Stenotritidae Bee Family – A Beginner’s Guide

Stenotritidae Bee Family

The Stenotritidae bee family is mostly made up of large bees that have remarkable speed in flight. They are the only Australian bees that have two subantennal sulci.

What is the Stenotritidae bee family?

The Stenotritidae family, despite its modest number of species and genera, holds a unique niche in the world of bees. It is the smallest bee family, with two genera, Ctenocolletes and Stenotritus, and 21 species.

This bee family is only found in Australia, with the majority making their home in the western region.

Stenotritids are ground-nesting species, creating homes that can range drastically in size. While some are just 6 inches long, others can reach an astounding 10 feet.

Number of species    21
GeneraCtenocolletes, Stenotritus

Did you know? We summarize all seven bee families here.


The Stenotritidae bee family has two genera, the Ctenocolletes and Stenotritus.

1. Ctenocolletes

The Ctenocolletes genus is composed of ten distinct species, some strikingly beautiful. Many have mostly black bodies adorned with hair that ranges from black to grey and even vivid orange. They often have narrow bands of pale hair.

Ctenocolletes smaragdina bees are considered one of Australia’s most visually striking bees. This species boasts a vibrant metallic green body interspersed with black and white hairs.

Ctenocolletes bees are large, growing up to ¾ inch in length. They are also fast-flying insects, a trait that allows them to evade potential threats and efficiently forage for food.

These bees nest deep within the sand, creating extensive burrow systems. These tunnels provide space to rear their young and take shelter from the hot Australian climate. This behavior demonstrates their adaptable traits, enabling them to survive in Australia’s arid sandy soils of the west.

Notable species

  • Ctenocolletes albomarginatus
  • Ctenocolletes centralis
  • Ctenocolletes fulvescens
  • Ctenocolletes nicholsoni
  • Ctenocolletes nigricans
  • Ctenocolletes ordensis
  • Ctenocolletes rufescens
  • Ctenocolletes smaragdinus
  • Ctenocolletes tigris
  • Ctenocolletes tricolor

2. Stenotritus

The Stenotritus genus represents the second half of the Stenotritidae family, consisting of 11 distinct species. These bees are known for their large, furry bodies.

Stenotritus bees share the rapid flight trait with the Ctenocolletes, making them effective foragers. This speed also plays a critical role during mating season. Male bees are equipped with unusually large eyes, a useful adaptation to help search for suitable mates.

Stenotritus bees show a preference for shallow nests in burrows. Unlike the deep-sand dwellers of the Ctenocolletes genus, these insects opt for firm soil to build their homes. They are more widely distributed throughout Australia, except for the eastern states and far north.

Notable species

  • Stenotritus elegans
  • Stenotritus elegantior
  • Stenotritus ferricornis
  • Stenotritus greavesi
  • Stenotritus murrayensis
  • Stenotritus nigrescens
  • Stenotritus nitidus
  • Stenotritus pubescens
  • Stenotritus rufocollaris
  • Stenotritus splendidus
  • Stenotritus victoriae

Commonly asked questions

What is the Stenotritidae bee family?

The Stenotritidae bee family is the smallest family of bees, consisting of two genera, Stenotritus and Ctenocolletes. All 21 species are exclusive to Australia.

Where can I find Stenotritidae bees?

Stenotritidae bees are indigenous to Australia, with most species located in the country’s western region. The Stenotritus genus lives throughout Australia, except for the eastern states and far north.

What do Stenotritidae bees look like?

Stenotritidae bees are known for their large size and fast-flying abilities. They have distinctive physical traits, such as black bodies with narrow bands of pale hair and, in some cases, vibrant metallic green bodies.

What makes Stenotritidae bees unique?

Stenotritidae bees are the only bees in Australia that have two subantennal sulci. They are also known for their ground-nesting behavior, creating nests ranging from 6 inches to 10 feet in length.

Are Stenotritidae bees harmful to humans?

Stenotritidae bees are not typically harmful to humans. Like most bees, they usually only sting in self-defense.

What do Stenotritidae bees eat?

Like other bees, Stenotritidae bees feed on nectar and pollen from flowers.

How do Stenotritidae bees reproduce?

Stenotritidae bees reproduce through mating flights. The males have large eyes to aid in sighting a female. After mating, female bees lay their eggs in nests they’ve built in the ground.

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