Monday, May 4, 2015

Insect Pollination: The Bees are Out Full Force

On my walks on May 2 & 3, one of the things that was hard to miss was the enormous amount of pollinator activity. I did not see any Apis spp. However, I did see a remarkably wide range of solitary bees, some syrphid flies, a single Bombus sp. queen, and of course the Bombylius major I posted about on Saturday. I also saw a single Pieris rapae (cabbage white butterfly) in the cemetery.

I am not able to identify all of the species that I have seen, but I took a number of photographs. It took a great deal of effort to get these shots. It's at times like this that I daydream about being able to buy a telephoto lens. How much easier it would be to take photos of pollinators if I didn't have to get my camera within a few inches of them!

Bombus sp. queen on Trillium grandiflorum
This Bombus sp queen was relatively easy to photograph, as she was rather sluggish. I discovered her pollinating some barely opened Trillium grandiflorum. She was so sluggish, in fact, that I actually managed to catch her in flight (shown below). She appeared to be focusing on the retrieval of nectar during the period I was observing her (note her empty pollen baskets).

Bombus queen in flight, just leaving Trillium grandiflorum after collecting nectar
This Bombus queen, however, was the only bee I didn't have to fight to get photos of this weekend. The rest were considerably faster and shyer.

One individual on whom I at least have a reasonably positive I.D. is this solitary bee visiting Scilla siberica; I believe this to be Andrena barbilabris.

Andrena barbilabris (?) on Scilla siberica
Another individual whom I believe I have identified reasonably reliably is this solitary bee, who I believe is Halictus ligatus, shown here visiting Tussilago farfara:

Halictus ligatus (?) on Tussilago farfara
There are a few more species I managed to photograph as well, but which I have been unable to identify as yet.

Unidentified solitary bee on T. farfara
Unidentified solitary bee on E. americanum
Unidentified solitary bee on S. siberica
There were many more than I managed to photograph over the weekend; I counted at least eight visibly distinct species of solitary bee pollinating the T. farfara, and there may well have been more depending on how visible and obvious the distinguishing characteristics of the species are; without a microscope and a specimen, it can be very difficult to judge. At any rate, the solitary bees especially were numerous and varied.

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