Tetraloniella bees


Honey bees are not the only bee species that are significant for human wellbeing. Tetraloniella bees are a group of native bee species that do not produce honey but are important pollinators of crops and wild plants. Females have a sting, but they are not aggressive and will only sting if handled. Tetraloniella bees are solid looking medium-large hairy bees that are often striped. Males have long antennae . They nest in the soil and live independently (i.e. they are solitary). This fact sheet provides information about these bees to encourage farmers to understand and protect them to help ensure that their crops are effectively pollinated.

From a conservation and agricultural standpoint it is not necessary to recognise all the different bee genera. However, it is important to know that there is a large bee biodiversity. Different bee genera pollinate different plant species, although there is some overlap that acts as a buffer as bee populations wax and wane. For healthy ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems both diversity and abundance in the bee fauna is important.

Common Name (Language)

Long-horned bees (English)

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Hymenoptera

Family: Apidae

Subfamily: Apinae

Tribe: Eucerini

Genus: Tetraloniella Ashmead, 1899

Species in the Genus

Over 120 species belonging to the genus Tetraloniella have so far been recorded in the world. Most species are known fromNorth America.

Species in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda

Fewer than 10 Tetraloniella species are known from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Eardley and Urban 2010).


Tetraloniella bees are not well known by local people (including farmers) in East Africa, where the name bee is generally thought only to apply to honey bees. However, many local people who see Tetraloniella bees at flowers will possibly know that they are bees but think that they are honeybees. They are medium-large sized bees that resemble honeybees. They often have a striped abdomen and the males have long antennae . They are frequently found foraging in shaded environments.

Possible Causes of Confusion

These bees can be confused with honey bees because they are similar in size. They can also be confused with some Megachile bees (leafcutter and dauber bees) and those in the genera Tetralonia, Amegilla and Anthophora. They can be easily differentiated from honey bees as they do not have colonies and carry pollen in hairy brushes on the hind leg while honey bees have a pollen basket. Tetraloniella bees do not use leaves, as do most Megachile species, to construct their nests.

Distribution in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda

Tetraloniella bees can be found in most districts and agro ecologies, from lowlands and coastal lands to the highlands. They will be found in forest lands, shrub lands, rangelands, farm lands, marshlands, plains and plateaus. Farmers can assist in reporting the presence of these bees in their neighbourhood. This would improve our knowledge of their distribution in the region.


Tetraloniella bees are common in farmlands particularly those with some set-aside lands that can provide shelter and nests. They are also abundant in areas surrounding natural habitats. These bees are frequently observed in savannah and woodland and swamp edge habitats.


Tetraloniella are solitary bees that nest in the soil located in dry places.

Crops Visited

Tetraloniella bee species in East Africa are polylectic; i.e. they collect nectar and pollen from various flowering crop species belonging to different plant families. These bees like visiting plants with blue, yellow, white and purple colours. Some species in the genus Tetraloniella have been observed in Uganda performing buzz pollination on tomatoes, egg plants and chillies. This makes them ideal candidates for greenhouse pollination of these crops in East Africa where tomatoes and egg plants are important fruits found in almost all markets. They are efficient pollinators of egg plants, tomato, chillies and coffee in Uganda.

Other Plants Visited

Tetraloniella bees visit various wild plant species from various families, notably those in the Amaranthaceae, Malvaceae, Solanaceae and Asteraceae families.

Economic / Ecological Importance

Little information exists on the usefulness of these bees to the lives of the people in East Africa. However, they are pollinators and thus they are likely to contribute to increased agricultural productivity and the conservation of the natural biological diversity of the region.


InEast Africa, Tetraloniella bees and other bee taxa are threatened by factors such as habitat degradation, agricultural intensification (e.g. replacing hedges with barbed wire fences, and increased use of herbicides which can affect wild flower numbers) and the misuse of insecticides. Trampling by people and livestock can affect these soil-nesting species. Tetraloniella bee populations in East Africa are likely to be affected by pests and diseases but information on this subject is lacking. The lack of knowledge of about these bees and their economic importance by people (de facto custodians of nature) is significant as their conservation and management practices implemented at the farm level will depend to a large extent upon the value that people attach to them.

Conservation and Management Practices

There are now concerted research efforts in the region to develop best practices for conservation and management of bees to enhance crop production. Theoretically, bee conservation and management is inexpensive and adopted activities can also improve the aesthetic value of the landscape. Such practices involve setting land aside (e.g. a 1-metre strip) in the farmland to host all year round food resources for the bees, as well as safer sites for nesting, mating, resting and refuge from natural enemies. During flowering, farmers should manage pesticide usage carefully to avoid poisoning flower-visiting bees. Farmers should also minimise pesticide drift from the field to adjacent areas. Laws governing registration and use of plant protection products also indirectly play a major role in the protection of pollinators. Wood collection should be managed to conserve nesting sites these wood-nesting. KARI (the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) is developing protocols for mass rearing of different species of solitary bees. Any successful results from this research will be freely communicated to the public. In addition, KARI is collaborating with other stakeholders to ensure in situ conservation and management of bees for pollination purposes. Much of the work of conserving native bees will be underpinned by raising public awareness of the importance of these species.

Legislation (National and International)

There is not yet any legislation in East Africa that explicitly addresses pollinators. However, there is scattered legislation for the protection of biodiversity particularly that covering environmental protection, protection of wildlife and heritage sites, protection of forests and natural resources such as water catchments. In addition, laws governing registration and use of plant protection products also indirectly play a major role in the protection of pollinators Such legislation, together with market-based mechanisms such as the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) codes and practices may help to protect bees albeit incidentally. At the international level, the Conservation on Biological Diversity (CBD) is spearheading strategies to enforce bee management for pollination purposes within the member countries, which include Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Farmers should lobby their governments to develop Integrated Pest Management policies that would protect bees and other insects of importance in agriculture.


1. Eardley CD, Gikungu MW and Schwarz MP (2009) Bee conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa andMadagascar: diversity, status and threats. Apidologie, 40: 355–366.

2. Eardley CD, Kuhlmann M and Pauly A. (2010) The Bee Genera and Subgenera of sub-Saharan Africa. ABC Taxa vol 7: i-vi, 138 pp. http://www.abctaxa.be/volumes/vol-7-bees

3. Eardley CD and Urban R (2010) Catalogue of Afrotropical bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Apiformes). Zootaxa, 2455: 1–548

4. Michener CD (2007) The Bees of the world, the John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London , pp 913.

5. Eardley CD and Brooks RW (1989) The genus Anthophora Latreille in southern Africa (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae). Entomology Mem. Dep. Agric. Wat. Supply Repub . S . Afr. No 76:1-52.


Théodore Munyuli, Busitema University - Uganda; Muo Kasina, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) - Kenya; Juma Lossini, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) – Tanzania; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat – UK; Connal Eardley, Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) – South Africa.


We recognise the support from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI)Tanzania and Busitema University (Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences) - Eastern Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).


BioNET-EAFRINET regional coordinator: [email protected]