Robbery in progress

Caught you red proboscis'ed!

Caught you red proboscis’ed!

You probably know all about pollinators…bees land on flowers to collect pollen and nectar, and because they’re fuzzy, they end up transferring pollen to different flowers, resulting in genetic recombination.

But maybe you didn’t know that not all bees visit flower the *right* way.  That is, the morphology of the flower should encourage bees to enter through the opening in the corolla formed by the petals.  This should force the bee to brush up against the reproductive parts of the flower, thereby enacting pollination.

And some bees cheat.

Like this lady.

Like this lady.

They cheat because they are TOO BIG to fit in the normal way.  Instead, they chew a hole through the base of the corolla, and drink the nectar through the side.  They never touch the reproductive parts of the flower.

"Just gonna go in the back door here"

“Just gonna go in the back door here”

Now, the number of species that can be primary robbers is limited; mainly it includes only carpenter bees (like our friend Xylocopa virginica here) and some species of bumblebees.  These bees are not always exclusively robbers.  In fact, they visit some species of flowers the *right* way and some the *wrong* way.

Male of the same species, showing he *can* use a flower the right way.

Male of the same species, showing he *can* use a flower the right way.

Interestingly, nectar robbers don’t necessarily seem to have a negative effect on seed set (see Morris 1996).  Or at least, not always.  Sometimes they do (see Irwin and Brody 1999).

MUA ahahahahaha!

MUA ahahahahaha!

Biology is confusing.

Oh well.

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15 thoughts on “Robbery in progress

  1. My wisteria always gets tattered by the Carpenter bees robbing the nectar but I don’t mind as it lets the smaller bees use the holes they made. I don’t want the Wisteria to set seed but it sets plenty of pods never the less.

  2. Great illustrative pics… It’s not a pollination issue, but I have been watching bananaquits take the same shortcut to nectar, drilling a small hole with their sharp little beaks rather then using the conventional route.

  3. Pingback: Euglossine bees carrying pollinia | standingoutinmyfield

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