So, here you are, a honey bee nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola.
All's right with the world, at least in your world. You're sipping nectar to take home to your colony and suddenly...a buzz.
A male long-horned bee, probably Melissodes agilis, is trying to dislodge you from your flower.
You hold your ground (your flower) but you let him know that his presence is unwanted. You lift a foreleg in your defense to block him.
The long-horned bee flies off, and you continue to nectar. All's right with the world. (Until your next encounter with a fast-moving, highly territorial male long-horned bee bent on dislodging you from your flower.)
The late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, used to say that these male long-horned bees target any critter residing on "their" flowers. It could be a honey bee, a bumble bee, a carpenter bee, a syrphid fly, a butterfly or a beetle. Or something else. They want to save the flowers for their own species and then mate with them, he said.
Just a day in the life of a non-native honey bee, Apis mellifera, and a native long-horned bee, Melissodes agilis.
Dear Crab Spider,
Please don't eat the pollinators. You may help yourself to a mosquito, a crane fly, a lygus bug, an aphid, and a katydid, not necessarily in that order. And more than one if you like. In fact, how about an all-you-can-eat buffet of luscious lygus bugs? So good! Yes, you may tell all your arachnid friends about the nutritious, high-protein meals available just for the taking. Please do. Just don't eat the pollinators.
Crab spiders do not listen. They will eat what they want and when they want it. And they will gorge themselves. They are not interested in joining Weight Watchers. They are Wait Watchers.
For the past several months, crab spiders have been lurking on our blanket flower (Gaillardia). Most of the time, they just sit there, waiting patiently for dinner to arrive. Sometimes it's a long wait--longer than it takes for a waiter to return to your table during a rush-hour holiday lunch.
So, Ms. or Mr. Crab Spider--not sure of the gender, but "Predator" will do--dined recently on a sweat bee, a female Halictus tripartitus. We watched Predator lunge at a honey bee (missed!) and pursue at a male long-horned bee, probably Melissodes agilis.
Our cunning little arachnid no doubt nailed a few others--the "waistline" is a dead giveaway.
It's almost time to count the pollinators!
The University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) wants you set aside three minutes on Thursday, May 8 and count the pollinators wherever you live--and they live--in California. It's all part of UC ANR's Day of Science and Service celebrating the 100th year of the Cooperative Extension system.
First, count the pollinators (they can be bees, syrphid flies, bats, butterflies and the like.) Then you may choose to photograph them and upload your photos to the UC ANR website.
It should be interesting to glean the final count.
Just a few of the bees you may find:
- Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
- Green metallic sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus)
- European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)
- Long-horned bee (Melissodes communis)
Other activities on May 8 focus on water and food (see the website, Day of Science and Service)
Water: in this record drought, UC has committed to reducing its water consumption by 20 percent how are you conserving?
Food: Where is food grown in your community? Fill out our California food maps.
UC President Janet Napolitano has just issued the following statement:
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our nation's Cooperative Extension system, the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is sponsoring a day of science and service on May 8.
We need your help to make our science projects successful. The more people who participate, the more data we'll have to analyze.
Everyone in California is invited to participate. It's quick and easy. Go to beascientist.ucanr.edu, choose a project, and record your observations about conserving water, growing food or counting the numbers of pollinating bees, birds and butterflies in your neighborhood. You can share your observations on an interactive map and upload photos if you like.
This is a great opportunity to learn about California's natural resources and the role of agriculture in all our communities.
For 100 years UC Cooperative Extension has been turning science into solutions to build healthy communities. From creating new varieties of fruits and vegetables, fighting off invasive pest attacks, and helping school kids learn about healthy eating, UC's work benefits every Californian.
We have long-horned cattle and long-horned grasshoppers. How about long-horned bees?
It's National Pollinator Week and what better time to run some photos of long-horned bees from the genus Melissodes?
These males (below) are probably Melissodes communis, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
They were nectaring on salvia (sage) in a front yard in Davis, Calf., and keeping an eye out for the girls. The girls? They were dutifully carrying nectar and pollen back to their underground nests.
Melissodes belong to the family Anthrophoridae, described as a "very large family...found in all parts of the world," according to the book, Bees of the World, written by Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw. Melissa is Greek for "honey bee."
These long-horned bees are part of the tribe Eucerini, found all over the world except in Australia, according to O'Toole/Raw. Melissodes is a New World genera.
One thing's for sure: these ground nesting bees are fast-flying. In the blink of an eye, they're gone.