Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bee of the week - Melecta albifrons

Melecta albifrons is a cuckoo bee, a cleptoparasite of last week's Bee of the Week, Anthophora plumipes.  It is found in and around aggregations of nests of its host.  The female flies or walks around the nest holes, looking for an unprotected nest in which to lay her eggs.

The male and female Melecta albifrons are almost indistinguishable in the field.  This one is a male as it has 13 segments in its antennae (as opposed to 12 in a female).  I think it was also newly emerged as its wings weren't quite fully expanded.

Being a cuckoo, the female doesn't collect pollen and therefore has no scopa (pollen brush) on her hind legs.  All she does is drink nectar and lay eggs.

Most Melecta albifrons are black and white, as in the photos above, but a few are almost entirely black, as this one below.  Melecta albifrons is also known as the common mourning bee.

Melecta albifrons is found in the southern half of the UK.  These photos were all taken in Northamptonshire.

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