Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Took what was supposed to be an ant walk today -- and struck bees! Large areas of the fields behind our street were absolutely full of colonial-nesting bees today -- plasterer bees (Colletidae), if my clunky attempts with one specimen and a taxonomic key were accurate. There were literally hundreds of little bee-hills popping up in gigantic clusters everywhere we went. As you got near the colonies, the buzzing became overwhelming. Our presence didn't seem to bother them much; since they're colonial but not truly social, there's not a lot of nest defense behavior going on. It wasn't until much later that I realized, while kneeling in the sand watching bees fly circles around me, that few people are this comfortable around the more conspicuous Hymenoptera. Rick and I were right up against the tunnels with our digital cameras. Photos on request!

Also saw some colonies of one of my fave little ants, Prenolepis imparis, which is apparently one of the first species to have nuptial flights in Michigan. They like cool weather; in places like Florida, they're inactive all summer. Some of the winged reproductives were milling around the nest entrances today. I don't know whether the flights actually went ahead later in the day.

Of course, it's no surprise that my Valentine's Day e-card to Rick last month contained a photo of a huge mating swarm of ants. I captioned it, "Love is in the air!" You know (and so does Rick) -- marry an entomologist, wake up surrounded by flying formicids ....


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