• ljmarkson

Have You Seen a Non-Native Invasive Sculptured Resin Bee In Your Yard?

A couple weeks ago I was excited to see a giant bee I had never seen before pollinating my clustered mountain mint (pycnanthemum muticum). I took lots of pictures in hopes it was some cool bee like ones I recently found in my yard; including the beneficial noble scoliid wasp that parasitizes non-native invasive Japanese beetle grubs, or the four-banded stink bug wasp that parasitizes non-native invasive brown marmorated stink bug nymphs. Yet I couldn’t identify this new bee using any of the online Georgia native species resources such as Insect Identification which has North American insects listed by state.

I'm just learning the names of all the different pollinators I see in my yard. I was glad to learn the noble scoliid wasp and four-banded stink bug hunter wasp help keep non-native invasive insects like Japanese beetles and stink bugs at bay.

Within a week I saw a post in my Georgia Native Flowers and Plants group about an invasive bee that looked like the one I had seen on my mountain mint. There was contact information for Becky Griffin at UGA who asked to be contacted if we saw this a particular bee. I sent her couple pictures, and she confirmed my new bee friend was indeed an invasive sculptured resin bee!

This invasive sculptured resin bee doesn’t look like any of our native Georgia bees. I was glad to get a positive identification on this one from an entomologist!

I have since learned the sculptured resin bee, also called the giant resin bee, is native to parts of Eastern Asia and was first found in 1994 in North Carolina where it accidentally arrived through commercial ports. It is currently found in most of the Eastern states but is predicted to continue spreading throughout America. The big question the experts seem to have is what the overall ecological impact of the sculptured resin bee is.

The good news:

  • The sculptured resin bee is currently in the benign category and considered adventive, a new term for me that means introduced to a new area and not yet established there. It is now found in the Eastern US and so far, no widespread negative outcomes have been detected by its presence.

  • Sculptured resin bees are solitary and related to leafcutter and mason bees and don’t form large colonies and swarm.

  • They are a generalist pollinator of over 43 different native plants.

  • The males cannot sting, which is comforting for those of us who might see these giant bees while gardening!

  • The females can sting but aren’t aggressive at all and will avoid people.

  • Even though they are tunnel nesters, sculptured resin bees can’t chew through wood, so there is no structural damage to human habitats!

Carpenter bees have hairless, shiny round abdomens, not ridged, dull, long cylindrical ones like this sculptured resin bee. Male sculptured resin bees also have a blunted abdomen like this guy pictured, although the females, which you’re less likely to see, do have pointed abdomens.

The bad news:

  • Although sculptured resin bees are generalist pollinators, because they are non-native they prefer to pollinate plants from their native Eastern Asian habitat including our much hated invasive kudzu here in the south. We certainly do not need any help spreading invasives!

  • The biggest worry seems to be that although there is plenty of wood to go around, sculptured resin bees cannot chew wood to create their own nests, so they displace native carpenter bees from their cavities to nest in them. So far this does not seem to affect the carpenter bee population where the sculptured resin bees are found. It sounds like this is being monitored.

There's no mistaking these shiny round carpenter bee butts on my native phlox paniculata for the dull ridged ones of the sculptured resin bee! I hope the invasive sculptured resin bee continues to be a benign pollinator and doesn't impact my super pollinating carpenter bees in any way!

How You Can Help:

If you think you see one of these bees, University of Georgia entomologists are seeking citizens to help document the presence of the sculptured resin bee in Georgia. You can make a positive identification by e-mailing a photo, date and location to Becky Griffin at UGA or submitting a photo through the iNaturalist website under the project Wanted! Sculptured Resin Bees in Georgia. (You can look up sculptured resin bee and your state to see if anyone is documenting them in your area)

The sculptured resin bee’s distinct bright yellow mustache comes from gold hairs above the mandibles.

It looks like sculptured resin bees are here to stay. Fortunately, at least in my rewilded yard, I’ve only seen one sculptured resin bee and hundreds of carpenter bees. It seems this is yet another reason for everyone to plant native plants! If sculptured resin bees prefer non-native plants from Eastern Asia, then my naturescaped semi-urban yard is not the ideal oasis for them that it appears to be for all the native bee species that spend their summers in it!

I'll continue to make my naturescaped yard a haven for native pollinators with hundreds of native plant options. Invasive pollinators like the sculptured resin bee are welcome to pollinate any of the 43 native plants they apparently like, but they won't find any treats from their native Eastern Asia habitat in my yard!

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