Thursday, August 23, 2018

Inside the Hive (or a burrow)

Let's talk about bees! As the saying goes, bees are a win-win-win experience. Honey bees not only pollinate 75% of California's crops but native bees are also valuable pollinators. Plus, certain bees make honey (yum!). And bees are fun to watch and study, being (for their size especially) amazingly complex and organized critters.
Today I want to share some thoughts about bees found in California. I am no expert on bees but fortunately there are others who are. One of those is the U.C. Berkeley Urban Bee Lab. Here is a description of their work, taken verbatim from their website. "Our research group at the University of California has been working since 1987 on documenting bee diversity and bee frequencies on wild California plants in several northern California sites. This research led to a series of new bee sampling methods that we used to start the urban bee project in the late 1990s. After several years of sampling in residential areas of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) we have found about 90 species of bees, most of which are native to California. Once sampling is completed in other urban residential areas of the SFBA, we expect this number to increase well beyond 100."
They outline 5 major bee groups found in our state so today I thought I'd share a bit of each group, plus some wonderful photos. Almost all the photos come from their website.

Apidae family (Cuckoo, Digger, Carpenter, Bumblebee and Honeybee)
The family Apidae is a large and very diverse group of bees. It contains a diverse array of digger bees, most of which nest in the soil, carpenter bees which nest in soft wood or pithy stems, and bumble and honey bees which nest in large cavities or hives, are social, and have distinctive pollen baskets (corbicula).

Digger bee (Anthophora urbana).

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta).

Cuckoo bee (Nomada species).

Habropoda Digger bee (Habropoda miserabilis).

Yellow-fronted bumblebee (Bombus flavifrons). 

Long-horned bee (Melissodes robustior).

Colletidae family (Membrane bees)
The small family Colletidae is known for the membranous, cellophane-like secretions used by females to line burrows they excavate in the soil, or that they construct in tubular cavities.  Most of these bees are medium to tiny, and slender in form. California has two very different-looking genera from this family: the larger, fuzzy bees of the genus Colletes, which have distinctive triangular-shaped faces and often have striped abdomens, and the smaller black, relatively hairless bees of the genus Hylaeus that usually have yellow facial markings, giving them a "masked" appearance.

Membrane bee (Colletes fulgidus longiplumosus).

Adrenidae family (Mining bees)
This is a large family of soil nesting bees, hence the common name Mining Bees. These are among the first bees to emerge and visit flowers in spring.  Most are medium to tiny, and slender in form. There are two very different-looking groups within the family, but only the genus Andrena is widespread and common at our urban garden sites. 

Mining bee (Andrena subtilis).

Halictidae family (Sweat bees)
Sweat bees have earned their common name from the tendency, especially of the smaller species, to alight on ones skin and lap up perspiration for both its moisture and salt content. These bees are rather nondescript in their general appearance and structure, but there are a few very striking species, like the “Ultra Green Sweat Bee,” whose shiny metallic sheen appears like a jewel among the garden flowers.  Many are medium to tiny, and slender in form

Ultra Green Sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus).

Brown-winged Furrow bee (Halictus farinosus).

Megachilidae family (Carder, Leaf Cutter and Mason bees)
The family Megachilidae is a large and diverse group of bees. They are the architects of the bee world. They nest primarily in pre-formed tubular cavities (tunnels of woodboring beetles, hollow plant stems, and even abandoned snail shells) using a wide variety of materials collected from the environment, including leaf and flower pieces, masticated leaves, mud, resin, plant hairs, and pebbles to construct brood chambers for their young. Bees of this family may be assigned to different architectural guilds based on the kind or combination of materials they use to construct their nests, for example, leaf-cutting, mason, resin, or wool carder bees.

Wool carder bee (Anthidium palliventre).

Leaf cutter bee (Hoplitis fulgida platyura).

Horn-faced Leaf Cutter bee (Megachile fidelis).

 Orchard Mason bee (Osmia lignaria).

1 comment:

  1. I have these tiny bees that sleep on the flower head of my chocolate cosmos at night. They form a little bee buddy pile on spent blossoms. Adorable! Any clue as to what kind?


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