Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Jun 25, 2014

Butterflies flutter. 

Bees don't.

Indeed, some bees seem to possess Superman's extraordinary power of "faster than a speeding bullet."  They're just lacking a blue costume, a red cape and an "S" on their thorax.

The butterfly doing the fluttering in our garden is the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, a showy reddish-orange Lepitopderan that lays its eggs on our passionflower vine (Passiflora).

The bee doing the speeding-bullet routine is the male longhorned digger bee, Melissodes agilisThey are so territorial that they claim ALL members of the sunflower family in our garden: the blanket flowers (Gallardia), the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

They relentlessly patrol the garden and dive-bomb assorted bumble bees, carpenter bees, honey bees, sweat bees, wasps, syrphid flies, butterflies and even stray leaves that land on "their" flowers. (Their eyesight is not as good as Superman's.)

Why? They're trying to save the pollen and nectar resources for the Melissodes agilis females. And trying to entice and engage the girls.

Last Sunday we watched a Gulf Frit touch down on the Tithonia. Just as it was gathering some nectar, a speeding bullet approached.

How fast?

If it were a horse, it would have been Secretariat.

If it were a track star, it would have been "Lightning Bolt" Usian St. Leo Bolt.

If it were a car, it would have been a Hennessey Venom GT.

If it were a plane, it would have been a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Swoosh! As the longhorned digger bee rifled by, the startled Gulf Frit shot straight up. Straight up.

Frankly, the Gulf Frit could have "leaped a tall building in a single bound."