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Mission, Texas

Protandrena bancrofti; Copright 2023 Paula Sharp


Genus Prondrena

​Protandrena is a genus of small, usually dark-colored,  non-metallic bees that often have pale markings on their faces, thoraxes and legs.  The prefix prot means “earliest form of,” and Protandrena look like no-frills, tougher versions of Andrena.  Protandrena have pitted heads and bodies that give them an armored appearance, and their facial foveae are smaller than those of Andrena and hairless.  Male Protandrena lack the fuzzy look typical of many male Andrena.


Protandrena appear only in the Western Hemisphere.  They are widespread throughout temperate North America, and they are diversely represented in Mexico and the western United States.  Protandrena females are solitary ground-nesters that tend to build in sunny locations with sparse plant coverings.  Protandrena waterproof their egg chambers, and often nest in aggregations.

Protandrena belong to the subfamily Panurginae, which also includes Perdita and Calliopsis.  Unlike oxaeine bees and Andrena, shown in this guide's preceding sections, panurgines are “agglutinators” – that is, they add nectar to dry pollen and carry moist or partly-moistened pollen loads.


The forewings of Panurginae are distinctive and aid in separating them from other bees:  the marginal cell of the panurgine forewing is lopped off at the tip and strongly bent away from the edge of the wing.  The wings of Panurginae may have two or three submarginal cells.


Order:   Hymenoptera 

Family:   Andrenidae

Subfamily:  Panurginae

Tribe:  Protandrenini
Genus:   Protandrena

Species found at the NBC: 

       Protandrena (Protandrena) bancrofti

       Protandrena (Pseudopanurgus) texana

       Protandrena (Pterosarus) ornatipes

Protandrena texana; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Texas protandrena (Protandrena texana)


Protandrena Species of the National Butterfly Center

Fancy-footed protandrena

Protandrena (Pterosarus) ornatipes

Family:  Andrenidae

Size:   6 mm  (female and male)     

Associated plant:

Camphor daisy

(Rayjacksonia phyllocephala)

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where seen:

Nov. 9, 2021
Laguna Atascosa NWLR 

Los Fresnos (Cameron Co.)

Protandrena ornatipes; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Protandrena ornatipes

Protandrena ornatipes; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A male Protandrena ornatipes

Protandrena ornatipes is an Asteraceae specialist that has both a spring and fall season in Texas.  The bees shown here appeared in large numbers feeding on camphor daisy (Rayjacksonia phyllocephala) in the Bahia Grande Unit of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Cameron Co.) in mid-November 2021. 

The fancy-footed protandrena is a small, dark, green-eyed bee with fine, white and pale-brown hairs on its head, body and legs.  This species is best recognized by the distinctive yellow markings on the female and male bees'  faces.  Males have extensive yellow markings on both the face and legs.   The forewing of Protandrena ornatipes has two submarginal cells.


Protandrena ornatipes is widespread in Texas.  The female of this species is sometimes misidentified as Protandrena renimaculatus, whose females have similarly small, although not identically-shaped, pale facial markings, and whose range is more northern.  Close inspection under magnification and expert assistance may be required to verify identifications of this species.

Bancroft's protandrena

Protandrena (Protandrena) bancrofti

Family:  Andrenidae

Size:   9-11 mm  (female and male)     

Associated plant:

Copper globemallow

Sphaeralcea angustifolia))

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where seen:

June, 2021
El Mesteño Ranch 

Puerto Rico (Hidalgo Co.)

Protandrena bancrofti; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Protandrena bancrofti

Bancroft’s protandrena is a black, medium-sized bee with an abdomen banded by pale hairs, reddish-brown wings and grey-blue eyes.  It is large for a Protandrena. 


The female Protandrena bancrofti is easily distinguished by its idiosyncratic ivory facial markings, which entomologist T.D.A. Cockerell described as “trilobed, the lobes acute, like a leaf”.   The male Protandrena bancrofti (not shown here) is more slenderly-built than the female, and has pale-yellow markings on its lower legs.  On the male bee, the pale facial mask is more extensive, and the labrum is yellow.  The forewings of Protandrena brancrofti have three submarginal cells.


Bancroft’s protandrena appeared in early June 2021 at El Mesteño Ranch, located in Puerto Rico, Texas (Hidalgo County).  There appear to be no prior records of this species in Hidalgo County, but Protandrena bancrofti is widespread in Texas, although relatively uncommon.  Protandrena bancrofti occurs throughout the central United States, from the Mexican border to Canada.  It ranges south as far as central Mexico.


Protandrena may be either generalist or specialist pollinators.  Bancroft's protandrena has been documented feeding on a wide spectrum of flora, including nightshades, pea-family plants and Asteraceae.  The female Bancroft’s protandrena shown here was found foraging on copper globemallow (Sphaeralcea angustifolia). Protandrena bancrofti is a vibratile (“buzz”) pollinator, an unusual trait among Andrenidae.

Texas protandrena

Protandrena (Pseudopanurgus) texana

Family:  Andrenidae

Size:   7 mm  (female) 

           6 mm  (male)   

Associated plant:

Texas palafox

(Palafoxia texana)

Plant family:  Asteraceae


(Aloysia macrostachya)

Plant family:  Verbenaceae

When and where seen:

May-June, 2021
Falcon State Park

Roma (Starr Co.)

Protandrena texana; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Protandrena texana

Protandrena texana is a robustly-built small black bee with a broad head; a nearly hairless thorax with a densely pitted central area; faintly-defined bands of pale hairs on its abdomen; and black legs whose lower segments are covered with white hairs.  Females carry pollen on long, feathery, white scopal hairs located on their hind tibiae and basitarsi. 


Males of this species (not shown here) have faces that are primarily ivory on the lower half; extensive pale areas on their lower legs; and pale pronotal lobes.  Both male and female Protandrena texana have distinctive rounded bosses (bumps) behind the top inner edges of each compound eye.  The bees' forewings have two submarginal cells.


Protandrena texana may be very difficult to distinguish from similar bees which, like this species, formerly occupied the genus Pseudopanurgus.  Species identification may require the assistance of an expert and frequently turns on such minute traits as the pitting on the bees’ thoraxes and abdomens, and the size and quality of the bossed areas behind the bees’ compound eyes.

Protandrena texana is widespread in southern Texas, although uncommon.  It has been found as far west as New Mexico and ranges into Mexico at least as far south as Tamaulipas.

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

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