Photo by Hartmut Wisch
Melissodes - long-horned bees (family Apidae)
by Lisa Schonberg and Mace Vaughan (Xerces Society) and Gretchen LeBuhn (SFSU)
Genus summary: Melissodes is a large genus of common bees restricted to the New World. There are about 119 species in North America (Michener 1994), about 14 in New York State (Danforth & Magnacca 2002), and about 40 in the northwestern portions of both the U.S. and Canada (Stephen et al. 1969). Melissodes tend to fly in mornings and early afternoons (Stephens et al).
Floral relationships: Many of these bees are specialists on the plant family Asteraceae, which includes asters, daisies and sunflowers . Many Asteraceae, such as sunflowers, are highly dependent on Melissodes for cross-pollination.
Nesting habits: Most Melissodes are solitary ground nesters. Some species nest communally, with several individuals using one burrow. They line their brood cells with a waxlike material they secrete (Michener 1994).
Diagnostic characteristics: Melissodes are small to medium bees that are between 0.3 to 0.7 inches long (Michener 2000). They are robust with fuzzy yellow hairs and conspicuous hairy legs. The lower front part of the face on the female is usually yellow. The female carries dry pollen on scopa (brushes of hair) on her hind legs . Like other genera in the Tribe Eucerini, such as Eucera, males often have very long antennae, thus earning them the common name “long-horned bees”. Melissodes males’ antennae are sometimes orange.
Known conservation concerns:
Interesting fact: Melissodes are parasitized by the cuckoo bee subgenus Triepeolus. The Tripeolus female enters the Melissodes nest and lays its own egg in a Melissodes brood cell! The Tripeolus larvae hatches and eats the provisions that the Tripeolus female had gathered for its own young.