Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Honeybee in Disguise

The first time I saw one of these bees with a distinctive band of white hairs along its thorax I spent some time leafing through field guides unsuccessfully trying to name it – until I realised that it was a honeybee that had been feeding on Himalayan balsam flowers (see When the bee pushes its way into this flower to reach the nectar the hairs on its thorax pick up white pollen from the stamens that are in the roof of the floral chamber. As it backs out it brushes the stamens away exposing the stigma, ready for the next pollen-laden visitor to the balsam flower to deliver its stripe of pollen to the sticky stigma. I've also seen wasps with tell-tale white thoraxes which have evidently been collecting nectar from the same source. I photographed this ‘striped’ honeybee today on wild carrot, after it had exited the Himalayan balsam flowers nearby.