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Although the weather is uncomfortably hot for humans, things are still happening out in the garden here in Arizona.

sunflower

The sunflowers we planted for the Great Sunflower Project have started to flower.

The bees can hardly wait.

A few days ago these bees were sleeping on a nearby milkweed plant.

long-horned bee

long-horned bee

Long-horned bees (tribe Eucerini in the family Apidae) are named for the long antennae present on males. They have a habit of clustering in groups to sleep overnight on plants.

I'm not sure what species these particular bees are. There are over 30 genera in the tribe Eucerini, including Melissodes (the long-horned bees), Peponapis and Xenoglossa (squash bees), and Svastra (sunflower bees).

Hopefully we'll be seeing bees on the sunflowers soon.

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.