The KU entomology collection includes about 200 of these long-tongued, or orchid, bees from Central and South America. They are in the genus Exaerete (family Apidae, subfamily Apinae, tribe Euglossini). The metalic-looking Exaerete parasitizes the nests of other types of orchid bees, in the same way cuckoo birds do. By stealing space in the nests of other bees – behavior known as cleptoparasitism -- the bees do not have to build a home of their own or collect pollen to feed their young. The orchid bees that Exaerete parasitizes are the major pollinators of orchid flowers in the New World.
There are almost 20,000 known species of bees in the world. About half of them can be found among the 4.7 million catalogued specimens in the entomology collection, making it one of the most comprehensive bee collections in the world. Bees from every part of the world are represented, including those from hard-to-reach locations on the Arabian Peninsula, in central Africa and central Asia. Because the collection spans more than 140 years, researchers can examine changes to species across time, such as changes caused by climate change.