I’m always excited 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, someone mows the flowers 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.
So what do I know about this bee? Almost nothing. The genus Panurginus belongs to the Andrenidae family, 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.
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, someone mowed the flowers within three hours of me taking the photos. So sad.
Honey Bee Suite