Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 257–261 | Cite as

Specialist bees collect Asteraceae pollen by distinctive abdominal drumming (Osmia) or tapping (Melissodes, Svastra)

  • James H. CaneEmail author
Original Paper


Four species of western US Osmia (3 Cephalosmia) that are Asteraceae specialists (mesoleges) were observed using a stereotypical means of collecting pollen—abdominal drumming—to gather pollen from 21 flowering species representing nine tribes of Asteraceae. Abdominal drumming is a rapid dorso-ventral motion of the female’s abdomen (467 pats/min) used to directly collect and place pollen in the bee’s ventral scopa. A co-occurring generalist, O. lignaria, never drummed Asteraceae flowers for pollen, but instead used its legs to harvest pollen. Observed drumming by several other osmiines is noted. A different pollen-harvesting behavior, abdominal tapping, is described for two eucerine bees (Melissodes agilis and Svastra obliqua), both oligolectic for the Asteraceae. The behavior also involves a dorso-ventral motion, but they tap their distal abdominal venter against disk flowers at a slower tempo (304 taps/min). These females’ distal sternites have distinctly dense and long hair brushes for acquiring pollen by this behavior. Brief accounts of similar abdominal pollen gathering behaviors by other megachilids are summarized.


Bees Apiformes Megachilidae Foraging Grooming 



I thank Byron Love for assistance in the greenhouse and the field, particularly with plant propagation, plus several observations of drumming. Andreas Müller was an invaluable guide to the European literature, and with John Neff, provided insightful reviews. These behaviors were discussed with Zach Portman, who is reviewing pollen-handling behaviors of bees. Marianne Harris kindly helped nurture greenhouse seedlings. I am forever grateful to Charles Michener, who set my path and opened doors in the field of melittology while serving as a gentle yet inspirational role model to generations of young bee biologists like me.

Supplementary material

Movie 1

Movie clip of paint-marked O. montana drumming flowers of H. annuus. Recorded in the greenhouse in real time (MP4 1358 kb)

Movie 2

Movie clip of O. montana working flowers of C. montana for pollen. Recorded outdoors in slow motion (1/8 speed) (MP4 10237 kb)

Movie 3

Movie 3. Movie clip of M. agilis tapping disk flowers of H. annuus for pollen. Recorded outdoors in real time (MP4 3280 kb)

Movie 4

Movie 4. Movie clip of S. obliqua tapping disk flowers of E. angustifolia for pollen. Recorded outdoors in slow motion (1/8 speed) (MP4 5641 kb)


  1. Cane JH (2005) Pollination needs of arrowleaf balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata (Heliantheae: Asteraceae). West N Am Nat 65:359–364Google Scholar
  2. Cane JH, Sipes S (2007) Floral specialization by bees: analytical methods and a revised lexicon for oligolecty. In: Waser NM, Ollerton J (eds) Plant–pollinator interactions: from specialization to generalization. University of Chicago, Chicago, pp 99–122Google Scholar
  3. Cane JH, Eickwort GC, Wesley FR, Spielholz J (1983) Foraging, grooming and mate-seeking behaviors of Macropis nuda (Hymenoptera, Melittidae) and use of Lysimachia ciliata (Primulaceae) oils in larval provisions and cell linings. Am Midl Nat 110:257–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cripps C, Rust RW (1989) Pollen foraging in a community of Osmia bees (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Environ Entomol 18:582–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hurd PD, LaBerge WE, Linsley EG (1980) Principal sunflower bees of North America with emphasis on the southwestern United States (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology No 310. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 158 ppGoogle Scholar
  6. Jander R (1976) Grooming and pollen manipulation in bees (Apoidea): the nature and evolution of movements involving the foreleg. Physiol Entomol 1:179–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Michener CD (1962) An interesting method of pollen collecting by bees from flowers with tubular anthers. Rev Biol Trop (Univ Costa Rica) 10:167–175Google Scholar
  8. Michener CD (2007) The bees of the world. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  9. Minckley RL, Wcislo WT, Yanega D, Buchmann SL (1994) Behavior and phenology of a specialist bee (Dieunomia) and sunflower (Helianthus) pollen availability. Ecology 75:1406–1419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Müller A (1994) Die Bionomie der in leeren Schneckengehäusen nistenden Biene Osmia spinulosa (Kirby 1802) (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae). Veröffentlichungen Naturschutz Landschaftspflege Baden-Württemberg 68:291–334Google Scholar
  11. Müller A (1996) Host-plant specialization in western palearctic anthidiine bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Megachilidae). Ecol Monogr 66:235–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Müller A (2008) A specialized pollen-harvesting device in European bees of the genus Tetraloniella (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Eucerini). Linz Biol Beitr 40:881–884Google Scholar
  13. Müller A, Mauss V (2016) Palaearctic Hoplitis bees of the subgenera Formicapis and Tkalcua (Megachilidae, Osmiini): biology, taxonomy and key to species. Zootaxa 4127:105–120CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Neff JL, Simpson BB (1990) The roles of phenology and reward structure in the pollination biology of wild sunflower (Helianthus annuus L., Asteraceae). Israel J Bot 39:197–216Google Scholar
  15. Parker FD (1981) How efficient are bees in pollinating sunflowers? J Kansas Entomol Soc 54:61–67Google Scholar
  16. Rust RW (1974) The systematics and biology of the genus Osmia, subgenera Osmia, Chalcosmia, and Cephalosmia (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Wasmann J Biol 32:1–93Google Scholar
  17. Simpson BB, Neff JL (1987) Pollination ecology in the arid Southwest. Aliso 11:417–440Google Scholar
  18. Thorp RW (2000) The collection of pollen by bees. Plant Syst Evol 222:211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Torres C (2000) Pollen size evolution: correlation between pollen volume and pistil length in Asteraceae. Sex Plant Reprod 12:365–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Westrich P (1989) Die Wildbienen Baden-Württembergs: Allgemeiner Teil—Lebensraume, Verhalten, Ökologie und Schutz. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  21. Yeo PF (1993) Secondary pollen presentation. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit (PIRU)Utah State UniversityLoganUSA

Personalised recommendations