#usgs Tumblr posts

  • Sweet White Violet.  There is a bee that is a violet specialist.  Andrena violae (an unsurprising name).  When we use colored traps to catch bees, this at the right time and place can be a bee commonly captured.  It, however is only captured in blue bowls (ignoring white and yellow).  So here is a nice white violet (though with purple nectar guides) is it ignored by this bee, there are also yellow violets…similarly ignored?  This is basic information people why are we in the dark here?  Its as if no one knew that water is blue.  Picture and specimen by Helen Lowe Metzman.    

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  • I hunt Colletes nests.  This is the Epeolus motto (This would also make a good prison tattoo, who would mess with you with that on your neck?).  Here is Epeolus americanus, which Colletes it favors to hunt is not clear (this is true for most Epeolus, so get on this people!).  Relativley easy to tell because it only 2 submarginals.  Specimen from Ellison Orcutt from the mountains of Virginia and photo by Erick Hernandez.

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  • Melitta eickworti.  Not many of these around.  3 in Eastern North America.  All ericaceous shrubers.  This one on deerberry others on cranberry and lyonia.  So, to find them you most often must hang around their pollen plant.  This, of course, means that they are “rare” but, really, who just hangs around these relatively common shrubs waiting for bees?  Oft confused with Andrena, but the females don’t have any facial fovea and the males, well, they are round headed and have some technical differences that I can’t even recall without looking up, which I am not going to do because most people don’t care.  Specimens collected by Ellison Orcutt from the great state of Virginia.  Picture by Erick Hernandez.

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  • Ah, one of the local Maryland Vacciniums.  Vase shaped with a pistil packed with pollen that must be shaken out of a pore (that a lot of alliteration waiting to be exploited, but am feeling kind today, so won’t).  Anyway there are several Vacc bee specialists out there, many with long heads to better reach into these flowers to get there nectar reward (Andrena bradleyi and Colletes validus are good examples).  These species also know how to unhinge their wings to vibrate out the pollen (side bar:  honey bees do not know how to do this and thus are not the best at pollinating blueberries unless you put in 1 billion of them.).  Not sure of species here, but Helen Lowe Metzman took the picture.    

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  • Monarch Food Starter Package.  The fairyesque seed of  Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) the workhorse milkweed for Monarch caterpillar support (and bunches of other insect species that are not as charismatic …. at least to the general public).  Photo by Cole Cheng.  Seed from the Native Bee Lab’s Monarch Support Area (This means we have fields that we mow only once a year in winter - not lawn/not forest = Monarchs)    

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  • The North Cacades via the USGS archive

    #mountains#northwest #black and white #usgs
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  • Mystery Osmia, from the tip of Minnesota, Cook County, collected as part of project that Joan Milam is working on.   I, however, cannot figure out what species this is (some of the northern Osmia are not well known and in a state of muddle), so am putting out this picture to see who can help me out.  Thoughts welcome.  Photo by the fab Cole Cheng, who now is on school virus lock down so cannot come in to the lab any longer…sigh.    

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  • Not a bee flower.  This is Trillium sessile.  See that color maroon?  That means it is not interested in bee, but interested in flies and beetles, flowers smell bad too.  Pictures and specimen from Helen Lowe Metzman

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  • Here is the only Zadontomerus of the Eastern U.S. (Note:  I will give anyone $100.00 if they name their kid Zadontomerus … first names only).  Ceratina cockerelli.  The other more blueish species are all in the subgenus Ceratinula (also a good name for a child).  As an aside, giving a child a “different” name is always a plus in my book, it is like feeding them linguistical antibodies, for example, they are way less likely to spend all day on a cell phone if their name is Zadontomerus than Tim.  No one does their child a favor by naming them Tim.  Ok, back to bees (society building is always exhausting).  This species is small more black green than blue green and smaller and more southern than the others.  It possibly is also more fond of sandy environs.   Like other species of Ceratina it likely builds its nest in the cut stems of plants.  Not much is know about this species life history, so if you are looking for things to do then studying this species nesting biology should be right up there.  Photo taken by Sierra Williams. 

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  • Do not hate upon the goldenrod.  We under appreciate this vast, specious genus.   Often feared as a producer of hayfever (you know this not to be true) and considered a weed by most.  There is much to like here, including forms that are small, early, late, arched, clumped, spreading, tall and on and on.  They are also a big part of the fall bug pollen and nectar supply chain, at a time when there is not much going on.  Often pointed out as a having bee specialists, this may very well be true, but the forms of goldenrod are many and its composite cousins are also almost always in the same area, so someone really needs to dig in on the question of how specialized bees are on this genus and how the many forms of goldenrods fit into that space.  Specimen (Solidago bicolor) and photo by Helen Lowe Metzman.    

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  • Sexy Planthopper on fishhook. Rhynchomitra microrhina. Captured at my moth photography station in Upper Marlboro (aka my house). Lovely in its gradations of flourescencing greens and yellows of its wing veins. Relatively common, comes to lights. Feeds apparently on a diversity of plant species or, at least, are collected from a diversity of plants (different interepretations of “using”). Why the long nose?

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  • Another bland Melitta.  This is M. eickworti.  But!  How very interesting.   (I could actually say this about any bee, but let’s put that aside).  It is a specialist on Vaccinium stamineum (Deerberry).  It gathers pollen ONLY from V. s. but none of the other Vaccinium’s (of which there are bunches).  V. s. also has another bee (Panurginus atramontensis) that is a specialist on it.   Furthermore, V. s. flowers don’t look like the vase-shaped flowers of the low-bush and high-bush clade of blueberries.   They are open and don’t try to hide their private parts in a vase.   Furthering even more, these other blueberries also have specialist bees that go to them but not to V. s.  So, why?  If you are in the same darn genus then why did do you (speaking of V.s. here) hang out with a different set of specialists?…unless, it is not really a true flag waving blueberry but a berry that should actually be kicked out of the Vaccinium genus altogether. (I have things to say about Cranberries too).  Specimen captured by Ellison Orcutt in Virginia and photo by Erick Hernandez.    

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  • In the old days…  People looked at bees by netting them.  No traps, no ecological research.  It was hunting.   The people who did this were fanatical and knew their way around the outdoors, which, back then, was a lot closer to most people than it is now.
    In any case lots of species rarely found now are present in these older collections, now…did they decline between then and now (certainly some since we have used up a bunch of bee habitat for housing, roads, and rowcrops) , or are they just fewer people looking?  I lean towards the later, though both are likely at play.  And here is one of those species.  Macropis patellata.  Found by Ellison Orcott of the VA Heritage Group (after many years of not being found) in the mountains of Virginia.   This bee is an oil specialist, find Lysimachia (native loosestrife) plants and start looking.  They have a weird lifestyle.  You should look it up.  Photo by Erick Hernandez.      
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  • Orontium aquaticum, golden club, mysterious wetland plant, primitive, only member of its genus left in existence.  What pollinates this?  The literature (that I could find) indicates basically that we don’t know.  The flower is a bit stinky and has that, “I love flies” look to it, though.  My highly technical search through Golden Club pictures online shows only one picture with an insect…which in this case might be a bee.  No flies so maybe something comes at night, perhaps hobgoblins or baby elves.  I assume that we will all be on the lookout for populations of this species to study.  Picture and specimen by Helen Lowe Metzman.    

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    The unassuming male of Melitta melittoides.   Looks like an Andrena to most, but with a roundish head, it lacks a few technical Andrena details, technical enough that I would have to look that up.   Uncommon loiterer around Lyonia shrubs in bloom, where this one was found, and where the females gather the only pollen they feed their young (or so we think), which is…. Lyonia pollen (duh).  No Lyonia, no M. melittoides.  Lyonia is a decent, heath family shrub, which is not very available in the commercial trade, so it is up to you to find, grow, and propagate this shrub so that you can support M. melittoides.  Our friend here is from Maryland on a powerline where shrubs such as Lyonia are allowed to live and thrive….unlike other powerlines where they are cut and herbicided.   An unconscious biodiversity removal strategy that we can change with education.  

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  • Blue Toadflax.  Nuttallanthus canadensis.  Considered to be a good bee and butterfly plant.  I have no experience with this species (that I am aware of).  Has a sequence of blooms indicating that it may be in bloom for a while.  Helen Lowe Metzman took the shot and collected the specimen.

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  • Xylocopa tabaniformis from Florida.   For those in the know, X. tabaniformis should NOT be in Florida, given its home range from Central America to the southern portions of the Western states.  However, one could speculate that this species’ abilities to create holes in solid wood could result in its spread via pallets, firewood, and even rustic furniture made in those regions and shipped to Florida.  This specimen was collected by Justin Roch who is writing it up for publication.  We know of no other specimens from Florida, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who has seen others.  Photograph by Cole Cheng    

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  • Lasioglossum nymphale, one of the most abundant bees in the world, but/and it is thus so only in places of deep sand.  Buckets of this species can be collected in the dunes and deep sands of coastal ocean and gulf lands from New Jersey down and around to probably Texas (unclear…someone needs to work the coastal barrier islands).  Often these environments have only a limited number of species present with uber dominance by little red butt L. nymphale.  Go to the inner dunes for a bit and that can change quickly to a more mix of sandy loving bees with L. nymphale in the mix.  Someone needs to grab our data (we have tons of that, to the tune of 7K+ specimens of L. nymphale) and tell that story.  Photo by Sierra Williams.    

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  • Yarrow.  Native. Not Native.  Achillea borealis of A. millifolium. There is more to this plant than you think.  It is native throughout the northern hemisphere, but as one might suppose there are molecular differences among those locations.  Here, in North America, you can get the European variety, the North American variety, and hybrids there of.   In the Mid-Atlantic I have noticed that it isn’t that attractive a plant for bees, yes there are some, but largely it is ignored.  I talk to other hunters of bees on flowers and they tell tales of an abundance of bee visitations.  Could be poor observation skills by us collectors, local conditions, or perhaps the impact of where it has come from makes a difference.  Specimens and photos by Helen Lowe Metzman.      

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