Cuckoo bees are native bees that have an interesting lifestyle. They enter the nests of other bee species and lay their eggs on the food and eggs found inside. Technically, this lifestyle is referred to as cleptoparasitism. Although it seems like an odd behaviour, it is not entirely unusual in the bee world: most families of “honest, hard-working” bees have a member of the family that is a cleptoparasite.
Cuckoo bees lack pollen-collecting and nest-constructing abilities and are normally quite hairless compared to other bees. This fact decreases their ability as pollinators.
They are often more brightly coloured than are nest-constructing bees. Because of this, they are often confused with wasps, especially since some cuckoo bees seem to mimic wasps. Under normal circumstances it is very difficult to tell cleptoparasitic bees from wasps without very close examination.
Cuckoo bees do not build their own nests. Instead they are seen flying around slowly looking for nests of their hosts. Those that invade ground nests will fly low over the ground, often entering holes or cracks in the soil. Those that attack species that nest in stems or holes in walls or wood, will fly in regular patterns around those materials, inspecting anything that looks similar to a host nest entrance.
Cuckoo bees feed on nectar from flowers. They can often be seen on flowers late in the day when their hosts have stopped foraging and have returned to their nests for the night.