Posts Tagged: sunflower bee
"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)
As we near the end of celebrating National Pollinator Week, June 16-22, look around and see all the insects foraging on reddish-orange flowers. And occasionally, you might see a reddish-orange insect like the showy Gulf Fritillary butterfly.
Orange, a color commonly associated with autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, is also a color that brightens many of our seasons and draws attention to special occasions, including Pollinator Week.
The reddish-orange Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). A honey bee (Apis mellifera) and a sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forage on a blanket flower (Gallardia). Another bee, the leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, and a green bottle fly take a liking to a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia).
Pollinators come in all sizes, shapes, colors and species, from bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, to flies.
Many folks throughout the country observe National Pollinator Week once a year, but some organizations, such as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, protect our pollinators and promote pollinator conservation every day.
On their website:
"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced disease."
Indeed, pollinators pack a punch.
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) spreads its wings on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A sunflower bee (Melissodes agilis) forages on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly rests on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a blanket flower (Gallardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A leafcutting bee, Megachile fidelis, on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's better than a bee threading through a flowering artichoke? Two bees, a honey bee and a long-horned sunflower bee.
Flowering 'chokes are big draws for bees. Plant 'em, let 'em flower, and they will come. Sometimes in droves. Sometimes in diversity. Always amazing.
A male sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata, aka the long-horned sunflower bee, stopped foraging to look at us with his big green eyes.
An Italian honey bee, Apis mellifera, buzzing low and packing white pollen, ignored us.
From their missions they did not stray.
Honey bee packing white pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male long-horned sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Makes sense that the sunflower bee (Svastra spp.) forages on the genus Cosmos.
Cosmos (also the common name) is a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
Sunflower bee: sunflower family. A specialist bee.
On a recent trip to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, we spotted scores of sunflower bees on cosmos, each bee packing a heavy load of golden pollen.
There was a pollen party going on, pure and simple.
Although the sunflower bee, as a floral visitor, is often mistaken for a honey bee, there's no mistaking that this is a pollinator, too.
Sunflower bee (Svastra spp.) foraging on cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of pollen on a sunflower bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Will the real honey bee stand up?
Not all bees are honey bees and not all floral visitors that look like bees are bees. Sometimes they're flies.
A recent trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis yielded a variety of floral visitors.
They all took a'liking to the 8-foot-tall Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), as orange as a Halloween pumpkin.
The floral visitors?
One was a drone fly (Ristalis tenax).
One was a sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua expurgata).
And one was a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
Scores of editors have mistaken drone flies and sunflower bees for honey bees and published photos that make entomologists cringe.
Entomologist/insect photographer Alex Wild of the University of Illinois (he received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis with major professor Phil Ward), wrote an eye-opening piece on his Scientific American blog about mistaken insect identities. You'll want to read this--and then take a look at his amazing Myrmecos site.
And if you want to learn about insect photography from a master, be sure to attend his seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. His topic: "How to Take Better Insect Photographs."
And maybe he'll mention that Bees of the World book cover. The image is a fly.
Drone fly visiting the Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sunflower bee packing a load of pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee nectaring a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)