Category: pollination

The mysterious Nomada electella.  Nomada are nest parasites.  So, as a nest parasite the size of your host, you are going to be rarer than your host.  If your host is rare then you are going to be rarer still.  Nomada electella is very very rare.  So rare its male has never been described in the literature. And so it was until a few years ago when I got to look at specimens from Dyke Marsh in Virginia collected by Edd Barrows.  Dyke Marsh is basically and old dump, gravel operation, struggling marsh wetland natural community, surrounded by high density urban environment on the Virginia side of Washington D.C.  Not a place for rarity.  Yet, there were 100 of these bees, including a nice series of males.  This multiplies the number of known specimens by probably 10.  But what is its host?  Still unknown.  Nothings lept out form the other bees in the traps.  This specimen is yet another one, from Bath County in Virginia collected by Ellison Orcutt whose team finds rare bees everywhere.  Photo by Cole Cheng.      

Medeola virginiana – What pollinates the indian cucumber root? Possibly no one has ever bothered to look. My usual sources of such info came to nothing nor did googlation. My weak logical inference string is that since it is in the lily family and since it is similar looking to native lilies and native lilies often are visited by day flying moths and butterflies that this too might get its pollen moved by a lep. AND!!!!! what is going on with those giant purple stigmata? Probably a world record of some kind. Its not there for nothing and it would be shameful if we didn’t know what their uses might be. The only member of its genus, so I think it urgent that we figure this out. Shame. Specimen and photo by Helen Lowe Metzman.

What a beautiful name, (enchanter’s nightshade)… an overlooked plant of woodlands, now I am wondering what its pollinators might be, probably diptera, but bees are mentioned in the e-literature as well.   Given that they are often in the middle of the woods, bloom in the summer it is more likely that they are targeting diptera as bees are largely absent at that time of year.   seems like a very reasonable species to plant as ground cover in heavy shade.    
Specimen and picture by Helen Lowe Metzman.  

Kick butt pollinator plant.  Put in your garden please.  Helianthus angustifolius – Swamp sunflower.  The perennial sunflowers are underappreciated, particularly compared to the way overused Susans.  Specimen and photo by Helen Lowe metzman.

A weed that irritates everyone, thorny, leaves are shot through with holes from being fed on by many of its personal insect hosts, but…this is a native plant, related to tomatoes and T’ai Roulston’s work in Shenandoah Valley shows that for some bumblebees this is the main pollen source in the summer.  So, inspect you preconceived notions and maybe let a few horse nettles (Solanum carolinense) bloom in the back of your garden.  Don’t be a flower snob.  Specimen and picture by Helen Lowe Metzman, Howard County, MD.    #horsenettle #flowersnob #nativeplant #pollinatorplant #pollination #bumblebees #flowers #usgs #bees #nativebees #conservation #ugly #forlorn #ignored

Coreopsis verticullata – Whorled Tickseed.   Always popular with bees, the Coreopsis group, as a whole, is widely planted, tough, and long bloomer, but reasonably rare out there in the wild, with some of the planted species not local to the mid-Atlantic.  Should they be planted then.   Where are the limits?  Zinnias, for example, are also not native, but do occur as native species in the southwest.  Nature is never very black and white.  Specimen and picture by Helen Low Metzman.


Cephalanthus occidentalis

Likes its feet wet, bumper crops of bees (particularly Hylaeus) and butterflies.   No specialists in the bee arena, but adds pollen and nectar in wetlands.  Photo and specimen by Helen Lowe Metzman.

Super cool, Super rare, Super fun.  

Who would say such a thing about a little brown bee?  In this case it is Colletes ciliatus.   Here is a bee that was featured in a paper we wrote several years ago as one of the “missing bees” not seen for many years.   It has only a few records; all from the MidWest with one specimen from Alexandria (the town across from Washington D.C.) .  Then Tim McMahon found one on Dodder at the edge of the marsh in Jug Bay on the Patuxent River in October in Maryland.  A little poking and we found another record on Dodder from the MidWest.  So, it may be possible that we need to collect more on Dodder which has small blooms and is difficult to collect off of.  Afterwards Don Harvey collected a male also on Dodder from the same area. A nice advance of the natural history and perhaps conservation of this rare species.  Pictures by Jade Louis…her first for the lab.  

On the big side of long-horns is Melissodes comptoides…as you move south and to the prairies…you get tricked up with M. communis and all its color variations.  Fortunately, there are ways to tell them apart.  Often common and found in many open habitats…particularly if you plant some composites for them…which of course … you are.  Photo by Brooke Goggins

Pink Pollen Bee.  

Meet another lover of thistles.  

The large and late season Osmia texana.  The pink pollen is the pink pollen of thistles (I think one of the non-native ones so maybe other thistles don’t have pink pollen?).  This bee is part of an experiment run by Dawson Little at Blandy Experiment Station in Virginia (UVA) an undergraduate working with T’ai Roulston and Kate LeCroy.  You can’t see it well, but this bee is adorned with knobby armatures on the tip of the clypeus and often its massive mandibles, not clear why.  Odd to see all the pollen packed into the front legs…also unclear what is going on here.  The things you can do if you have six legs.