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?)


Snail said...

Why cuckoo bees should be likened to him I have no idea.

Cuckoo bees cuckold by proxy?

Just a thought. Not a very well-formed one, though.

I'm delighted that you're back in the blogging business. I now know a lot more about bees and Shakespeare than I did a few minutes ago. :)

jj said...

Great to see you here and there.

tapperboy said...

I wish to state I saw a neon cuckoo bee for only the second time in my life, just the other day.

Blasted thing fly past me and made no attempt what so ever to stop and wait around for me to get the camera out, turn it on, compose a shot and snap the shutter, how appalling is that sort of behaviour!


amegilla said...

Thanks for the welcome back! I'll try to be a better blogger in the last days of chez nous.

made no attempt what so ever to stop and wait around for me to get the camera out,

Your time will come, you know what to look out for which is 99.9% more than the rest of the population!
(they are really exciting little animals, eh)

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