Bee Buzz— Newly discovered Ant-like bees!!!
Researchers from Utah State University have reported the identification of nine new species of desert bees under the genus Perdita, including two “ant-like” males.
The research was led by entomologist Zach Portman, Utah State University, who discussed in details about desert bees in the journal Zootaxa (December 23, 2016). His co-researchers including Terry Griswold, USDA-ARS Research Unit of Utah and John Neff, Melittological Institute in Austin. The research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded in 2011 and a Desert Legacy Grant from the Community Foundation.
The unexpected finds of the research are the ant-like males of two of the species which are completely different in appearance from their mates. “It’s unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest. Understanding their nesting biology may clear this confusion”, Portman said.
According to Portman, these solitary bees are not major pollinators of agricultural crops but play an important role in the natural ecosystem of the American Southwest, including the sizzling sand dunes of California’s Death Valley. “Their activity during the hottest part of the day may be avoiding predators”, researchers add. Portman tracks the bees by observing their buzzing shadows in the blinding, midday sunlight the minuscule insects tend to favour.
Some of the bees, exclusively found in North America, have scientific names inspired by Shakespearean characters, like Perdita titania, named after the fairy queen from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The activity of the elusive and tiny insects appear to be important pollinators of desert plants commonly known as “Crinklemats”. Flowering plants of the genus Tiquilia, Crinklemats grow low to the ground and sport very small flowers. “The bees must squeeze into the long, narrow corollas and dunk their heads into the flowers to extract the pollen” said Portman.
The scientists report the female bees use pollen collected from the flowers to build up supply to nourish the young ones. Once the pollen provision is completed, the bees lay their eggs on the stash and leave their offspring to fend for themselves. The bees have developed a special adaptation, “hair basket”, with inward facing, hooked hairs, that allows them to collect pollen as they dive into a flower. It is still unknown if the bees use their legs to scoop the pollen into the basket or simply use their heads.
Credit: Zach Portman/Utah State University
“There is still a lot of unknowns”. Though declined in the bee populations have heightened awareness of the importance of pollinating insects to the world’s food supply, numerous bee species remain poorly understood, the researchers pointed out.
Times of India :http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/new-species-of-ant-like-desert-bees-found/articleshow/56156302.cms
Science Daily : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161227110229.htm
Tech Times: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/190114/20161227/9-new-species-of-desert-bees-identified-one-ant-like-in-appearance.htm
Journal Reference: Zachary M. Portman, John L. Neff, Terry Griswold. Taxonomic revision of Perdita subgenus Heteroperdita T