Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cuckoo Bee (Nomada sp.)



"B" is for Bee
(Please pardon my lack of originality)
 

In this case, a cuckoo bee in the genus Nomada.  The cuckoo bee was given its common name because it evolved the same kleptoparasitic practice as the European Cuckoo and North American Brown-headed Cow Bird.  A female cuckoo bee does not provide for her offspring.  Instead, she lays her eggs in another bee's nest.  Her eggs hatch early and the cuckoo's larvae eat the other bee's provisions.  Some cuckoo bees kill the other bee's eggs.  Others leave the eggs for her larvae to eat.  Cuckoo bee larvae often have large mandibles to facilitate eating other bee's eggs.


Cuckoo bees are not seen visiting flowers as often as other bees.  Since she does not need to gather provisions for her own offspring, the female cuckoo bee only nectars often enough to take care of her own energy needs.  She lacks a pollen basket, scopa or other pollen collecting body hair common to most bees.  For this reason, cuckoo bees are often mistaken as wasps.  Likewise, among bees, cuckoo's are poor pollinators.


Instead of nectaring, the female cuckoo spends much of her time flying low over the ground searching for nests of other bees.  Once she locates a nest, the cuckoo waits for the host species female bee to leave, then enters the nest and lays her own eggs.  Most cuckoo bees parasitize nests of just a few bee species (2-5), but some are very specific and only parasitize nests of just one other bee species.


(A preview of coming attractions:  "M" is for moth.  The small moth sharing the strawberry bloom with the cuckoo bee is a Sedge Moth in the family Glyphipterigidae.)



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14 comments:

Pat - Arkansas said...

Fascinating! Never before heard of a cuckoo bee.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I agree that it looks like a wasp. I think I have seen this bee around here. I bet if I look at old photos I would have a shot of it. I like that little moth on that bloom too. Interesting looking creature.

Roger Owen Green said...

A bee I did not know.
Interesting stuff.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

photowannabe said...

My goodness. I never heard of such a bee before. Fascinating and it does look like a wasp.

Wanda said...

No apology needed when you share an outstanding photo like this. Amazing the clearity.

Tumblewords: said...

Wonderful shot and such fascinating information. I've never heard of a cuckoo bee until this very moment! Thank you!

EG Wow said...

Really nice shot of the cuckoo bee, Marvin! I'll be looking for this bee this summer.

Is the flower a wild strawberry?

lisaschaos said...

Interesting. I never knew anything about the cuckoo bee. She's a trickster. Nice capture. :)

Marvin said...

Thank you all for your kind comments.

EG Wow: No, the strawberry is a cultivated variety out in our garden.

There are a wide variety of cuckoo bees, many look very different from this particular specimen. The Urban Bee Gardens website says cuckoo bees make up about 15% of the world's total bee population. This site includes photos of several different cuckoo bees. The images tab on BugGuide's Cuckoo Bee section has thousands of photos, although most are repeated images of the same species taken by different photographers throughout North America.

The difficulty in seeing cuckoo bees is that they don't frequent flowers as much as other bees, and that's where we usually look for bees. I just got lucky to catch this particular bee nectaring. The Bee Gardens site says 60-70% of all native California bees nest in the ground. Cuckoo bees mostly prowl habitat suitable for ground-nesting bees, and that habitat is bare dirt. We humans seem to abhor bare dirt. We (including me) plant grass, ground cover or apply mulch. You're most apt to see cuckoo bees while watching a patch of bare soil during the summer -- and that quickly gets boring.

Sueberry said...

Interesting post and great picture.

Leslie: said...

Great photo! I never have any luck taking ones like that. :(

Leslie
ABCW Team :)

Oakland Daily Photo said...

You have offer such interesting observations of nature around you. I've enjoyed reviewing your photos.

NicoleB said...

I've never even heard of this one.
Beautiful shots and great Info!

Rambling Woods said...

Hmmm....I hadn't known of this species either... great photos....