Phylogeny and biology of neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini)

Annu Rev Entomol. 2004;49:377-404. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.49.072103.115855.


Orchid bees (Euglossini), noted for their brilliant iridescence, are elusive pollinators throughout the American tropics. Males are especially important in the pollination of some orchids, from which they collect aromatic fragrances thought to play a role in territorial display and courtship. The tribe contains approximately 190 described species divided among five genera, distributed from Mexico to central Argentina. Relatively intense study of their biology in the 1960s through the mid-1980s shed light on their nesting biology, chemical ecology, and classification. Vigorous taxonomic research led to the naming of many new species, revisions, and checklists, but phylogenetic studies were scarce. In the two decades following the last comprehensive review, phylogenetic research has resulted in new hypotheses of generic relationships, and further examination of male display has led to additional interpretations. Females in natural and artificial nesting cavities have revealed social interactions and additional details of parasitism within the nest. This review emphasizes areas in need of more study, particularly phylogeny, phylogeography, chemosensory ecology, and comparative behavior, and highlights how historical context can guide future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees* / classification
  • Bees* / genetics
  • Bees* / physiology
  • Ecology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Orchidaceae / physiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pollen / physiology
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction
  • Seasons
  • Species Specificity