Readers’ wildlife photos

November 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Remember to keep sending in photos when you have them.

Today’s contribution is from Jonathan Wallace, and reminds us how adorable (and cunning) bees are. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Everybody knows that flowering plants and various insects, including bees, have co-evolved to form a mutually beneficial relationship whereby the plant provides a nectar reward to the insect and the insect provides a service tothe plant in return by transferring pollen from flower to flower.

Things are not always so straightforward, however and sometimes the relationship is subverted.  Fuchsia species are widely planted as ornamental shrubs in many parts of the world but originate from South America, where they are principally pollinated by hummingbirds.

In the UK and Europe there are no hummingbirds but bees of various species are keen to exploit fuchsia nectar and, since they cannot reach it the ‘correct’ way, do a smash and grab raid by biting a hole through the neck of the flower and thereby gaining access to the nectary while completely by-passing the stamens and stigma.  It is common to see a high proportion of the flowers on a shrub bearing the tell-tale holes that indicate they have suffered nectar robbery.  The species shown in the act of thieving here is the buff-tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) and the honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I have also included a couple of other pictures of honey bee attracted to a garden pond to drink and one foraging on marjoram flowers respectively, as well as a picture of a buff-tailed bumble bee foraging on European gorse Ulex europeaus.

Bombus terrestris worker 2021-05-31:

Bombus terrestris buff-tailed bumble bee worker:

Bombus terrestris buff-tailed bumble bee worker:

Honey bee drinking:

Honey bee marjoram 2021-08-02:

Honey bee nectar robbing:

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Very nice! I have seen a lot of nectar robbing from our large carpenter bees, but only recently seen other bees do it.
    In the last picture, you can see other places where the flowers had been pierced.

  2. I’ll watch out for those holes in Fuchsia from now on! Both Bombus terrestris and Apis mellifera are very versatile in exploiting garden flowers.

  3. It’s interesting to note that hummingbirds woith short beaks also rob flowers the same way, puntruing the floral tube at its base. There are also birds that do this as a way of life, called “Flower-piercers” (Diglossa and others). They always go in from the back of the flower and do not pollinate anything.

    These are good examples of the basic fact of evolution: the world is not a well-designed system with everything working in harmony. On the contrary, selection is on the level of the individual, and selfishness is the name of the game.

  4. This is a fascinating post with incredible photos! I had no idea bees do the smash and grab technique.
    Very informative. Thanks!

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