"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Eucera:The curiously goat-like, Long Horned Bee

These bees are very very sweet. They are small and hairy, the males proudly sporting these exceptionally long and beautiful antennae. Their name, as you might expect,  comes from the Greek prefix “eu”= well + “keras” =horn, together meaning "well-horned". These are more ground nesting bees and it is only the males that have these exuberant antennae.

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Eucera long horned bee by Johnny N. Dell from Insect Images.

If you are wondering what bees use their antennae for, it’s mainly for the sense of smell. Their antennae have thousands of sensory cells, some used for touch, some for smell and others for taste.  Some bees it seems use them to detect air speed and  orientation during flight as well. Here is a wonderful electron microscope image of an Halicitd bee antenna.

Bee_Halictidae_sem1_antenna_closeup

 from the students of  Duke University here.

If you can see a bee clearly enough when it is foraging on a flower you will see it using its antennae, prodding about in the flower head. Also, erect antennae are a sign of alertness. A resting bee will have drooping antennae. (see Anna’s post here.)

The facts:

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
TRIBE:  Eucerini (Long-horned bees)

There are many different species of Long Horned Bees. Common in the USA are the Melissodes bimaculata which are lovely dark bees with 2 spots on their tail.

image

Photo by Johnny N. Dell,from Insect Images

They specialise in the plant family Asteraceae, which includes asters, daisies and sunflowers. I will be painting one of these later.

These native USA bees are pollinators of the Cucurbita crops, pumpkins, gourds, and squashes, and growing  in  importance as the worry about the decline of the honey bee has made all agriculturalists, small and large, look again at the native bees and their invaluable contribution to food production.
After a hard morning chasing females, the male likes to rest in squash flowers in the afternoon and overnight. Like the Blue Banded Bee from the last post Eucera males in general like to form large batchelor get-togethers at night and the location may host bees from other species too. They often like flowers that close at night and you can sometimes gently touch a closed squash flower in the early morning and be rewarded with a little buzz. I emphasise gently,… dont squash the squash bees!

 

This bee I have drawn is  Eucera longicornis which is found in Europe although said to be declining in the UK along with the wildflowers that it was associated with.  Again the question is, what declines first, the plant or the pollinator? Remove one and we remove the other.

The bee is closely associated with the Fabaceae family such as Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus; the vetches, Vicia cracca, V. sepium; wild peas,  Lathyrus tuberosus, L. sylvestris; alfalfa, Medicago sativa; and the clovers,  Trifolium repens, T. pratense. Have a strip of nice bean flowers to encourage these handsome bees and then you can spend a therapeutic and happy hour watching them come and go. I feel that “bee watching” time should be part of everyone’s daily routine.

longi sketch longi 2

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Bee No 11: The Long Horned Bee, Eucera longicornis

long horned bee sm

Watercolour on Arches HP 3.5 inches.

2 comments:

Susan Tomlinson said...

All right, that does it. I really am getting my pencils out of storage and dusting them off. I mean it this time. As soon as school break starts...

I am loving the bee series.

sharp green pencil said...

I am looking forward to seeing the results Susan. Your work is always lovely.. just wish I could get to one of your courses!