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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honey Bee Suite