Boys' Night Out

Jun 16, 2014

By day, they fly around our yard looking for the girls.

At night, it's "Boys' Night Out."

These males, longhorned digger bees, Melissodes agilis (as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis), are absolutely spectacular.  At night the males roost on our lavender stems, sometimes 8 to 10 on a single stem.  Their "bedroom" gets quite crowded.

Melissodes are ground-nesting solitary bees. While the males sleep overnight on the flowers, each female is tucked away in her ground nest.

According to the "With the apparent exception of Florida, agilis occurs throughout the United States, Southern Canada and Northern Mexico, and is in flight from May to November in the East."

Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw write in their book, Insects of the World, that Melissodes are found on all continents except for Australia. "The males of nearly all species have very long antennae and are colloquially known as 'longhorned bees.'"

These bees frequent plants of the sunflower family, Helianthus. In our yard, they gravitate toward the blanket flowers (Gallardia) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).

We've found them "going to bed" at 6 p.m. and rising around 7 a.m. We clocked one "sleepy head" getting up at 10:30 a.m. as honey bees and bumble bees buzzed around him, foraging for nectar on the lavender.

That was on Sunday, Father's Day.