Monday, August 31, 2009

Interesting inverts - Burrowing bees

Walking near the Bulloo river yesterday I stumbled across a curious little patch of soil alive with activity. I first noticed the buzzing noise of flying insects, then spotted the numerous little burrow entrances, and finally caught sight of the animals causing all this excitement.

They were bees - Burrowing bees. Something similar to Dawson's Burrowing Bee (Amegilla dawsoni), related to the well-known Blue-banded and Teddy-bear bees of suburban gardens.

There were about a hundred burrows, each one featuring a raised turret at the entrance. Occasionally a bee would emerge from one of the holes and fly off, not wasting any time in doing so. It soon became apparent why - the circling, patrolling bees must have been hopeful males, and any female slow enough to be caught would be tackled to the ground by a male who would then do his best to grapple her into submission and have his way with her.

This constant attentions of the guys also must have made it hard for the females to find their own burrow - as they'd sometimes dart down a burrow only to be chased out backwards by the indignantly buzzing resident.

Some females were involved in a bit of construction / maintenance and this gave me a chance to photograph the beautiful golden behind of one.


MObugs said...

What amazing photos. Great post about an awesome little insect.

Michael Batley said...

You are quite right, David. These lovely bees are Amegilla (Asaropoda) sp., a relation of both the Teddy-bear bees and Dawson's burrowing bee. We still need to sort out exactly how many species are in this group. Your lovely pictures will help.