wild bees and native bees

Melissodes sleeping in a thistle

You might think sleeping in a flower would be a dream come true, yet for many bees, it is simply a fact of life. But sleeping in a flower only sounds good. In truth, many flower-sleepers wake up covered in dew and stiff from the cold.

I found his pair of male long-horned bees by searching through the thistle flowers at dawn. If anything, they looked dead. I nudged one with my finger, and it slowly moved one leg without ever pulling its head from the purple pillow. Ninety minutes later, they were both gone.

In the world of native bees, it is not uncommon to find males sleeping in flowers, hanging by their mandibles from a leaf, or grasping a blade of grass for the night. Once these males leave the natal nest, they are never welcome back again. They spend their days searching for females and their nights fighting the elements.

Compared to their wild counterparts, honey bee drones have it easy—or so it seems at first. But unlike drones, many male native bees can mate multiple times. So given points for what can go right and what can go wrong, it may be better to sleep in the wild and live to mate another day than to sleep inside and…you know…have your privates ripped out on the first try. Although, being female, perhaps I’m wrong on this.

In North America, the genus Melissodes comprises about 120 species of ground-nesting bees. They are especially fond of plants in the Asteraceae family, including sunflowers and thistles. By day, the females work the flowers and collect pollen on their very hairy legs. At night, the males sleep in the same flowers. Females have antennae that are normal length, but the male antennae are noticeably long.



Melissodes males sleeping in a thistle flower. © Rusty Burlew.

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