Ant-Like Bees Discovered In North American Deserts

Posted: Dec 24 2016, 2:53am CST | by , Updated: Dec 24 2016, 3:13am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Ant-Like Bees Discovered in North American Deserts
Two species of ant-like males, which are completely different in appearance from their mates. Credit: Zach Portman, Utah State University
 

Researchers have identified nine new species of desert bees, including two ant-like males

Perdita is one of the most diverse genuses of bees ranging from deserts of southwestern United States to the arid lands of Mexico. Despite containing more than 700 species and subspecies, genus Perdita is still poorly understood and many of its species are yet to be identified. 

Utah State University entomologist Zach Portman and colleges have identified nine new species of genus Perdita including two different bee species with ant-like males and reported them in the latest issue of Zootaxa. The two newly-discovered ant-like males look completely different from the other bees of the respective group.  

“It's unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest," said Zach Portman. “We may find more information as we learn more about their nesting biology.”

Their latest research is intended to fill in the gaps in the basic structure of a poorly known subgroup of Perdita, the subgenus Heteroperdita Timberlake. The subgroup consists of 22 bee species from southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico. The tiny bees of Heterpperdita Timberlake are brightly colored and are marked by distinctive spots or strips. All of the bee species visit Crinklemats, flowering plants of the genus Tiquilia, for pollens.

“Like the bees, Tiquilia flowers are very small. The bees must squeeze into the long, narrow corollas and dunk their heads into the flowers to extract the pollen.”  Portman said.

Portman and his colleagues observed the bees in the blinding, midday sunlight, a time when these bees prefer pollination.

“Their activity during the hottest part of the day may be a way of avoiding predators.” Portman said.

Researchers suggest that genus Perdita may not be a major pollinator for agricultural crops but it plays an important role in maintaining the natural ecosystems of American southwest. The bees are also interesting from evolutionary standpoint due to their adaptation to remote and barren regions.

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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