Posts Tagged: melissodes agilis
We're receiving lots of inquiries about sleepovers ever since we began posting images of male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, sleeping on our lavender.
Boys' Night Out!
While the females sleep in their underground nests, the males cluster on stems. No, they don't have pillow fights or nightcaps but they do wiggle around a lot until they get comfortable.
Now the boys have moved from their favorite spot on the lavender (vertical sleepover) to the guara (horizontal sleepover). We suspect this may be due to several reasons: (1) The presence of three praying mantids in the lavender (2) the lavender is fading while the guara is flourishing and (3) the guara offers a definite height advantage, which may deter a few predators (but not birds).
Nevertheless, the boys start arriving for their nightly sleepover around 5 p.m. and don't budge until around 7 p.m., sometimes as late as 9 or 10.
One reader asked some interesting questions.
"There is a nightly cluster of boys on an aster stem in my front yard and I wanted to find out more about them. In particular, do they/can they/will they sting?"
No, boys don't sting--just the girls. As native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, explains: "Boy bees cannot sting. They lack a stinger which is a modified ovipositor in their wasp ancestors. Occasionally a girl bee may spend the night out if she is caught by sudden drop in temperature. Usually she will not be part of a group sleep over. So don't attempt to handle unless you are confident you can tell boy bees from girl bees or they are too sleepy to defend themselves."
The reader also asked: "Typically how close to the girls' nest(s) do the boys' slumber? I want to try and make sure I don't touch it when planting at end of summer."
Says Thorp: "Boy sleeping aggregations are based on a suitable perch and not related to where females are nesting, but probably no more than 100 yards from the nearest female nest. Females nest in the ground and have rather distinctive round holes about the diameter of a pencil or slightly smaller, sometimes with small piles of dirt around them looking like mini-volcanos. The holes may be widely separated or clustered together depending on the species, but each female digs her own burrow."
Of course, not all slumbering bees in this area are Melissodes agilis, as Thorp points out. Some may be other species of the genus Melissodes and some may belong to the closely related Svastra obliqua.
The reader also wondered: "When watching the boys tonight, about ten of them started waking up and kicking each other. They finally settled down and started to nestle back in for the 'night'--it was only 6 p.m.--but I wasn't sure if my presence was getting them riled or they tend to act like kids sharing a bed?"
Says Thorp: "The boys usually settle in as the light dims in the evening. Cool, and drizzly conditions may modify bed time. Each establishes his own spot, so there may be some jostling for position initially."
We've noticed that, too. We've also noticed that the early morning risers--the carpenter bees, bumble bees, honey bees and syrphid flies--work around the slumbering Melissodes agilis. All that buzzing must sound like the human version of a chainsaw. "Will ya shaddup, already? Can't you see we're trying to sleep?"
Once the boys awaken, though, watch out! They'll dive-bomb the pollinators or any critter working or resting on "their" flowers. They're very territorial and determined to save the food source for the females of their species. The butterflies, including the Western tiger swallowtail, anise swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary and cabbage whites, don't linger when the boys target them.
And speaking of California bees, we're eagerly awaiting the arrival of the book, California Blooms and Bees: an Identification Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. It's co-authored by research entomologist/professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley; Thorp (who received his doctorate from UC Berkeley); and their UC Berkeley affiliates, photographer/entomologist Rollin Coville and floral/herbarium curator Barbara Ertter.
More than 1600 species of undomesticated bees call California their home. The authors focus on 22 of the most common genera and the flowers they frequent.
Meanwhile, you'll want to check out Frankie's UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website to read more about native bees and his exciting research.
Male longhorned bees jockeying for position on a guara stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Not every stem is taken and not all the males cluster six or seven to a stem. These two appear to want space. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This male Melissodes agilis, is sleeping solo on a guara blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Just one word--stems.
Bees forage on the lavender in our bee yard, but sometimes you'll see them on the stems.
Male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, sleep together on the stems and it's fascinating to watch them stir in the early morning, wiggle around, and then buzz off--usually to dive-bomb any critter that's foraging on "their" flowers that they're saving for the females of their species.
But every once in a while, an early riser, a honey bee, will pause on a lavender stem to soak in the warmth of the sun. Got to get those flight muscles warmed up! Busy day ahead for Apis mellifera.
A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Just call it "The Battle Over the Tithonia."
A female monarch butterfly--gender identified by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology--fluttered into our bee garden early this morning and dropped down on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
Her landing was perfect. The monarch (Danaus plexippus), a species that Sharpio rightfully says "requires no description"--claimed her flower as several male long-horned sunflower bees, Melissodes agilis, began targeting her.
Talk about a friendly "welcoming party." Not!
Those Melissodes agilis aren't called "agile" Melissodes agilis for nothing.
The monarch zipped over to another Tithonia, only to be trailed by the Melissodes dive bombers.
After foraging on her third flower and failing to evade the tactical squad, the monarch apparently figured it just wasn't worth her efforts.
Off she went, escorted out of the bee garden by the bomb squad.
A male sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis, targets a monarch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Watch your backside! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Head to head: a monarch and a Melissodes square off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've ever watched a karate competition, you've probably seen the roundhouse kick, tornado kick, the reverse roundhouse kick or the flying side kick.
But have you ever seen a bee do that?
We were photographing sunflower bees on our Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) yesterday, trying to catch the territorial dive-bombing. We were shooting with a Canon E0S 7D equipped with a 100mm macro lens. Settings: ISO, 1600. Shutter speed, 1/1400 of a second. F-stop, 10.
If bees could engage in humanlike conversation, imagine this dialogue:
"This flower is mine! Get off! I want my ladies to have that flower!"
"No, it's not! It's mine. I was here first! Leave me alone!"
For awhile, a large bee, a male longhorned bee, Svastra obliqua (as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis), appeared to be the "king of the mountain." It held its ground...er...floral resource.
Suddenly, faster than my shutter speed, a smaller bee of a different species, a male longhorned bee, Melissodes (probably Melissodes agilis, Thorp said) headbutted Svastra, a scene reminiscent of a World Cup play.
One swift kick by Mr. Svastra and a surprised Mr. Melissodes shot straight up in the air, whirling end over end.
Roundhouse kick? Tornado kick? Reverse roundhouse kicK? Flying side kick?
Whatever it was, the "bee master" won.
And he wasn't even wearing a black belt.
A male longhorned sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua, foraging on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male longhorned sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis (right), targets the larger Svastra obliqua. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Melissodes agilis shoots straight up after a powerful kick by Svastra obliqua. (PHoto by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Melissodes agilis (left) goes sprawling. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Summertime, and the livin' is easy," belted out Ella Fitzgerald.
She wasn't singing about bees, but she could have been.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry.--George Gershwin.
Not always so easy if you're a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) foraging on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
Here you are, nearly tangled in a thicket of yellow pollen. You're absorbed. Totally. In fact, you're absolutely oblivious to your surroundings.
Suddenly, you feel as if you're being watched. Watched. Targeted. Bombarded.
Fact is, you are.
Off in the distance, another male bee is speeding straight toward you in the proverbial beeline maneuver in a territorial war.
Pull up! Pull up! Ground proximity warning system.
Whew! That was a close one.
A male sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis, keeps a wary eye out as she forages on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ah, bliss. A male sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis, is head first in the pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male sunflower bee, Melissodes agilis (as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, in a territorial challenge. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)