Thursday, June 14, 2012

Little Bees

I was out exploring another one of the bare soil areas.  This one is odd because several feet of loose material overlay the bedrock.  The surface has a thin layer of clay, but beneath that is a mix of silt and sand.

Wet weather seeps keep this area wet during most of the winter.  Four weeks of droughty weather have allowed things to dry out completely.  The clay surface layer has even developed cracks.  My interest I this particular spot was a swarm of tiny bees rapidly criss-crossing the area.

They maintained an almost constant low level flight.  I kept watching for mating activity, but the only interaction between bees appeared to be occasional collisions that resulted in both bees tumbling to the ground.  After a split second disentanglement on the ground, they were back in the air.  If any mating occurred, it had to have been the briefest of contacts.

I don’t recall having seen this species before.  It isn’t one of those that are typically attracted to sweat and I haven’t seen it on any flowers.

Those few that landed did so in just a brief instant.  Their small size made it hard to see what they were doing.  The grass stalks in the foreground give an idea of the small size of these bees.

My best look was of a dead specimen left headless on the ground.

Some disappeared into underground burrows, so it’s possible this was a nesting area and not the site of courtship activities.  Those that landed wasted no time disappearing into the nests.  It’s also possible that they are a parasitic species and were depositing eggs in another species nest.

Others that landed did a quick run across the ground and then took off.  Maybe they were having some difficulty in relocating their nests.  I watched the activity for about 15 minutes at which time the bees disappeared.  It happened suddenly and I have no idea where they went.  I guess they either dispersed or took their swarming activities elsewhere.  It was an interesting encounter and like many others I’ve had, I’ll probably never know exactly what was going on.

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