Hi all I also collected one of these last summer in State College, PA... in that specimen beetle was hanging on tho the antenna of bumble bee.. I also haveMar 26, 2009 1 of 4View SourceHi allI also collected one of these last summer in State College, PA... in that specimen beetle was hanging on tho the antenna of bumble bee.. I also have couple of pictures that I am attaching..These appear to be widely distributed...RajOn Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 5:20 PM, LAURA RUSSO <lar322@...> wrote:
I thought you might be interested in this observation...
I was identifying Bombus spp collected off of thistles last summer and I came across a beautiful queen, but there was something odd about her proboscis. When I looked at it under the microscope I found a small beetle attached. Then I remembered what I read Kearns and Thomson's "The Natural History of Bumblebees". "Silken fungus beetles (Antherophagus, Cryptophagidae) sit on a flower with open jaws, waiting to grab the leg, tongue, or antennae of a foraging bee (Plath 1934). The beetle dismounts upon reaching the bee nest, where it is likely to find many others of its kind, both adults and larvae." There are very few references to it in the literature, aside from this book there is a brief mention in the Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World in 2008 and two essays from 1919 and 1921. Back when bumblebees were called "humble-bees".
The beetle hides in flower heads, waiting for an unsuspecting bumble bee to arrive. The bumblebee, expecting a sweet snack, extends its proboscis, only to be unpleasantly surprised as the beetle clamps on. Despite its best efforts, the bumblebee is unable to remove the beetle, and is forced to fly back to its nest for help. When it arrives at the nest, the beetle drops off, and finds other members of its species. According to these references I found they eat the feces and detritus that the nest creates, and so are actually useful to the bees! The larvae overwinter and in the spring the adults fly off, looking for another flower to hide in. It's called phoresy, where one animal uses another animal just for transportation. ie Hitchhiking.
I attached two photos if you are interested. Do you think it would be good to send to the listserve?
Dept. of Entomology
Penn State University