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Melecta / cuckoo carpenter Bee

Family: Apidae

Genus: Melecta

Common Name: Cuckoo Bee


Physical Appearance

Melecta species typically have a fuzzy yellow or buff (sometimes banded with black) to rust color thorax and a black abdomen, thus slightly resembling a smallish bumble bee. But because the female does not provision nests for her offspring, she lacks the specialized hair structures (either pollen brushes or pollen baskets) for transporting pollen.



Approximately 20 percent of North American native bee species are cuckoo bees.


Cuckoo bees detect the nests of their host bees by scent. Melecta females parasitize the nests of females belonging to the genus Anthophora.

Once the host nest is detected, the female cuckoo bee will loiter near the nest entrance, waiting for the host female to leave on a foraging trip. When she has left, the female cuckoo bee slips into the nest and lays her eggs.


Cuckoo bee larvae have specially shaped jaws which they use to destroy the host egg or larvae, thus commandeering all the nest provisions for themselves.


Moderate sized bees, approximately 1/2 inch in length.



There are only six species of Melecta in North America, restricted almost entirely to the western United States. One species, Melecta pacifica, has a range which extends to the east coast, but abundance is greater in the west.


Number of species in North America



Emergence Time


Nesting Habit
Melecta species are cleptoparasites; the female lays her eggs in the nests of other bees, and her offspring eat the food stores of the host. Melecta females lay their eggs in the ground nests of digger bees (genus Anthophora).


Additional Flowers Visited in Natural Areas
Astragalus (milkvetch)
Mertenisia (bluebells)

Visited Plants

Arctostaphylos / Manzanita

Penstemon / Beardtongue

Phacelia / Scorpionweed

Ribes / Currant

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