Friday, January 1, 2010

The pure magnificent green bee

A female Augochlora pura gathering pollen on her leg baskets

Among the many metallic green bees that you see in the summer there is a particularly beautiful one, Augochlora pura. It doesn't have a common name but its scientific one means "pure magnificent green" and it is a very fitting one.

You may have seen this little jewel diligently visiting flowers to gather food for her family. You would be surprised to find out where she takes her load of pollen and nectar. If you could follow her, which isn't easy, you would see her arrive at an old fallen log and disappear inside a crack of the loose bark. That is where she has started building a home for her babies, in the space between the bark and the log. She builds chambers using her own saliva, some wax from her abdominal glands and loose debris, abundant in such places. Later on, she kneads the cargo that she brings from flowers into tiny loaves that look like golden tiles with which she paves the inside walls of the chamber. When there is enough food to feed one baby all the way to adulthood she deposits just one egg and seals the cell; afterward she starts building another one and so on.

A dead log, home to a few metallic green bees

An unhappy mother whose nest has been disturbed when I lifted a chunk of bark. You can see the ripped open cell, where the larva lays surrounded by a nice supply of "bee loaves" made of pollen and nectar

The babies grow on such rich food and emerge in the fall. By then the mother is approaching the end, her wings are torn and frazzled. The bees of the new generation, on the other hand, have a youthful look, with glossy wings and nicely coated by delicate hairs; these are the ones you are likely to see in October and November.

Young females getting ready to hibernate in late fall, November

The young bees mate promptly. This is the end of it for the males who die shortly afterward. But the recently mated females visit some of the abundant fall flowers stocking up on food to see them through the long winter and get busy finding cracks under wood to spend the cold month in safety. By the end of November you are not likely to see any more activity from these handsome bees; but rest assured that they will emerge from their seclusion next spring when the sun warms up the land and when blooms are ready and waiting for them.

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© Beatriz Moisset. 2010

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