Last week I noted that there were fewer birds around, perhaps because of the smoke haze and the drought. The same was true for bees. After we finally had some rain a week ago, I walked over to a patch of Guinea Flowers (Hibbertia) where I usually see bees. I found few surviving flowers, and none of the usual bee visitors. However, I did see this Blue-banded Bee settling on one flower.
As she curled up to buzz the pollen, an orange shape appeared behind her:
It looked like Ginger Meggs:
Ginger Meggs turned out to be a handsome little orange-tipped bee:
It flew low over the Blue-Banded Bee, which lifted off as Ginger returned for a second pass:
As the BBB hovered over the flower, a second BBB arrived:
However, rather than recruiting BBB2 as an ally, BBB1 moved off, leaving the flower open to Ginger Meggs.
BBB2 also turned away as Ginger Meggs settled on the flower.
But as soon as Ginger Meggs had settled on the prized stamens, BBB1 returned to reclaim them:
BBB2 also returned:
BBB1 went in for the hefty nudge:
Outnumbered, Ginger Meggs retreated. BBB1 paused to dust off her proboscis before settling back on her prize:
Later, BBB2 landed on a flower a few metres away. I didn’t see where Ginger Meggs went.
I wondered afterwards which species of blue-banded bee I’d actually photographed! There’s Amegilla cingulata, supposedly with the bluest bands, but there’s also Amegilla murrayensis and Amegilla chlorocyanea, which are both common Australia-wide species with bluish-white bands. Experts caution that colour isn’t a reliable guide as hair-covering can fade, and hair-loss is common with age. There’s also a move afoot to put them in separate sub-genera, with Zonamegilla cingulata and Zonamegilla murrayensis separated from Notomegilla chlorocyanea. Zonamegilla bees have pale markings on their paraocular area (the “face” section just below and outside the antennae.) Below is a shot of BBB1 showing her paraocular areas:
On the basis of her good blue colour and paraocular areas, I’m inclined to think BBB1 is a Blue-banded bee of the Amegilla cingulata species, but you can see why bee taxonomy is so tricky!
What about Ginger Meggs then? I’m pretty sure from the overall shape and the scopa (pollen-carrying hairs) on its underside, Meggsy is one of the Megachile tribe of bees. It looks a lot like a leafcutter bee or a resin bee, although the jaws aren’t as typically prominent. Both groups include bees with orange or cinnamon hairs, but so far I’ve not seen any unambiguous identification of little Meggsy. However a leafcutter, a male Megachile maculariformis, is a good possibility - male because of that white modification to the foreleg visible in the photo of Meggsy settling on the flower.
Oh, and the original Ginger Meggs is here, with more background here.