Posts Tagged: leafcutter bee
One left hungry. One didn't.
We watched a leafcutter bee (genus Megachile) foraging on a gold coin flower (Asteriscus maritimus 'Gold Coin') yesterday when suddenly danger lurked.
A jumping spider peered over the petals, its legs (aka "claws") extended in anticipation, the mark of a good hunter.
The jumping spider (family Salticidae), easily identified by four pairs of eyes, can jump several lengths of its body.
That's good enough to nail a leafcutter bee, but not this time.
Score: Leafcutter Bee 1, Jumping Spider, 0.
Leafcutter bee forages on a gold coin flower, unaware that a jumping spider lurks. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of jumping spider. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), so named because they cut leaves and petals to line their nests, are smaller than the honey bees but move faster. These native bees are easily recognizable by the black-white bands on their abdomen.
Catching them in flight requires a lot of patience.
We watched one leafcutter bee dart from catmint flower to catmint flower (Nepeta). It is 2 p.m. One movement of the camera and off it goes. One step toward it and it takes flight. A shadow over it and it vanishes.
This one (below) managed to maneuver around carder bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, assorted butterflies, a curious cat determined to sample the catmint, and a persistent spider that cunningly wove its web right between two stems.
Finally, it overcame all the obstacles for its reward: a long sip of nectar.
Caught in Flight
Sip of Nectar
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, is more than just a haven for honey bees.
Think bumble bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, sunflower bees and scores of other bees.
The grand opening celebration of the garden will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, but the bees and other native pollinators are already out there.
And have been for some time.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, has been monitoring the garden for the past two years--from open field to planted garden.
He's found more than 50 different species of bees representing five families (Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae and Megachilidae).
They include the striped sweat bee Halictus ligatus from the family, Halictidae; the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii from the family Apidae; the leafcutter bee, Megachile sp., from the family Megachilidae; and the sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata from the family Apidae.
How colorful they are. And how diverse.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
The eyes have it.
Look at the compound eyes of an insect. Some are colorful, some are drab. But they are all organs that detect light.
Most insects "have some sight and many possess highly developed visual systems," write UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Pete Cranston in the fourth edition of their textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, published by Wiley-Blackwell earlier this year.
"Virtually all adult insects and nymphs have a pair of large, prominent compound eyes, which often cover nearly 360 degrees of visual space," they point out.
If you're studying to be an entomologist--or thinking about entomology as a career--you can learn more about how "the basic components needed for vision are a lens to focus light onto photoreceptors--cells containing light-sensitive molecules--and a nervous system complex enough to process visual information."
If you're photographing insects, you know how quickly they detect movement. Cast your shadow on them and off they go. Move closer and off they go.
Sometimes it's a challenge, but in the end, the eyes have it.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
Metallic Green Sweat Bee
The cold, blustery storm that swept over Northern California over the last two weeks wiped out the rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) and with it the "meeting place" of assorted insects: honey bees, leafcutter bees, ladybugs, bumble bees, potter wasps, et al.
But last August we spotted a male leafcutting bee, Megachile sp., on the rock purslane. Nearby, a redbud tree showed evidence of a "been there-done that" female leafcutter. She had trimmed a little off the edge of the leaf for her solitary ground nest. Leafcutter bees, as their name implies, cut leaves for their nests.
That's a good sign.
It is so important to provide bee friendly gardens for our pollinators, such as honey bees, bumble bees and leafcutter bees. Their survival, in many ways, depends on us.
To encourage them, plant bee friendly gardens, provide nesting sites and refrain from using pesticides.
Speaking of native bees, leafcutting bees are among those featured on the soon-to-be-mailed calendar sponsored by the non-profit Xerces Society and the Great Sunflower Project and assembled by Bay Area native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin, with photographs by entomologist-insect photographer Rollin Coville, also of the Bay Area. The deadline to order the native bee calendar closed Nov. 30 (however, a few--a very few--may still be available from the sponsors).
Meanwhile, those of who us treasured the native bees in our gardens last spring and summer will treasure this calendar all year around.
This is a bee that cuts it.