Species Profile: The Most Beautiful (Cleptoparasitic) Bee: Holcopasites calliopsidis?

A Cuckoo Bee (Holcopasites calliopsidis) is dwarfed beside a dime. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A Cuckoo Bee (Holcopasites calliopsidis) is dwarfed beside a dime. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

It is tempting, when starting a new project, to rush around in a desperate attempt to cover all of the bases. Believe me, this is something that I know all too well having initiated a few projects over the past few years. However, I promised myself before beginning this odyssey to get to know North America’s native bees that I would take the scenic route. I have no real deadlines and no definite conclusion that I’m driving toward other than my desire to help others realize just how important our native bee species are to our world, how amazing they are and all that they do for each of us on a daily basis.

At this early stage in the process, each sweep of the net, or time spent peering into the grasses, flowers and sandbanks reveals either a species that I’ve never seen, or rather thrillingly one that I can at least identify to genus level. Things are slowly beginning to click. From a photographic standpoint, I’m already discovering so many different examples of behavior, particularly with the smaller species, that have rarely, if ever been documented. Rather oddly at this stage, I’m finding myself drawn to the myriad of cleptoparasitic species that live off of the hard work of other native bees. While these parasitic species are much less effective as pollinators I am finding their role in the lives of their hosts to be incredible. I’m fascinated by their persistent attempts to invade the nests of other bees and many of the host species’ relatively benign reactions to such intruders.

A Holcopasites calliopsidis circles around  a sweat bee's nest (Lasioglossum sp), which may serve as a host for this cleptoparasitic species. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A Holcopasites calliopsidis circles around a sweat bee’s nest (Lasioglossum sp), which may serve as a host for this cleptoparasitic species. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

I’ve written about Cuckoo bees in the genus Nomada before but over the past few days, I’ve discovered another, very petite Cuckoo bee that is perhaps the most striking of them all: Holcopasites calliopsidis. This tiny, super-colorful bee in the subfamily Nomadinae is thought to be a parasite of Calliopsis species, although over the past several days I’ve watched many of the these tiny colorful bees try with varying degrees of success to lay their eggs in the nests of Lasioglossum species of Sweat Bees. This is a story that I will continue to follow with interest.

A very small Cuckoo Bee (Holcopasites calliopsidis)  drinking nectar from an Aster, Pickens, South Carolina. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A very small Cuckoo Bee (Holcopasites calliopsidis) drinking nectar from an Aster, Pickens, South Carolina. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

Yellow-legged Bees (Calliopsis species) are one of the potential hosts for the Cuckoo Bee (Holcoparasites calliopsidis) © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meet yourneighbours.net

A Cuckoo Bee (Halcopasites calliopsidis) investigates a sweat bee's nest (Lasioglossum species) ©Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A Cuckoo Bee (Halcopasites calliopsidis) investigates a sweat bee’s nest (Lasioglossum species) © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

Bottoms up! A Cuckoo Bee (Halcopasites calliopsidis) investigates a sweat bee's nest (Lasioglossum species) © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

Bottoms up! A Cuckoo Bee (Halcopasites calliopsidis) investigates a sweat bee’s nest (Lasioglossum species) © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A close-up view of Holopasites calliopsidis. ©Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

A close-up view of Holopasites calliopsidis. © Clay Bolt | beautifulbees.org | meetyourneighbours.net

 

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