I wrote a post this time last year about what I discovered in my native landscape over the course of the year. As we continue to add native plant species, build diversity, and allow our landscape to evolve there’s always something new and different that shares our landscape with us.
2012 was a year of new native bee discoveries. Here are some highlights:
Mining Bees (Andrena spp.)
When the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was flowering in March, many small bees were flying around in the warm afternoon temperatures checking out what the Bloodroot flowers had to offer. The majority of these small bees were Mining Bees (Andrena spp.). A ground nesting species that builds tunnels in open spots in sandy soil.
There are many species of Mining Bees, some are large like the one pictured here, resembling Bumble Bees. This one was visiting Large Flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora).
Mining Bees were active throughout the spring, visiting many of our native woodland perennials, as well as some early flowering prairie species such as Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea).
If you have Mining Bees nesting in your landscape, then it’s very likely you will spot a type of Cuckoo Bee (Nomada sp.) flying low to the ground in search of the Mining Bee nests, as well as nectaring on flowers.
Cuckoo Bees don’t have any pollen collecting structures, and they don’t need any because they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees (cleptoparasites) where their eggs hatch, and their larvae kill the host larvae.
In the late spring, I spotted another type of Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes sp.) with its distinctive red abdomen visiting flowers of our native shrubs, pictured here on Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata). This bee is a cleptoparasite of Sweat Bees (Halictus spp.) which we have documented in our landscape.
Wool Carder Bees (Anthidium sp.)
This bee seemed to specialize on our Spiderwort plants. It buzzes loudly as it flies, and defends its desired plant by flying after other bees who come near. After observing it, I realized it wasn’t as interested in the flowers as it was in the hairs that covered the flower stems and bud. Females would make their way up and down the hairy parts of the plant, chewing off the hairs. They fashion their nest cells with the hairs.
Bumble Bee on Hairy Penstemon (Penstemon hirsutus)
The amazing relationship between native plants and native bees is so apparent when you watch who attempts to climb up the narrow tubular flower of Hairy Penstemon. This smaller Bumble Bee species was the only observed successful candidate, fitting the flower like a ‘glove’.
I have photographed many leafcutter bees on our native plants, but this was the first time I caught a female making leaf cuts from our Great St. John’s Wort (Hypericum pyramidatum) leaves.
Females have large mandibles that they use to cut leaf pieces in ovals or circles. They use these leaf pieces to divide their brood cells in the above ground cavity nests.
More Cuckoo Bees
It was no surprise to read about this newly discovered Cuckoo Bee (Coelioxys sp.), they are cleptoparasites of Leafcutter Bees. Females have a sharp point on the end of their abdomen that they use to pierce through the Leafcutter Bee cells to lay their eggs.
In the late summer, another Cuckoo Bee (Triepeolus sp.) nectaring on Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) in our rain garden. Distinctively colored with black and white markings and bright orange legs. This Cuckoo Bee is a cleptoparasite of Long Horned Bees.
NEW BUMBLE BEE DISCOVERIES
Perplexing Bumble Bee (Bombus perplexus)
This bright yellow bumble bee with a white bottom segment was spotted on Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis)
This was an extremely exciting discovery, as this bumble bee is listed as a species in decline by the Xerces Society. The Xerces Society likes to receive reports of an sightings of the bumble bees in decline. Check which species are in decline in your area.
Two of my friends with native plant gardens also documented the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee in their landscape.
Mining Bees (Andrena sp.)
I thought Mining Bees were a spring phenomenon but I started to see some on our prairies natives in late summer including Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida). After doing some further reading, many of the Mining Bees in late summer specialize on Aster and Goldenrod species.
What new discoveries did you make in your landscape this year?
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