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A hive of activity

May 9, 2014

DSCN7719Looking across the landscape at the moment not much is flowering. At our place the Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternate) is the one showy exception. An exotic shrub planted by the previous owners, it is currently in full bloom and attracting a vast collection of insects – similar to the Burgan (Kunzea ericoides) earlier this year (click HERE to view). The plant is a hive of activity, literally. Honey Bees, various native bees and even some bee look-alikes are all in a feeding frenzy.
DSCN7953Pictured above, a European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), a Blowfly (Chrysomya sp.) and a smaller native Reed Bee (Exoneura sp.) share a flower head. A lot has been written about the European Honey Bee and the detrimental effect its larger mouthparts (compared to native bees) have on the native flora. The photo clearly shows the difference in size between the two.
The Reed Bee (pictured right) is so called because it generally nests in the dried-out stems of plants, particularly plants with a soft-cored stem like DSCN7725Native Raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) or Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus). They are a social bee, co-operatively looking for food and sharing and guarding a nest. During the winter the adults hibernate, meaning that the bee pictured is probably starting to feel a little sleepy.
Another native bee present, pictured left, is possibly a Gold-barred Nomia Bee (Nomia sp.). Also a social bee, the Nomia bee builds a nest in the ground that is shared by a small number of DSCN7956females. As with the Reed Bee, the adults collectively forage and guard the nest. In the case of both the Reed Bee and the Nomia Bee the female guards the nest by blocking the nest entrance with her body. During the day she uses her head and at night she turns round and uses her ‘bee-hind‘.
Also contributing to the activity is a bee look-alike, the European Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax), pictured right. From a distance it looks like a honey bee and even more like a honey bee drone, but being a true fly it only has two wings. Its name is derived from the high-pitched drone caused by the rapid beatings of its wings. What a buzz.

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