9 New Species Of Desert Bees Identified, One ‘Ant-like’ In Appearance


Rare desert bees spread in nine new species has been discovered by researchers from the Utah State University. The new species also had two ant-like males.

They belong to the vast genus Perdita that contains more than 700 species and subspecies of bees from deserts of southwestern United States to Mexico's arid lands. The genus Perdita still has many undescribed species.

Desert Bees

Leading the research on the desert bees was Zach Portman, an entomologist at Utah State University, who discussed the details in Zootaxa.

Portman kept focusing on a set of diverse desert bees that play a vital role in the ecosystems of American Southwest such as in the sand dunes of California's Death Valley.

His co-researchers included Terry Griswold of the USDA-ARS Research Unit of Utah, and John Neff of Melittological Institute in Austin.

Male Bees In Unique Form

The nomenclature of the bees was also interesting as most bees in the genus sport scientific names such as Perdita titania, similar to characters in Shakespearean dramas with most being exclusive to North America.

As mentioned, the most interesting part of the discovery was ant-like males being present in two species.

"It's unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest," said Portman.

He said more information on the nesting biology may clear this confusion. The team studied the bees extensively by tracking them in habitats in blinding sunlight, which was enjoyed by the tiny insects.

"Their activity during the hottest part of the day may be a way of avoiding predators," noted, a doctoral student in USU's Department of Biology and added that the bees might be pollinators of Crinklemats — a desert plant.

Hardworking Bees

True to the reputation of being very hard-working, some bees in the desert have proved that they can even break rocks and hard sandstone to construct nests in harsh desert terrains of the United States.

This news was shared by some entomologists after studying Anthophora pueblo bee.

"Not much is known about this hard-to-find species and our first step was to confirm it actually prefers nesting in sandstone," said Michael Orr, a doctoral student in biology ay USU and lead author who shared the study in Current Biology after examining their sandstone nests.

They found the bees having done hard labor like gnawing holes into the rock to build long lasting homes usable for many generations.

"Sandstone is more durable than most other nesting options and bees do not emerge from these nests in a year are better protected," Orr said.

Anthophora pueblo was first discovered by Frank Parker 40 years ago at two sites in Utah's San Rafael Desert but the research details remained unpublished.

Orr relooked Parker's work and discovered some nesting sites at Mesa Verde in Colorado and other formations in California's Death Valley and southern Utah.

Having found many worker bees near water sites, Orr was prodded into more research to know why bees favor such tough labor. He concluded that the benefits of nesting in sandstone far exceed the costs on it.

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