Friday, July 11, 2008


“They’re collecting pollen, you know? It’s like their job? Like you’re bothering them?” So says daughter, who at five has already mastered tween voice. I get the message: It’s time to go do something fun.

So I reluctantly abandon the garden, which has recently become much more fascinating than it ever was before we had children. The most recent attraction has been what I believe to be solitary bees. It started with this one a couple days ago:

It’s cutting a leaf, therefore must be a leaf-cutter, a kind of bee. At this point I will state I have no expertise whatsoever in hymenopteran taxonomy, and relatively little in insect taxonomy in general. All identifications herein are best guesses, which are a step above shots-in-the-dark, but not much of a step. So any real live entomologists out there, please advise!

I’m guessing it might be a member of the Megachilidae, which includes the nominal (leaf-cutting) genus Megachile. It is very setose, as are some M. spp., but image searches haven’t suggested a match.

From Wikipedia: The Megachilidae are a cosmopolitan family of (mostly) solitary bees whose pollen-carrying structure (called a scopa) is restricted to the ventral surface of the abdomen (rather than mostly or exclusively on the hind legs as in other bee families). Megachilid genera are most commonly known as mason bees and leaf-cutter bees, reflecting the materials they build their nest cells from (soil or leaves, respectively); a few collect plant or animal hairs and fibers, and are called carder bees. All species feed on nectar and pollen…

There are other megachilids in the yard during the growing season. Earlier in the spring we were besieged by Orchard Mason Bees, Osmia lignaria, which nest in the holes in our aluminum window frames and in outdoor electrical sockets if the lids are left open.

Osmia lignaria, female.

Osmia lignaria, male. (I think. Smaller, chunkier, fuzzier.)

Osmia lignaria mating.

But back to mystery bee: The bee was so contorted in its leaf-cutting efforts that the images leave much to be desired, so this morning, post BIG WIND from yesterday, I went out to try for better shots. No sign of Leafy, but I did see this fellow:

Is this another megachilid, genus Anthidium, a Carder Bee? A site that helps identify Anthidium species only gives locality options from eastern North America, suggesting they’re limited to that half of the continent. Still, my best guess is Anthidium manicatum.

And then I saw this one. 'Zat you, Leafy? It looks similar to the first, leaf-cutting one. Could it be the same species, but after pollen this time?
I’ll be spending more stolen moments out in the garden with my camera. So much to learn, and it’s a dilemma, knowing that, “Like, you’re bothering them?”

1 comment:

Amy said...

My five year old daughter, who normally has no fear of "bugs" has suddenly developed a terrible fear of bees. No amount of explaining how good they are seems to help :) Hopefully it's a short phase!