Some of the unusual bees in this small family (Macropis spp.) collect floral oils for their larvae from Lysimachia spp. (Yellow-Flowered Loosestrifes). The floral oil is mixed with pollen in the shape of a ball. These bees usually construct nests in the ground, which are lined with water-resistant chemicals. Adults feed on nectar while visiting flowering plants other than the Yellow-Flowered Loosestrifes. Another unusual bee in this family is the oligolectic or monolectic bee, Melitta americana, which collects pollen from Vaccinium stamineum (Deerberry).
Evolution and Systematics
The forelegs of solitary bees mop up plant oil using brushes at their tips.
"In South Africa, the twinspur [Diascia], a relative of the foxglove unique in its family for having not just one tubular spur but two, rewards its pollinators with oil secreted at the far end of each spur. Several closely related species of solitary bees [Rediviva] have developed brushes on the tips of their fore-legs with which to mop up this oil." (Attenborough 1995:104-106)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:261
Specimens with Barcodes:229
Species With Barcodes:61
The Melittidae are a small bee family, with some 60 species in four genera, restricted to Africa and the northern temperate zone. Historically, the family has included the Dasypodaidae and Meganomiidae as subfamilies, but recent molecular studies indicate Melittidae (sensu lato) was paraphyletic, so each of the three historical subfamilies is now accorded family status, with Dasypodaidae as the basal group of bees, followed by meganomiids and melittids, which are sister taxa.
They are typically small to moderate-sized bees, which often have shaggy scopae, and are commonly oligolectic; several species further specialize on floral oils as larval food rather than pollen, including Rediviva emdeorum, a highly unusual species in which the forelegs are longer than the entire body, and used to sponge up the floral oil at the end of elongated corolla spurs of the host plant, Diascia.
- Danforth, B.N., Sipes, S., Fang, J., Brady, S.G. (2006) The history of early bee diversification based on five genes plus morphology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 15118-15123.
- C. D. Michener (2000) The Bees of the World, Johns Hopkins University Press.
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