Melissodes: Longhorned, Digger Bees

Digging for the future…

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

Digger Bees in the Old Iris Box

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These lovely female digger bees set up shop in my mother’s cleared out Iris box. I was lucky enough to capture this beautiful aggregation of these solitary ground nesters, and I love sharing it with you!  I believe they are Melissodes, which I wrote about a few weeks ago and you can view that post here.   There are a few points of interest in this slide show.

First, you will notice that some mounds of soil do not show a hole in the top.  Well, that is because lady digger has temporarily plugged it for safety, or she could be finished nesting in that tunnel.  They spend a lot of time moving soil, but I didn’t see it happening, as everything they did was in fast-forward motion!

It was challenging capturing these beauties in action, as they were hasty to retreat into the tunnels, and speedy to take flight for another round of foraging!  I tried to catch them collecting pollen and nectar, but all I could get was a blur of wings and antennae.  I am happy with the photos of the two I did capture heading into their tunnels; it is proof these holes are bee holes.

I observed them visiting snap dragon blooms in addition to sunflowers.  I couldn’t believe the amount of pollen all over these girls; they were always bright yellow with the dust of pollen upon return from foraging.   They are excellent pollinators with that pollen-carrying capacity!

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Melissodes, as is true with many fall flying bees, seek out sunflowers, and if you look closely you’ll see the pollen dust on the pedals of this bloom.  That’s a load of protein rich goodness which will give bees long sustaining energy.  Sunflowers are a long awaited treat to many!

I do hope you enjoy these pictures, and I hope you are fortunate enough to see these busy bees this fall.  Don’t forget to look down at the soil and under plants or between rocks; that’s where the good stuff can be found!

Cheers to the movement!

Bees of Summer

Spring and summer bee populations overlap in some regards, but there are newcomers once the month of June arrives.  This is not a complete list of bees for the summer months, but I think it gives you an idea of how many different varieties you can find while enjoying the outdoors!  This list only includes bees, but there are a wide variety of moths, butterflies, flies, and even wasps out and about doing their job for the circle of life.

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Peponapis, or squash bees, begin flying as soon as there are squash blooms, as they are specialists, and rely solely on squash resources.  You’ll find them nestled inside squash flowers early in the morning, so don’t forget to take a peek on your way to work or school!

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Bumble bees persist throughout the summer, and you will recognize them by their loud buzz as they fly by, as well as their very furry coat.  There are 40 species of bumble bees, with all sorts of banding patterns on the backs of their abdomens.

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Anthidium, or wool carder, bees are also present throughout the summer.  You will identify them by their hover-like flying technique around mint plants as well as Lamb’s ear. The males are very territorial, and will chase even bumblebees off the plant they are guarding!

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Honey bees are among the summer flyers as well! They are the most recognizable of all bees, because we know them best.

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Ceratina is a petite black bee who joins the forces in the summer months. If you are not paying close attention, you will miss this tiny flying insect.

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Here is a leafcutter bee. They join the pollinating forces in May, but persist all summer.  They have a very furry abdomen, which is where they carry pollen, so it is often dusted with orange or yellow powder.

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Osmia, or mason bee, made her appearance in March, but will carry on until late May, and sometimes may even have a second generation of bees mid-summer!  They are very dark and easily mistaken for a fly, but when you look closely, you can see they are black bees with a hue of blue in the sunlight.  They also carry pollen on their abdomen, so may even see a yellow dusting underneath.

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Andrena, or mining bee, is another spring riser, but will be around all summer too.  There are many colors and sizes of mining bees, but here’s one brown example, and this one is rather small too.

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This large black flyer is likely a carpenter bee who will begin flying in the summer months.

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This is a halictus bee who flies during the summer months as well.  They can be petite bees, but larger than Ceratina, with baskets on their legs, and usually a grayish color.

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Here are some more Carpenter bees emerging early June.  Look at all that sawdust!

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This is a metallic green sweat bee, who is highly active in the summer months as well!  Females are all green while males have the combo of stripes and green.

Cheers to observing and joining the movement!

Jessica

The Bees of Spring

I have spent many hours observing bees, and it occurred to me that it would be really fun to post a series on the bees of spring, summer, and fall.  This series will build on itself, and at the end you will see a large variety of bee species flying in the warm months of the year!

Bees don’t all emerge at the same time, nor do they depart from this world at the same time.  Groups of bees enter at differing times from spring to fall, and all of them are important to the pollination of the flowers blooming at the time of their existence, especially specialist bees!

I will begin with a collage of the early risers of bee species; those of spring.  I have chosen to stick with a pictorial tour because I happen to have pictures of all of these bees. This collage is NOT all inclusive, nor were all pictures take in the spring months, but it will give you an idea of the bees to expect to see in the spring, and the bees included in the tour are all generalists, meaning they visit any available blooms.

Spring is the quiet entrance of hope after the long months of cold.  Buds begin to develop into edible provisions for the buzzing insects we call bees, among other pollinators! 

Increasingly, the quiet calm of snowy earth begins to awaken into a vivacious show of diverse life, interdependent on each other.

Early bloomers need early risers, and early risers are eager to eat, the two benefit each other in a sort of web of life.  This is where the tour begins, enjoy!

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Honey bees really never go away, but do come out in temperatures as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit!  We all know and love them for the sweet treat they make, and we sometimes take, honey! 

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Halictus bees begin in early spring too! They can be rather small, thus difficult to spy, but if you look closely, you will find them!

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Bumble bees are early risers, and this furry coats assists in their ability to stay warm and transport pollen from bloom to bloom in cooler temperatures (some fly at 37 degrees Fahrenheit)!

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Anthidium, also known as the wool carder bee, rises in the spring months, and is often seen buzzing around lamb’s ear, because the ladies of this bunch use the wooly hairs from this plant to line their nests.

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Andrena, also known as a mining bee, emerges in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and uses the sun to warm up and take flight!

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Osmia: Also known as the mason bee, rises as early as March! Maybe the dark color serves as a sort of thermal wear for her.  Fruit trees are a favorite for these bees, and you know fruit trees are some of the earliest to bloom!

My Backyard is Host to Many

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I have compiled a collection of pictures I captured today of all the pollinators feeding in my backyard. What entertainment! And, I don’t know if you knew we were hit with a massive hail storm at the beginning of June, and my yard says hail smail! It has bounced back quite nicely!