Delicate Footed Flower Bearer

I spend hours in my garden everyday during the warm months of the year, observing the life that bounces from flower to flower below, and from limb to limb above.  I listen to the audible expressions of the visitors who frequent the fruits of my many years of outdoor labor.  Many days I see repeat visitors, and every so often I catch a glimpse of a new arrival, and very rarely, I am prepared with my camera in hand.  This is something I must improve upon, as magic doesn’t present itself on any particularly predictable schedule.  My luck was on point this day that I found this lovely creature perched on Catmint in the early hours of the morning.  Of course, it was my phone camera, but a camera nevertheless!  She is a bee of the Apidae family, one of diverse size and color, including the bumblebees and honeybees.

IMG_0216

Her genus is Anthophorini, and that’s where I will stop with all the scientific terminology.  I have never seen this bee in my yard before.  She tried to sneak in and sneak out, but I was an astute observer that day.  Of course, the picture gave me reason to learn more about her, and I know you are dying to know some interesting facts about her too!  Much of what I am about to share has come from the book, “The Bees in Your Backyard.”

Anthophorini has two species, Anthophora and Habropoda.  Anthophora means “flower bearer,” while Habropoda means “graceful/delicate foot.”   To me, she is about the cutest bee I have ever seen! So, the meaning of the names suit her very well.  From my vantage point, I couldn’t easily or accurately determine which one she was, but her characteristics are definitely Anthophorini.

These bees have more hair than the average bee, and often have hairy legs, sometimes looking like leg warmers.  The colors can range from slate gray to rusty-red to black!  Wow, what a range.  Some nest in twigs, but the majority nest in tunnels underground with many neighbors, otherwise termed an aggregation.  Their size can range from 1/2″ to 1″.

Interestingly, this genus of bees are very good buzz pollinators, and all this time I was thinking bumblebees (cousins of Anthophorini) were the rock stars of buzz pollination!  This means they are great for tomato and blueberry pollination, among other plants with fused anthers.

One very interesting fact, I found worth everyone knowing, is that not all of these bees emerge in the same year!  That means that there are bees of this genus resting in diapause for 2, 7, and even 10 years!  That’s astounding to me!  How do they know when it is their year?  They are cooped up in a tiny room deep underground, where the sun doesn’t shine, and the surface are hardly felt, and they somehow know it’s time to emerge.  That’s a miracle!

I have found the natural world to be endlessly entertaining, and one of the best teachers. Learning from the natural world will never become dull.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote I recently stumbled upon.

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it,” Roald Dahl.

Now, I’m off to find more magic to share with you! Won’t you go and find some magic too?

Jess

Mr. and Mrs. Digger Dining Together

Digger bees are devoted sunflower seed setters, as they love the sunflower family blooms.  I was very lucky to capture both male and female digger bees dining side by side.  Learn a bit more about digger bees here.IMG_6934

Lady digger is on the left and mister digger is on the right.  The male has very long antennae for mating purposes.  Check out the video posted on YouTube by Karla Thompson.

Please do share what you learn, and thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!

Leafcuttter Bee (Megachile) in Action

Yesterday was one of my lucky days, as I was able to capture leaf cutter bees cutting their half-moon shaped pieces out of my raspberry bushes, not just once, but three times!  I think you should see what this looks like up close too!  If you’d like a quick refresher, or you’d like to learn about the leaf cutter bee, follow this LINK.

Thank you for joining the movement!

 

Melissodes: Longhorned, Digger Bees

Digging for the future…

IMG_4336

I introduce to you, the Melissodes bee! Look at the pollen all over this bee, and check out those antennae! Commonly named the Long horned digger bees, these beauties are late to emerge, and pollinated flowers of similar timing, such as gumweed seen in this photo.  I spotted these bees on a hike up Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, CO, last week (August), and of course had to pull out the camera!

The bee in the picture is a male, and I know this because he has very long antennae, whereas the females have shorter antennae, about half the length of the male’s.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see any females the day of the Mt. Saints hike.  This is likely due to the fact that males emerge sooner than females, and I was lucky enough to witness the beginning of digger bee season!

However, I may have seen a female on a hike last fall near Frisco, CO.  Have a look. What do you think?

IMG_2109IMG_2112

Another difference between the sexes of these bees, is where they slumber.  Males will cluster together on plants, or in crevices in rocks stacked on top of each other to keep warm until morning.  Females sleep underground in the nest they are building.

The title “digger bee” has a literal meaning here.  The females dig into the ground to create nesting cavities.  They like loose sandy soil, because they will backfill the nesting hole with loose sand every time they leave to forage for nectar and pollen.  This serves to camouflage the nest, thus protecting it from predators.  Although these bees are solitary, they will happily form aggregations of neighboring nests, and sometimes even sharing an entrance leading to many different nesting rows of different lady bees!

IMG_4350

Longhorned bees are late arrivals, and have been known to fly into October, pollinating fall blooms. They gravitate toward flowers in the sunflower family, but they’ll happily behave as a generalist and take whatever nectar and pollen is available at the time.

IMG_3870

Look at this photo bomber bee! I was photographing the butterfly, and didn’t realize I had captured two pollinators!  Can you identify this bee now?

If you’d like to see these bees nest in your yard:

  1. Grow lots of sunflowers and late blooming perennials.
  2. Provide a small mound of sandy soil.
  3. Take the time to observe everyday, because the smallest creatures are also the hardest to catch in the act of living!

Cheers to joining this very important movement!

 

 

Orchid Bees

10288215245_9

Euglossa is the scientific  name of the orchid bees.  Orchid bees are beautifully colored in metallic green, blue and copper tones, striking enough to stop you in your tracks when you notice them.  They live in tropical places, most of which are located in Central and South America, however, some do live in Florida.  The most obvious way to find orchid bees is to first locate orchid blooms, or blue and violet flowers, and the striking colors of these bees will give them away.

Collecting nectar and pollen is most important to female orchid bees, along with collecting resin for building nests.  The resin is used to partition between individually developing orchid bees, and to seal the front of the nesting cavity to keep the developing young safe from predation.  Female orchid bees are cavity nesters, which means they look for existing cavities to build a humble nest of young bees.  She then collects pollen and nectar for her young as they grow, which is different from her tunnel nesting cousins, the leafcutter bee and mason bee, and many other solitary bees who will leave a large provision for the developing bee to feed on in their absence. From the appearance of this nest, orchid bees might have been social at one time in their ancestry, as their nest looks much like the nest of a bumblebee.  Interestingly, these bees to occasionally share nests with sisters and work as a team to raise their young. It’s hard work providing food to every mouth as they need it!

euglossa_imperialis-jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale

This photo by Paul Bisceglio, and the associated article from the Smithsonian can be found HERE.

Males, on the other hand, like to smell good, so they look for various sources to collect scents that will attract females.  This is where the orchid bee gets its name, because often, males are found swarming around orchid blooms, collecting the perfumes to be stored on their hind legs.  In the process of collecting the perfumes, male orchid bees become the primary pollinators of orchids, and you can view male orchid bees doing just that in this VIDEO  from the movie, Wings of Life by Disney Nature.  Here’s a video of a male resting on a leaf, as they do not sleep in the nests females have built.  This footage is so great!

I hope you enjoyed learning about a new bee species our planet benefits from! Cheers to joining the movement!  If you are hungry for a little more footage, HERE YA GO!