February 8, 2010
February 8 - Coelioxys coturnix
A female Coelioxys (Allocoelioxys) coturnix Pérez bee dashes into the nest of another bee species, Megachile minutissima Radoszkowski, and lays an egg on top of her host’s. She has waited—loitering outside the nest while assessing the whereabouts of the other female —for the other’s moment of weakness: leaving the nest to collect the last bit of material to close the brood chamber containing her egg and the pollen and nectar provisions for the larva that will emerge from the egg. Coelioxys coturnix is a cleptoparasitic (sometimes spelled “kleptoparasitic”) bee, an entomological version of the cuckoo bird, that does not collect food or nesting material for her offspring but uses the nests and, in bees, larval provisions of other species. Depending on the species of parasitic bee, its newly hatched larva might have disproportionately large, fang-like jaws to kill the host’s brood, might feed on the host’s egg, or might (in one very unusual species from Florida currently being described) wait until it is almost too late, during its last larval stage, to do away with the competition. Cleptoparasitism has evolved many times among bees using different pathways, according to Jerry Rozen, a Curator at the American Museum of Natural History for nearly 50 years, who has studied these bee species for much of his career.
Contributed by Kristin Phillips.
Photography by Rollin Coville.