The male bees have been photogenic this month. After the male carpenter bee two weeks ago, I found something unusual on a milkweed early one morning.
Actually, it isn’t really unusual, you just have to get up early in the morning to see it. This is a cluster of male long-horned bees “sleeping” on a plant overnight.
If you look at bit closer, you can see the long antennae that give them the common name long-horned bee.
Isn’t it adorable?
These particular bees likely belong to the Genus Melissodes.
If the male bees form a cluster to sleep on a plant overnight, where are the females?
Each female long-horned bee builds a tunnel nest in the soil, so that’s where she stays at night. During the day she gathers nectar and pollen from flowers to provision her nest and then lays eggs on the food.
What do the male bees do during the day?
You can spot the male bees hovering around plants with flowers defending them from other bees and looking for females to mate with.
Have you ever been lucky enough to spot a cluster of sleeping bees?
Every once in awhile a high-pitched sound travels through the air and one of these shows up.
If you are brave, get a bit closer.
It’s a tarantula hawk wasp, an important pollinator of milkweeds. You can read more about how they do it in a previous post.
These wasps are big and noisy and clumsy. They seem like flying dinosaurs. You can’t miss them.
Not far away is a quiet little bee that you might easily miss.
Look at that long antenna.
The bees with antennae almost as long or longer than their bodies are commonly called long-horned bees. They are important pollinators of a number of plants, but their legs aren’t long enough to pollinate the specialized milkweed flowers.
Still, they are just some of the many insects that benefit from milkweed flowers.
A few days ago these bees were sleeping on a nearby milkweed plant.
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.