Do you love blueberries?
Then you should love the genus Colletes of native bees! These are one of several types of native bees that collect pollen from both highbush and lowbush blueberry flowers. Colletes validus has an elongated, narrow head that helps it fit into the tight flower opening where it eats nectar and collects pollen that will be transferred from flower to flower as it forages for food.
Colletes bees also forage on red maple, willow, American plum, wild onion and ground cherry. Several species of Colletes are specialists, meaning they only visit flowers in a certain family. For instance, Colletes banksi only forages on Ilex, or holly, flowers. C. albescens and C. robertsonii only forage on Amorpha flowers, including lead plant and false indigo.
All of the approximately 495 worldwide species and 101 North American species of Colletes are solitary, ground nesters. These are some of the bees that people are encouraged to leave bare ground for in their gardens. Colletes often construct nesting burrows in bare soil on a slope, open ground in prairies or at woodland edges.
Colletes are nicknamed cellophane, plasterer or polyester bees because of their brood cell construction. Females line brood cells with a mixture of saliva and secretions from the Dufour’s gland which creates a waterproof cellophane-like lining to protect the food stored up for the larva to eat after the egg hatches.
A relative to Colletes, in the family Colletidae, are Hylaeus bees, also known as yellow-faced or masked bees. These native bees almost resemble wasps, because of their shiny, smooth bodies with no external pollen-collecting structures. Instead of collecting pollen on hairs, like most other native bees, these bees chew on the anther of flowers — where pollen is produced — and store it internally with the nectar they collect. When they arrive back at their nests — created in cavities in hollow stems or twigs, beetle burrows or rock cavities — they regurgitate the pollen and nectar to provide food for their offspring.
Hylaeus are rather common bees, with about 760 species worldwide and 120 species in the U.S. and Canada. They are black with pale yellow markings on the head, thorax and legs. Males have a large yellow patch on the face while females have two patches.
Check out last week’s post on mason bees or come back next week to learn more about another family of native bees!
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