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The alkali bee, Nomia melanderi,[1] is a ground-nesting bee native to deserts and semi-arid desert basins of the western United States. It was described by Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell in 1906.

Nomia melanderi
3-Sancassania boharti on Nomia melanderi BMOC 96-0916-059.jpg
Male bee. The lower frame is a blow-up of the small rectangle in the upper frame, showing a Zodion obliquefasciatum parasitizing him.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Halictidae
Genus: Nomia
Subgenus: Acunomia
Species: N. melanderi
Binomial name
Nomia melanderi
(Cockerell, 1906)

This bee nests in salt-saturated, or alkaline, soil. Alkali bees are an effective pollinator of alfalfa.[2] The bee uses a specialized technique of opening alfalfa flowers for pollination by applying pressure to snap open the keel of the flower. Due to the unusual nesting habits of this bee, farmers have developed methods to accommodate them with salty mud-fields where they can burrow and lay their eggs. Farmers started doing this after realizing that plowing up natural flats like these decreased the yield of alfalfa dramatically.[3][4]

It is preyed upon by the conopid fly Zodion obliquefasciatum.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Nomia melanderi Cockerell, 1906". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ "...Nomia melanderi, sustainably managed to pollinate alfalfa ...", USDA
  3. ^ Moisset, Beatriz; Wojcik, Vicki. "The Alkali Bee (Nomia melanderi)". USDA Forest Service. 
  4. ^ Matthew Cobb (Aug 11, 2018). "Buzz: A beautiful book shows why modern bees are hippy wasps at heart". New Scientist.  (A book review of Buzz by Thor Hanson.)
  5. ^ Howell, J.F. (1967). "Biology of Zodion obliquefasciatum (Macq.) (Diptera: Conopidae) a parasite of the alkali bee, Nomia melanderi Ckll. (Hymenoptera: Halictidae)". Bulletin of the Washington Agriculture Experimental Station. 51: 1–33.