Monday, August 10, 2015

Two-Spotted Longhorn Bee


Male
One of my favorite bees are these tiny little bees that I always refer to as the "napping bees" because every time I find them they are grasping blades of grass, or stems of plants with their manibles and appearing to be snoozing. I find them frequently, but didn't know  what they were. I asked Eric Eaton for help on identifying these adorable little bees and very quickly he replied that they are Two-Spotted Longhorn Bees (Melissodes bimaculata). Then when I began working on this post,  I discovered I had written a post about them many years ago. I had completely forgotten this entry to my blog, and what I had learned at that time about the ID of these bees. The ironic thing is....I had asked Eric at that time to ID them! My only excuse is that it was 6 years ago....or maybe I am just getting old and forgetful.

If you'd like to learn more about Eric and his passion for all things buggy please visit his wonderful blog Bug Eric

There are 119 known species within the genus Melissodes, and most species are solitary ground nesters and will dig a burrow within the soil and line it with a wax-like substance that they secrete. This habit of digging their burrows earned them the common name of Digger Bees. A few species within the genus are communal and will nest in small community nests.  Cuckoo wasps with the subspecies of Triepeolus use the offspring of these bees as the host for their own offspring. Being a solitary nester means you have no family to protect and therefore not prone to being defensive.....there is nothing to defend. This is unlike Honey bees or bumbles bees which guard honey stores, offspring and a queen.

Honey bee hives may contain upwards of 40,000 individuals, nearly all of them females that provide food for the adult hive members, as well as the offspring of the queen. They also care for the queen since her only job is to lay eggs. These little workers also guard the hive from invaders, clean the hive, air condition the hive, and communicate with the colony where food is available and how to find it. They have a very complex lifestyle and much to lose should the hive become threatened, so it stands to reason that they would be somewhat defensive near the hive. However, when they are out foraging for food they rarely sting unless provoked or accidentally stepped on or grabbed. 


The little digger bees got the name longhorn from the long antennae the males possess which are much longer than most bees. For those who are familiar with these bees this is apparently a great way to identify them. This particular species also has two yellowish-white spots near the tip of the black abdomen. These two spots earned them the specie name of bimaculata, which means translates into *bi* (Two) *Macula* (Spot). 
They also have long yellowish colored hairs on their hindlegs. Females are approximately a 1/2 inch in length, males are a bit smaller at 3/8 of an inch. 


Female
The adults of these bees seem to prefer plant nectar from daisy's, asters and coneflowers. They are a very common sight in the mid to late summer months. I have a tremendous amount of coneflowers in my gardens which must be why I see so many of them in my yard.





When evening nears and the sun is riding low on the horizon slowly walk along the plants and flowers in your yard, or a nearby field or meadow and you might spot these little bees tucking in for the night.




8 comments:

  1. Cute little guy, not much of a poser. Must move fast.

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  2. I have about 6-8 of these guys settling down in my ornamental grass for the night (about 6 feet high now). I don't think I noticed them before. Thanks for the information. I got really close and personal with them - but only to take a picture.

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  3. These things are evil! Was working I'm yard cutting weeds and these attacked me. They chased me and stung me multiple times through my clothes. Stings are very painful and still hurting 3 hr's later. Never seen them before but I will kill on site from now on.

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    2. I am really sorry to hear you had such a bad experience at the tail end of some sort of stinging bee or wasp. Colony bees and wasps can be extremely defensive and protective of their queens, offspring, food sources and hive. Without seeing a picture of what stung you it would be difficult to say what species it was, but there are many species it could have been. I am reluctant to agree that it was this particular species as they are solitary bees and not known to be defensive and certainly not aggressive towards humans unless severely provoked, i.e. swatted at, grabbed or threatened in some way. Any insect will defend itself under those circumstances. If you can manage to take and send a picture of the bees that stung you I would be happy to try and identify them. Most likely what stung you was some sort of ground nesting colony bee or wasp and your weed pulling and yard work disturbed them and made them feel threatened. I know how distressful stings can be, I was recently stung 8 times by paper wasps that I inadvertently disturbed in an old corn crib while removing some lumber. Hurt like HELL! So I know where you are coming from, but hopefully you will recognize it was nothing personal and they do a lot of good for your garden. They are pollinators and many wasps and bees feed their offspring chewed up pieces of caterpillars that can harm your plants.

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  4. Unknown, I do not know who you are. However, I believe that YOU are the evil one for killing these adorable little bugs. I hardly believe that they attacked and stung you, they are such lovable little creatures. Goodbye, whoever you are.

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