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Did you take part in the Great Bee Count last weekend?

I was able to go out and observe our wild sunflowers for fifteen minutes.

I saw five of these:

We have been seeing these small solitary bees on our Mexican hat flowers and wild sunflowers all summer. They are members of the genus Halictus, in the sweat bee family.

I also saw a bee that I knew about, but had never seen.

Can you see the white puffy or fuzzy area on its front leg? The white structures on its front leg mean that is a male leafcutter bee, genus Megachile. I see female leafcutter bees all the time, but this is the first time I have captured a male on film.

Of course, after I was done counting and put away my camera, a honey bee and a beautiful green sweat bee showed up. 🙂

Did you participate in the count? What did you see?

Check out this unique slow motion video of a bee flying. Although the title says it is a bumble bee, it is actually a carpenter bee. Also, if an ad pops up the first time you view, simply close it and it shouldn't show again.

Isn't that incredible? Bees actually have four wings, but their wings hook together in flight, giving the appearance of only having 2. When the carpenter bee starts to turn, notice its wings separate on the right side.

Some of you may remember from the Academy of Science and Technology Blog Carnival 3 post that we are participating in the The Great Sunflower Project.

We got our package of lemon queen sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) in the mail, planted them and were pleasantly surprised when they started to grow like crazy.

sunflwer plant

This morning I’m happy to report the first bee. No, the flowers haven’t opened yet, but here is a tiny sweat bee resting on a leaf.

sweat bee

It is about the size of a pencil lead. It has been visiting nearby flowers. Can you see the pollen?

sweat bee

A parasitic wasp was also sitting on a sunflower leaf.

parasitic wasp

Are these insects merely resting in the warm sun?

A clue to what they may be doing comes from the black spots you see on the sides of the photos near the base of the leaves.

ants

Those are ants.

What are the ants doing? Now, many people might think the ants are “eating the plants.” In a way the ants are, but not by chewing on leaves or harming the plant in any way.

It turns out sunflowers have extrafloral nectaries. As I explained in a previous post,  extrafloral nectaries are structures on the plant in places outside of flowers that provide nectar for insects, often ants.

Ants of the Southwest some great photographs of ants sipping nectar from the extrafloral nectaries of a sunflower. Photo 1 and Photo 2. Notice how hairy sunflowers are.

Sometimes bees and wasps may take advantage of the sweet liquid nectar as well.

Just think, insects get their breakfast from a plant and not a flower in sight.