Perdita scutellaris is a new species of bee, native to the deserts of the United States and Mexico. There are over 700 species of genus Perdita, yet so much about this class of bees remains unknown. Adding to the mystery, researchers have identified eight other new species of Perdita.
Researcher Zach Portman of Utah State University describes a particularly interesting discovery of “ant-like” male bees that have a distinctively different appearance than their mates.
“It’s unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest, “ Portman says. “We may find more information as we learn about their nesting biology.”
The tiny bees are most active during the hottest part of the day. Portman explains this could be a strategy they have adopted in order to avoid predators.
The resourceful creatures also have evolved patterns of various spots and stripes that may be also be a kind of defense mechanism.
The newly discovered bees are major pollinators of small, flowering plants of the genus Tiquilla called “Crinklemats.” Rugged, furry leaves and tiny, trumpet-shaped blossoms may have once been an obstacle for the bees, but they have risen to the challenge.
“Like the bees, Tiquilla flowers are very small,” Portman says. “The bees must squeeze into the long, narrow corollas and dunk their heads into the flowers to extract the pollen.”
The female bees collect pollen from the flowers to nourish their offspring. Once they have collected the amount of pollen needed to sustain their young, they lay their eggs on the stockpile and leave.
The bees of the Perdita family, like Perdita scutellaris, have adapted a helpful feature called a “hair basket,” that assists in collecting pollen as they descend into a flower.
The modifications made by these tiny pollinators to fulfill their needs are critical to both understanding and preserving their environment.
Credit: Earth.com author Chrissy Sexton