We have been busy in the lab preparing for spring field season. Many people are reporting their first bees of the year, with many seeing mason bees (Genus Osmia), mining bees (Genus Andrena), and a small number of sweat bees (Genus Lasioglossum). Another side project in the lab is creating stem nests, which we have finally completed, with 60 nests ready to go!
We have also been carving away at the many Lasioglossum specimens from the bee bowl project and specialist bee project. We identified over 800 specimens last week, which is a good rate of progress!
Here are a few of the Lasioglossum that we have been working through.
One of our most common species is Lasioglossum hitchensi. For our ID blog 2 weeks ago, we described it as follows:
“scutum punctures dense lateral of parapsidal line and sparse between, t1 fan COMPLETE, mesepisternum ruglose (not punctate), Clypeus with distal margin WIDE (rectangular!!) = mitchelli –> now hitchensi ! Dirt common bee”
I tried to get better photos of the clypeus margin and acarinial fan.
Lasioglossum pectinatum – Specialist Lasiglossum on Physalis?
Another cool find from our specialist bee project was 2 specimens of Lasioglossum pectinatum, which are thought to maybe be specialist bees on ground cherries and related plants. One of our specimens was caught on Physalis, but the other was caught on Helianthus (but at a site known to have a lot of Physalis). If you are familiar with tomatillos, you have seen Physalis.
This is one of the black Lasioglossum bees that lacks any metallic reflections. It has a distinctly long face and the inner tibial spur has many tiny teeth (compared to most of the other black Lasioglossum which typically only have 4-5 teeth on the inner tibial spur).
Another challenge we have run into is a weird Lasioglossum that has been parasitized by strepsiptera. These parasites often munch on gonads, which cause the host bee to look not quite female and not quite male. This makes identifying the specimen to species challenging as many of the identification characteristics are different between males and females.
As an example, the scutum (large plate on back of bee) is often dulled with microsculpture in most female Lasioglossum, but often very shiny in males of the same species. But there are some species of Lasioglossum that have females with shiny scutums, although they are not as common. So is our parasitzed bee just a weird looking form of a common species (I’m betting L. versatum), or is it a less common species that just happens to have been parasitized? We aren’t sure yet. We might need to use DNA instead to officially find out the answer. In the meantime, we will hold onto it and try to get a few other experts to take a look at it.
All for now,