So next time you see a wasp, try to appreciate it for the work it does rather than just fearing its sting.

10. Masked Bees

Masked Bees
by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Masked bees are another type of bee that can be found in Iowa. These small bees are named after the yellow mask-like pattern on their face.

They have slender bodies and range in color from black to dark brown.

Masked bees are solitary bees that typically nest in soil or dead wood. They feed on nectar and pollen, making them important pollinators in the ecosystem.

You may spot masked bees on flowers like goldenrod, asters, and milkweed.

Unlike other bees, masked bees do not produce honey or live in colonies. Instead, females will build their nests and lay their eggs independently.

After hatching, the larvae feed on pollen until they emerge as adult bees.

While masked bees may not be as well-known as honeybees or bumblebees, they are still important to Iowa’s biodiversity.

By learning to identify different types of bees, we can better understand and appreciate their vital role environment.

11. Honeybees

by cygnus921 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Honeybees are perhaps the most well-known of the types of bees in Iowa. They are known for their sweet honey production and are often seen buzzing around flowers in search of nectar.

These bees are important pollinators and are responsible for helping to produce much of our food.

Honeybees are typically golden brown with black stripes and can often be found in hives that can house thousands of individual bees. These hives can be found in trees, buildings, and the ground.

If you come across a honeybee hive, it is important to be cautious and not disturb the bees. 

If the hive is located in an area where people frequent, it may be necessary to call in a professional to relocate the hive safely.

Honeybees play an important role in the ecosystem and agriculture. They are just one of the many types of bees in Iowa, each with its unique characteristics and benefits.

12. Mining Bees

Mining Bees
by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mining bees, also known as ground bees, are another common bee found in Iowa.

These bees typically build their nests in soil or sandy areas like gardens, lawns, and even along sidewalks.

Unlike social bees like honeybees, mining bees are solitary creatures, meaning they do not live in hives or colonies.

However, it’s not uncommon to see many mining bees building their nests near each other. Mining bees are known for their distinctive appearance.

They are typically small and slender, with metallic green or blue bodies and wings. 

They also have long, hairy legs and antennae. Despite their somewhat intimidating appearance, mining bees are not aggressive and rarely sting. Male mining bees do not have stingers at all.

These bees are important pollinators, helping to keep our ecosystems in balance.

If you see mining bees in your garden, it’s best to leave them alone and appreciate their environmental contribution.

13. Sweat Bees

Sweat Bees
by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sweat bees are a diverse group often mistaken for flies due to their small size and black or metallic-colored bodies.

These bees are called “sweat bees” because they are attracted to the salt in human sweat and often land on people to drink their sweat.

While sweat bees may seem pesky to some people, they are important pollinators in Iowa’s ecosystem. 

Over 60 species of sweat bees are found in the state, and they play a vital role in pollinating flowers and crops.

Sweat bees are typically small and can be identified by their shiny black or metallic-colored bodies. They have two pairs of wings and a relatively thin waist.

Unlike other types of bees, sweat bees do not have a lot of body hair.

One unique trait of sweat bees is that they are solitary creatures, meaning they do not live in colonies like honeybees or bumblebees.

Instead, each female sweat bee creates her own nest underground or in cavities in the wood. 

While sweat bees may be less well-known than other bees in Iowa, they are still important pollinators that help maintain the state’s natural habitats.

So next time you see a tiny black bee on your skin, take a closer look and appreciate its role in the environment.


Identifying different types of bees in Iowa may seem overwhelming, but with some knowledge, you can easily distinguish between them.

Knowing the various species of bees present in Iowa is interesting and important, as bees are essential pollinators for plants. 

As you observe the bees around you, remember that each species plays a crucial role in our ecosystem, and it is important to appreciate and protect them.

Keep an eye out for the different types of bees in Iowa and enjoy their benefits to our environment.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like