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Favorite bees from last summer

What do I do on a rainy winter day? I look at bee photos, of course. During bee season I take a zillion portraits, but I rarely have time to study them because there are always more pictures to take. But finally the time has come. Here are some favorite bees I recently found in my stacks.

Furrow bee

The first photo came from the wild blackberry vines in my backyard. The model is a furrow bee in the family Halictidae (the sweat bees). These are small- to medium-sized ground-nesting bees with bodies that are usually dark with white abdominal stripes. Besides having large scopae on their legs for carrying pollen, they also have small hairs along the length of the abdomen, as you can see below. Furrow bees collect pollen from many different plants, and are very common in farmland where they are hardly noticed among all the honey bees.

Gray-tinted pollen is familiar to beekeepers, but it looks a little different on a furrow bee because it's not mashed with a pollen press.
This small furrow bee (Halictus sp.) is busy with the blackberry flowers. Gray-tinted pollen is familiar to beekeepers, but it looks a little different on a furrow bee because it’s not mashed together with a pollen press. © Rusty Burlew.

Cuckoo bee

The second bee is a Nomada, a cuckoo bee in the family Apidae. Nomada frequently parasitize Andrena nests, so if you have one species, you are likely to have the other. Like most cuckoo bees, Nomada are easily misidentified as wasps because they are nearly hairless and have colorful integuments like those seen on wasps. Since they lays their eggs on the pollen provisions collected by the host bee, they have no need to carry pollen themselves.

Although they don't collect pollen, cuckoo bees drink nectar from a wide variety of plants. This one is sipping from a Lomtium in mid-April.
Although they don’t collect pollen, cuckoo bees drink nectar from a wide variety of plants. This Nomada is sipping from a Lomatium in mid-April. © Rusty Burlew.

Long-horned bees

The third photo shows a male Melissodes beside the gravel road near my home. These bees are commonly known as long-horned bees for obvious reasons—the males have unusually long antennae. Melissodes are medium to large solitary bees that nest in the ground. Many of them specialize in foraging on plants in the Asteraceae family, such as sunflowers and daisies.

This male Melissodes is resting on a small daisy-type flower. The males have long-antennae and sturdy bodies.
This male Melissodes is resting on a small daisy-type flower. The males have long antennae and sturdy bodies. © Rusty Burlew.

The fourth photo is the female version of Melissodes. As you can see, they do not have the long antennae that the males have, but they have enormous scopae on the rear legs, all the better to collect pollen.

Melissodes female. These bees have large pollen scopae on their rear legs and they often have bright blue eyes.
Melissodes female. These bees have large pollen scopae on their rear legs and they often have bright blue eyes. © Rusty Burlew.

Megachile angelarum

This bee is one of my all-time favorites. Although I photographed this individual down in Oregon, I’ve seem them up here and wrote a post about them two summers ago. They don’t have a common name that I know of, but they are related to the leafcutter, carder, and resin bees. Like those other bees, they carry their pollen under the abdomen, and they live in hollow tubes and holes.

I nearly always misidentify these bees on the first pass because I get them confused with resin bees in the genus Hylaeus. I should know better because these bees don’t have the deep punctations on the head and thorax like Hylaeus do, but the curled-under abdomen is the part that tricks me. But come on, admit it—these bees are adorable. I never get tired of looking at them.

A Megachile angelarum forages on lavender in central Oregon.
A Megachile angelarum forages on lavender in central Oregon. © Rusty Burlew.

Send in Your Bees

You don’t need fancy equipment to get good bee photos. Some of the pictures people take with their smart phones are amazing. If you have any photos you want me to post or identify, don’t hesitate to send them by e-mail. Some of the most fun times of my life have been spent chasing bees with friends and a camera. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Comments

Bonnie Greer
Reply

Absolutely gorgeous pics. Thank you, Rusty!

Peter
Reply

I’m always impressed by number of comments you have under honey bee posts and equally impressed about no comments under posts about any other bees:(

What is your e-mail address to post you pic of my fav bees;)?

Pedro
Reply

Wow, beautifull photos of amazing little creatures!

Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the wonderful diversity of bees around us.

Pedro

William Hesbach
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Thanks for posting these. Such amazing clear shots and wonderful subjects. Your passion is inspiring and uplifting.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Bill. Glad you like them.

Glen Buschmann
Reply

Thank you Rusty –

Last night at my local library in Olympia WA a crowd of folk enjoyed a delightful talk from Thor Hanson about his recent book Buzz. When it came to Q&A he deftly parried questions, ranging from cell phone towers, the history of honey gathering, ground wasps and bees, and bees without hair (ok, that last one was mine). The answer that was least satisfying was “What do you recommend as a book about local native bees?”

Though he offered some suggestions the answer is there really isn’t a good written guide for this swath of the world. I’m sure that is often the answer throughout the world. We make do. I admit that when I started writing this post I thought it was so I could bug you about writing “the local book”. But, then you’d also have to parry these same questions as did Thor as you promote a book to a lot of folk who don’t like yellowjackets.

Instead, this is a circuitous way to thank you for sharing with so many of us both your observations and your enthusiasm. Rather than have a guidebook I have you, (and others) carried with me. I’ve been slow to admit that the best guidebook usually starts out as a blank one, along with the patience to observe, and a few fellow enthusiasts to keep you going.

With graditude,
Glen B, Olympia WA

Rusty
Reply

Glen,

I keep thinking about “the book,” but so far what I have is notebook after notebook filled with scribbles, descriptions, photos, and i.d. tips. I’ve gotten much better, especially in the last year, but putting all the info together seems overwhelming.

Thanks for the encourgement, though. I will keep thinking.

Rick A - Warner
Reply

Breathe of fresh air. I’m reading History of the American Beekeeping by Frank Pellet and just to read your observations is refreshing. Having your blog here is an encouragement to me and the bees. Please continue. And yes thank you.

Peter
Reply

Speaking of books, this may not be “the book” but it is a good one:

Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies by The Xerces Society, published by Storey Publishing.

At 380 pages, Attracting Native Pollinators provides dramatically expanded breadth and detail, reflecting the latest understanding about creating and managing pollinator habitat. Illustrated with hundreds of color photographs and dozens of specially created illustrations.

peterlborst1@icloud.com

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