Sunday, March 18, 2007

More dashes than dots, Megachile and her cuckoos

As I commented last time, the leafcutters, Megachile chrysopyga, are swarming to the Croweas. There isn't much competition I admit, not much else flowering, but it is a joy to see a plant that only attracts native bees. Barely a feral to be seen. It's the nectar they're after, not much pollen gathering going on.

has an unusual habit of cocking its tail up when it lands (kind of puts me in mind of a kookaburra), and the drapes always match the curtains - but there are shades of orange, from pale to vibrant, as you can see.

This smaller flowered Crowea cultivar below is not so attractive to Megachile but I spotted (no pun intended) an unusual bee frequenting it, with very crisp, smart stripes on the abdomen, and tiny spots spangled across the thorax.
I asssumed it was another Megachile sp. it is the right size and shape, but on looking at the pics you can see it has no scopa (pollen baskets) on the legs, and in fact is quite badly equipped for the pollen game altogether.

I think we have another cuckoo, probably Thyreus again, this time a kleptoparasite of Megachile rather than Amegilla.
I'll do the ask at the museum, and see if I can get
a confirmation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The dots and dashes bees - Thyreus and Amegilla

At last - about time I was eponymous (can it be a verb?). Never mind.

The 2006-7 summer, being hot and dry, has been a bumper one for Amegilla sp. A trifle bizarre when you think that the 2005-6 summer was noted for their absence. Here in Margaret River in that summer I saw zilch, zero, nil.
But this year they are almost ho hum. I overcame the "last days of chez nous" induced torpor and took the camera out to capture some.

This shot doesn't highlight the handsome stripes at all (these are very zippy bees and I'm out of practice) but it does show how hairy they are. And the bee trap du jour is a Crowea sp. Except for tomatoes (which Amegilla adore), just about the only thing in flower, and much frequented by Megachile sp.

I was also inordinately pleased to see a domino cuckoo bee, Thyreus sp. These don't spell good news for Amegilla bees, but are such a delight to observe with their bizarre furry polka dots.

These bees are kleptoparasites, they are freeloaders and don't collect pollen and labour over nest building like Amegilla and others. Instead they lay their eggs in the Amegilla nests.
The larvae eat the provisions left by the Amegilla, and when the Amegilla larvae hatch they apparently starve to death. Harsh, but...harsh. I don't think bees have social welfare, but it must still work in Amegilla's favour, as cuckoo bees are few and far between, at least in this neck of the woods.

You can see in the pic that while they are deliciously hairy, they don't bother with pollen, and don't have scopa (pollen gathering hairs) on their legs.

Thyreus was an unfortunate character in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra - sent by the coldly calculating Octavius Caesar to persuade Cleo to abandon her principles (I have no idea what these were) and submit herself to Octavius. Antony had him whipped and generally manhandled and sent him back with a flea (not a bee) in his ear.
Why cuckoo bees should be likened to him I have no idea.
I also have no idea what classical inference Amegilla has.
Any enlightenment would be welcome.

(saying enlightenment puts me in mind of a Robert Goddard book I've been reading -if the 18th century was the Age of Enlightenment, is the 20th Century the Age of Disillusionment?)

The Unreal Estate

I'm such a bad blogger. Life has been a dreary preoccupation with matters mundane, mostly of the house hunting and moving house type.
I am now the potted expert on all things pertaining to that dangerous and highly evolved beast, the real estate agent.
A friend (also suffering from House Hunter RSI) and I have compiled the Essential House Buyers Glossary, to help you read those tricky Sanskrit house descriptions.

Hope it helps.

RESORT STYLE you don’t want to be there more than two days.

ALFRESCOthey couldn’t afford to build the roof

WALK IN ROBEthey couldn’t afford the doors

OPEN PLAN see above

HUGE - standard 3 bedroom project home with each bedroom divided into 2

NEAT – deceased estate



COMPACT – dog kennel size

SUITABLE FOR RETIREES – kennel sized for Chihuahua

PRISTINE BUSH BLOCK- several senescent trees leaning dangerously over the house, weeds and rabbits.

NEUTRAL DÉCOR – can’t afford the paint

TOURISM POTENTIAL – you wouldn’t want to live there yourself

INVESTMENT - see above

INVEST OR NEST - you wouldn’t want to live there yourself, but the swallows do

QUAINT - C1950 B&B

FUNKY - Druggies live here

COSY - Microscopic

CUTE - What on earth…?

ECLECTIC - Why on earth…?

COLOURFUL - Full repaint essential

QUIRKY - Always includes a shaggy wall hanging

CHEERFUL - Vendors on Prozac

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