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Mission, Texas

Nomada vierecki; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp



Genus Nomada
Tribe Nomadini

Like the Epeolus and Triepeolus cuckoo bees shown on the previous page of this guide, nomad bees are cleptoparasites (or brood parasites) belonging to the bee subfamily Nomadinae.

Nomad bees lay eggs in the nests of ground-nesting bees -- such as Andrena mining bees.  When the nomad eggs hatch, the nomad larvae – which have large, sickle-like mouth parts -- kill off the host larvae and eat the provisions left for them by the Andrena parent.

Many Nomada parasitize the nests of multiple Andrena species.  Others target specific host  species.  For example, the neighborly nomad bee (Nomada vicina) parasitizes the nests of hairy-banded mining bees (Andrena hirticincta). The spotted nomad bee (Nomada maculata) targets the neighborly mining bee (Andrena vicina).  The beautiful nomad bee (Nomada bella) is a cleptoparasite of Andrena imitatrix.  Some Nomada parasitize the nests of other bee genera.


Within the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Nomada tend to belong to the vegana species group --  this is the sole nomad bee group found in the neotropics.  Its members parasitize the nests of Exomalopsis, Agapostemon and Nomia.  The most common nomad species found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Nomada texana, is thought to lay its eggs in the nests of Agapostemon.  The smaller Nomada guierezziae and  Nomada vierecki are believed to target the small bees of the genus Exomalopsis.

Traits of Nomad Bees and Species Identification

Nomad bees are found throughout the world.  There are nearly 300 nomad species in North America alone; at least 20 reside in Texas.

Nomad bees look wasp-like and tend to have the flashy appearance of custom-detailed race cars.  They have sleek bodies, often adorned with well-defined stripes and crisp markings.  They are usually red, black, yellow or a combination of these colors. Most nomad bees found in Texas have black or red bodies adorned with yellow markings; red or yellow legs;  red, reddish-brown or partly yellow antennae; and red, green or brownish eyes.   


General coloration varies from one type of  nomad bee to another and can be used to help identify  species.  The Texas nomad bee, for example, can be identified in part by its black body, red legs, the yellow stripes on its abdomen, the yellow spots on its thorax, and its yellow facial mask. 


Nomad bees have several distinctive minute traits that aid in identifying their genus:  (1)  the thoraxes of nomad bees are heavily pitted; (2) female nomad bees have specialized hair patches on the tips of their abdomens; (3) the pygidial plate (abdomen tip) of male nomad bees is pronounced and often notched;  and  (4) the jugal lobe of the nomad bee's wing is small.  These traits are illustrated in the accompanying photo strip.

Pollinator Plants

Cuckoo bees do not gather pollen from flowers, because they obtain it instead by plundering other bees' nests.  As a result, female nomad bees do not have scopae (pollen-collecting hairs) on their legs or abdomens.  Nomad bees do, however, drink nectar from flowers.  They tend to alight on flowers visited by their hosts or to patrol the ground looking for host bee nests.

Nomada vegana nomad bee - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Nomada vegana

Characteristics of nomad bees


Order:   Hymenoptera

Family:   Apidae

Subfamily:  Nomadinae

Tribe:  Nomadini

Genus:   Nomada
Species shown here:

   Nomada gutierreziae (snakeweed nomad bee)

   Nomada texana (Texas nomad bee)

   Nomada vierecki (Viereck's nomad bee)

Nomada Species of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

​Texas nomad bee

Nomada texana

Family:  Apidae

Size:  11 mm  (female)

           9 mm (male)

Associated  plants at NBC: 

Seaside goldenrod
Solidago sempervirens


Bidens alba
(Family Asteraceae)

When found:

April - October

Common in Cameron, Hidlago

  and Starr Counties

Nomada texana nomad bee - (c) 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Texas nomad bee  (Nomada texana)

Nomada texana cuckoo bee - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A female Texas nomad bee (Nomada texana)

The Texas nomad bee, Nomada texana, is a common and widespread Texas species, but little is known about its habits.    As noted above, it is thought to parasitize the nests of Agapostemon.   At the National Butterfly Center, Nomada texana are most visible during periods when Agapostemon melliventris appears in large numbers.

Nomada texana can be identified in part by its relatively large size and its black body, red legs, reddish antennae  and  the yellow stripes on its abdomen and thorax.  Among the most distinctive features of this species (of both male and females) are the following.   (1) Two prominent yellow nearly-rectangular areas, underlined by a broad yellow bar, appear on the bee's propodeum.  (the rear face of the thorax).  (2)  There are are narrow, curved, pale-yellow lines on the sternum (on S3 and S4).  These may be relatively small or extend slightly onto the sides of the abdomen.   (3)  On the upper abdomen, the yellow or pale-yellow stripe that crosses T3 is uninterrupted. 

Males have more extensive yellow coloration on the face than females; this kind of sexual dimorphism is typical of many nomad bee  species. The specific traits of this bee are noted in more detail in the accompanying photo strip.

Viereck's nomad bee

Nomada vierecki

Family:  Apidae

Size:  7 - 8 mm  (female and male)

Associated plants:

Arkansas dozedaisy

(Aphanostephus skirrhobasis)

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where found:

May 29, 2021

Falcon State Park

Roma (Starr Co.)

April 26, 2023

Dos Venadas Ranch
Rio Grande City, TX  (Starr Co.)

Nomada vierecki; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Viereck's nomad bee  (Nomada vierecki)

Nomada vierecki; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A male Viereck's nomad bee  (Nomada vierecki)

Viereck’s nomad bee is relatively uncommon in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The distribution of Nomada vierecki is centered along the western half of the Mexico-United States border, in New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua. 

Nomada vierecki is a small dark-gray bee, with ivory and red  markings and light- gray eyes.   The extensive reddish coloring on the bee's body helps distinguish it from other Valley species:  red usually appears on parts of the bee's head; its antennae; its legs; T1 of its abdomen; its propodeum; and much of the sternum.   The sternum of both the male and female Nomada vierecki  has distinctive curved pale-yellow lines on S3 and S4. 

Viereck’s nomad bee is situated within the subgroup Micronomada, whose members parasitize the nests of small bees such as Exomalopsis and Halictidae.  The male bee shown  here was found on a cenizo bush mobbed by Exomalopsis birkmannni.

Associated plants:

Arkansas dozedaisy

(Aphanostephus skirrhobasis)

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where seen:

April 26, 2023

Dos Venadas Ranch
Rio Grande City, TX  (Starr Co.)

Snakeweed nomad bee

Nomada gutierreziae

Family:  Apidae

Size:  7 - 9 mm  (female and male)


A male snakeweed nomad bee

Nomada guierreziae is a small nomad bee thought to parasitize the nests of Exomalopsis.  It can be most easily recognized by the combined red-and-yellow banding on its abdomen, and by the distinctive red markings lining the rear and top portions of its compound eyes.   Males' faces have an unusual pattern of yellow markings that aid in their recognition.  These  traits are shown in the accompanying photo strip.

CITE THIS PAGE:  Sharp, Paula and Ross Eatman.  "Nomada."  Wild Bees of the National Butterfly Center of Mission, Texas. 15 Jan. 2019,  Accessed [day/month/year guide accessed].

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