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Bee collecting cactus spines?

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  • Chanda Henne
    Hi all, I was out recently to take pictures of bees in the open prickly pear cactus flowers, and noted a bee spending a lot of time around the spines.  At
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 5, 2011
    Hi all,

    I was out recently to take pictures of bees in the open prickly pear cactus flowers, and noted a bee spending a lot of time around the spines.  At first I thought it was a halictid due to its blue-green color, but after examining the photos, I am not so sure anymore.  My next thought was Osmia, but am a little confused by the behavior.  I know some bees will collect other plant parts for nesting, but I didn't think Osmia was one of those groups.  I have attached a picture of this bee, and was wondering if someone might recognize it and/or explain the behavior.  The picture was taken at the Arroyo Colorado birding center park in Harlingen, TX.

    Thanks,
    Chanda

  • Peter Bernhardt
    Dear Chanda: I can t identify the bee but I can say I don t believe it was collecting cactus spines or the detachable barbed hairs (glochidia). It is obvious
    Message 2 of 5 , Apr 5, 2011
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      Dear Chanda:

      I can't identify the bee but I can say I don't believe it was collecting cactus spines or the detachable barbed hairs (glochidia).  It is obvious that the bee is foraging at the spine cushion (areole) of an Opuntia (prickly pear)... right?  

      Did you know that the spine cushions of some opuntias secrete extra-floral nectar?  This secretion tends to be associated with new growth and I find it most easy to see when the pad enlarges and produces cushions that still have their short-lived, fleshy green leaves.  In fact, in some Opuntia spp. the short-lived, fleshy leaf appears to secrete nectar from its stomates.  If nothing drinks the nectar it may crystallize into a whitish pin head (sweet to the taste).

      What's the function of this sugary fluid?  Purportedly, it attracts aggressive ants and some parasitoid wasps.  They consume the nectar but keep the new growth free of chewing and sucking pests.  Extra-floral glands are also very common on the flat, leaf-like branches (phyllodes) of Australian acacias.  I collected insects on these glands years ago and published a paper on how predatory wasps were more common at the glands than  true bees.  Irene Baker's analyses of the secretions turned up all sorts of nutrients including sugars and amino acids.  

      Peter     

      On Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 8:47 AM, Chanda Henne <csbutrfly12@...> wrote:
       
      [Attachment(s) from Chanda Henne included below]

      Hi all,

      I was out recently to take pictures of bees in the open prickly pear cactus flowers, and noted a bee spending a lot of time around the spines.  At first I thought it was a halictid due to its blue-green color, but after examining the photos, I am not so sure anymore.  My next thought was Osmia, but am a little confused by the behavior.  I know some bees will collect other plant parts for nesting, but I didn't think Osmia was one of those groups.  I have attached a picture of this bee, and was wondering if someone might recognize it and/or explain the behavior.  The picture was taken at the Arroyo Colorado birding center park in Harlingen, TX.

      Thanks,
      Chanda


    • Matthias Buck
      Chanda: It definitely looks like an Osmiini. Could it be collecting resin at the base of the spines? Opuntia often produces little bits of resin in these
      Message 3 of 5 , Apr 5, 2011
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        Chanda:

        It definitely looks like an Osmiini. Could it be collecting resin at the base of the spines? Opuntia often produces little bits of resin in these areas. Or was it sleeping there?

        Matthias

        On Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 7:47 AM, Chanda Henne <csbutrfly12@...> wrote:
         
        [Attachment(s) from Chanda Henne included below]

        Hi all,

        I was out recently to take pictures of bees in the open prickly pear cactus flowers, and noted a bee spending a lot of time around the spines.  At first I thought it was a halictid due to its blue-green color, but after examining the photos, I am not so sure anymore.  My next thought was Osmia, but am a little confused by the behavior.  I know some bees will collect other plant parts for nesting, but I didn't think Osmia was one of those groups.  I have attached a picture of this bee, and was wondering if someone might recognize it and/or explain the behavior.  The picture was taken at the Arroyo Colorado birding center park in Harlingen, TX.

        Thanks,
        Chanda




        --
        Dr. Matthias Buck
        Invertebrate Zoology
        Royal Alberta Museum
        12845-102nd Avenue
        Edmonton, Alberta
        Canada, T5N 0M6
        Phone: (780) 453-9122
        www.royalalbertamuseum.ca
      • Doug Yanega
        ... The areoles of Opuntia definitely produce extra-floral necctar, and are visited by all sorts of bees, wasps, and flies. The only slightly odd thing is that
        Message 4 of 5 , Apr 5, 2011
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          >I have attached a picture of this bee, and was wondering if someone
          >might recognize it and/or explain the behavior.

          The areoles of Opuntia definitely produce extra-floral necctar, and
          are visited by all sorts of bees, wasps, and flies. The only slightly
          odd thing is that this is generally most obvious on the young growth,
          and this bee is clearly visiting an older pad. Of course, bees are
          smart enough that they might learn that areoles are good nectar
          sources - after foraging nearer the meristem - and be persistent
          about checking out areoles that may no longer be producing
          significant nectar rewards.

          Peace,
          --

          Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
          Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
          phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
          http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
          "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
        • John S. Ascher
          Regarding identification of this Osmia female, it appears to have strong white tergal hair bands. I therefore suspect that it could be Osmia (Diceratosmia)
          Message 5 of 5 , Apr 5, 2011
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            Regarding identification of this Osmia female, it appears to have strong
            white tergal hair bands. I therefore suspect that it could be Osmia
            (Diceratosmia) subfasciata subfasciata which has "been collected as early
            as March 7 at Brownsville, Texas" (not too far SSE of Harlingen).

            John

            > Hi all,
            >
            > I was out recently to take pictures of bees in the open prickly pear
            > cactus flowers, and noted a bee spending a lot of time around the spines. 
            > At first I thought it was a halictid due to its blue-green color, but
            > after examining the photos, I am not so sure anymore.  My next thought was
            > Osmia, but am a little confused by the behavior.  I know some bees will
            > collect other plant parts for nesting, but I didn't think Osmia was one of
            > those groups.  I have attached a picture of this bee, and was wondering if
            > someone might recognize it and/or explain the behavior.  The picture was
            > taken at the Arroyo Colorado birding center park in Harlingen, TX.
            >
            > Thanks,
            > Chanda
            >
            >
            >
            >


            --
            John S. Ascher, Ph.D.
            Bee Database Project Manager
            Division of Invertebrate Zoology
            American Museum of Natural History
            Central Park West @ 79th St.
            New York, NY 10024-5192
            work phone: 212-496-3447
            mobile phone: 917-407-0378
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