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A Panurginus bee in the neighborhood

It’s always exciting to discover a new-to-me bee, so I was elated when I shot my first-ever photo of a Panurginus. I had seen the name before in my many bee books, but I hadn’t actually run into one up-close and personal until the second week of June.

The road to my house is privately owned by other people. It is gravel and runs partly through woods and partly through pasture. Now and then, the roadsides teem with wildflowers which my neighbor promptly cuts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because if it was never mowed, the sides would eventually meet in the middle. Still, it seems that whenever I go out with my camera, the flowers get mowed immediately thereafter.

At first, I thought the neighbor mowed because I was taking pictures. Maybe he thought I was recording evidence for the weed police? But he’s a nice guy, not malicious. I think seeing me out there causes him to recognize that the weeds are taking over the road and it’s time to mow. I’m sure he has no idea what I’m taking pictures of because, even if someone stood right beside me, they probably wouldn’t see the tiny bees that so fascinate me. People just think I’m a little off.

Panurginus biology

So what do I know about this bee? Almost nothing. The genus Panurginus belongs to the Andrenidae family, which are known as the mining bees. Eighteen recognized species reside in the United States, and three in Canada. Nearly all of them live west of the Mississippi. Some of the species specialize on specific flora, but most are generalists that forage on a wide range of plants.

Like the rest of the Andrenidae, Panurginus nest in the ground. Unlike many of the other genera, however, their nesting tunnels are fairly shallow and do not have tumuli around the entrance holes. Before the female goes out foraging, she plugs the nest entrance (locks the door), but while she is inside the nest, she leaves the entrance open.

According to The Bees in Your Backyard (Wilson & Carril), the females mate only once, but the males attempt “to copulate with anything that moves.” Once the female mates, a pheromone signals her status to the males, who then leave her alone so she can get on with brood rearing.

Identification tips

I tried to piece together comments that different people have made about identification. Probably the most obvious is the truncated marginal cell in the forewing. If you get a close view (which I don’t have) you can see that the apex of the marginal cell appears to be clipped off. The bee has two submarginal cells in the forewing, the first being quite large and rectangular, and the stigma is prominent.

Some people have mentioned that the pollen loads look “wetted.” I’m not sure what that means, but I have noted that most females have pollen hairs on the very tip of the abdomen, as shown below. On the other end of the bee, the face of the males can be white and the females have large mandibles.

I know that’s not much to go on, but I’m just learning myself. Many thanks to John Ascher and BugGuide.net for identifying my little bee. And for the record, the flowers were gone within three hours of taking the photos. So sad.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

A female Panurginus bee peers over the end of a daisy petal. When I searched the internet for other photos of Panuginus, I saw this "peering over the edge" behavior quite frequently.
A female Panurginus peers over the end of a daisy petal. When I searched the internet for other photos of Panurginus, I saw this “peering over the edge” behavior quite frequently. © Rusty Burlew.
Shot of two male Panurginus foraging on a daisy.
I believe these are male Panurginus because they were on the same flower as the female and I didn’t see any other bees nearby. However, little black bees all look alike, so all bets are off. I would need a closer shot to know for sure. © Rusty Burlew.

Comments

Dieter
Reply

“… Maybe he thought I was recording evidence for the weed police? But he’s a nice guy, not malicious. I think seeing me out there causes him to recognize that the weeds are taking over the road and it’s time to mow. I’m sure he has no idea what I’m taking pictures of …”

Then, why not take a jar of honey over, explain what you are doing and he may even join you in your efforts to document bees. This may well seal the neighbourhoodly peace as did the peace pipe with the Indians.

Rusty
Reply

Dieter,

I already give honey to him, and his ex, and his kids…

Glen Buschmann
Reply

Thank you Rusty —

It seems like it was but a few years ago that I assumed that someone small and black on a flower was — well, whatever it was, it wasn’t a bee. But as a kid my first passion was ants, and I still observe them, though not as intently. So yesterday my work was disrupting a trail of sugar ants, and then here you are writing about bees equally tiny. Why should I be surprised by their diminutiveness — and yet still I am.

Glen

Nina
Reply

You are amazing. I am learning so much from your blog. This is priceless. I am also sharing it on my Facebook page for others to read.

Anna S
Reply

Very pretty photos and bees, Rusty! So sad the poor flowers were gone within hours. To me, it sounds like your neighbor is indeed malicious. It also sounds he has nothing better to do, either …

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